Sunday, 31 October 2010

A Cold Bowl of Samsara

A man would know the end he goes to, but he cannot know it if he does not turn, and return to his beginning, and hold that beginning in his being. If he would not be a stick whirled and whelmed in the stream, he must be the stream itself, all of it, from its spring to its sinking in the sea.

Le Guin, Ursula K., A Wizard of Earthsea in The Earthsea Quartet, Puffin, London, 1993. p120.


I am currently enjoying re-reading the Earthsea Quartet by Ursula K. Le Guin, this time aloud to my 9 year old son. I am struck again by all the gems of wisdom subtly woven into the wonderful story-telling.

This particular quote reads as a description of samsara and how to live in it. The different demands and pressures of family life, work commitments, social interactions and more are all forces that "whirl and whelm" me in different ways. I get tossed about through different emotional states, mental states, and physical states. This is a reason to practice - to be the stream. To give up resisting and surrender to life, to be at ease.

And meditation is the key to practice here. Daily sitting over time provides a sense of stability and I feel that I can at least ride the stream, if not actually be the stream.

The challenge though, as alluded to in the last post, is that meditation is just like sticking your face directly into a cold bowl of samsara! All the different forces that I think and feel so sure come from the world around me, somehow follow me onto the cushion and delight in dancing around and around in my mind! So, back to the method, again and again. It's hard work. It's hard work in daily life to turn away from all the distractions thrown at me and it's hard work in meditation to turn away from... the very same distractions!

Please note though, I'm not complaining. Meditation is a powerful skill and all skills require hard work, sustained effort and practice over time.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

The big problem with meditation

Emptiness simply means an absence of reactivity. When you relate to somebody, there's not you and me and your little mind running its little comparisons and judgments. When those are gone, that is emptiness. And you can't put it into words. That's the problem for people. They think there's some way to push for an experience such as emptiness. But practice is not a push toward something else. It's the transformation of your self. I tell people, "You just can't go looking for these things. You have to let this transformation grow." And that entails hard, persistent, daily work.

Charlotte Joko Beck, "Life's Not A Problem"

Received as
Daily Dharma from on the 27th of October 2010


Really this is the big problem with meditation. It "entails hard, persistent, daily work" and nobody else can do it but yourself. I like that Charlotte Joko Beck tells it straight as it is. I could also break it down to two aspects - 1. Getting yourself to the cushion everyday, 2. Sticking to the method throughout the allotted time period. Daydreaming, even 'unpleasant' daydreams can be incredibly enticing.