Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Giant Watermelon of Presence

I’ve noticed that while conducting a labor intensive email class I have little energy or even willingness for blog writing. The demands of emails, phone calls, and texts occupy the rest of the time that could go to such a pursuit. Now that the email class is over, energy and willingness have turned to creating the retreats for the participants from that class, and I notice that with extra time and space, insight on broader topics is returning. I suppose that’s how it always works; resources are consumed by whatever the attention is focused on. I just hadn’t realized insight was so “subject driven.” While it is my experience that there are snippets of insight triggered by doing email classes and planning retreats, I don’t tend to have the big “AH YES,” fleshed-out, full-blown, general-purpose, this-is-how-it-works insights that are available in less content-focused times.

Something else I’ve noticed about insight: Insights seem to grow, in much the same way a plant grows from a seed. A seed looks very different from the plant it grows into. In fact, it’s a matter of faith for me that that is what really happens. I hold this tiny thing in my hand and require myself to get it that with time and care it will grow into a giant, sprawling creature that we call a watermelon!

With the same faith, I pursue awareness practice. I sit. I’m silent. I focus attention. I breathe with conscious awareness. I let go. I accept. I have faith. I trust that this will grow into insight, clarity, compassion, wisdom, freedom, and joy. It doesn’t seem as if just sitting down will lead to all that; it’s hard even to imagine such a possibility. But sit I do, and silent I am.

In the beginning the insights are tiny and seem huge. Do you remember those days? The “ah ha” moments were magical, mystical. The world changed from frightening and overwhelming to exciting. It felt like falling in love or a return to the happy days of the best of childhood. Then, over time it got harder, right? Practice went from effortless to work. I no longer wanted to sit in meditation; meditating was no longer a thrilling adventure into awareness. It became something I had to do, against tremendous resistance.

Still the insights appeared. Egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate, the source of all that resistance showing up as a conversation from conditioned mind, fought against the insights. “Oh, brilliant. You just saw what everybody has been talking about forever.” Or, “You had that insight a dozen times before and it didn’t do you any good.” Or, “You let go of that years ago and here it is again. You’re a failure!”

See, though, if this is also your experience of insight: There’s only one. The only insight we ever have is, “This is it!” Every “ah ha,” every moment of sparkling clarity, shows us the same thing: this is it, here we are, there’s nothing wrong, all is well, relax, say yes, say thank you, enjoy.

What you may not be noticing however—what egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate desperately wants you not to notice—is that insight, incrementally, is occupying more and more of your attention and awareness. Insight is expanding into a larger experience of presence in life.

That tiny seed of conscious awareness is growing into a giant watermelon of presence! (Just couldn’t help myself—had to say it!)

What is our part at this point? We must keep tending, keep taking care. In the garden, once the initial preparations have been made, tending translates into providing the right amount of water and watching out for dangerous critters. In life, in awareness practice, tending is a matter of paying supported attention—in the forms of sitting, workshops, retreats, everything that brings us to here/now—and watching out for dangerous critters—in the form of egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate.