November 9, 2013

Average Enlightenment. ~ Mark Steed


This year makes ten years that I have been sitting with varying degrees of regularity.

During those ten years, life has been one huge, mostly jacked-up, roller-coaster ride. There have been a few rare moments of bliss just to keep me believing that the good times could somehow be permanent; but most of it could be defined by times of teeth-grinding stress and crisis. I am in an intimate relationship with samsara, as in truth, we all are.

Well before the sun came up, I sat to meditate. My neck was stiff, my ankle was killing me, the pugs were playing kissy face on the sofa and a big jet from the airport was flying over my house. The body is frail, life is chaotic. In other words, it was a normal day.

Unlike a lot of people who, from my aggregate perspective, have a more perfect life, I don’t have a special meditation space. I go to the kitchen, set the timer and then I go sit in my spot, in the middle of the floor, in the den. Against the recommendations of so many experts I just stack a couple of pillows in the middle of the den and sit down. I’ve been sitting in this spot, half lotus, for over a decade. This morning it occurs to me that I have learned something about allowing, which feels a lot like: “I don’t give a damn.”

Enlightenment is a process, not a goal.

The place where I sit is imperfect, as I am imperfect, as life is imperfect. It is perfect in its imperfection. To need perfection just seems like another attachment. Even in the realities of living, I can allow and be unperturbed.

Over the years, one of the big complaints that I have heard from people who want to meditate—which is to say they are craving an escape—is that their life is too crowded or hectic to make it happen. The last complaint I heard was from a young lady who said that when she tried to meditate, her family was too loud. I suggested that although she could ask them to pipe down, she shouldn’t over-invest in their compliance. In fact, what will likely happen is that nothing will change.

That is real life. Learn to allow what is to be. Get up earlier.

I have, at times, dreamed of a beautiful meditation spot: out in the forest, quiet, no bullshit to put up with. The idea of those copper rain drums just turns me on. But that’s not my life. My life is in the proverbial hurricane of the 21st century, the shit storm that is relationships, work, bills, crisis and car repairs. As Bill Murray said in The Razor’s Edge, “It’s easy to be a monk on top of a mountain.”

There was a time when I was a believer, which is to say I was blind. In my military years and the first few years of my police career, I accepted the conventional truths we accept when we just don’t look too hard. Over time, I observed the truth that power corrupts and all concepts are flawed, even mine. In fact, people who have power and are certain about their reality paradigm scare me. I have seen great harm done under the pretense of certainty. We are seeing harm done by that certainty and we feel the fear.

I laughingly remember a time when I believed that religious authorities (or “authorities” in general) knew more than the average homeless guy. They usually don’t. When I hear people say they want others to “buy in” to their plans and ideas I break out in hives.

They (the experts on everything) say that life is a precious gift.

At a very deep level I believe this is true even though life for many people around the world is a burden. All philosophical arguments aside, it is an opportunity. If life sucks so much at times, what then is its meaning? Must it have a meaning? I have come to believe that we humans aren’t equipped to understand the question or the answer, at least in the physical brain. It has been my experience that we cannot, and never will be able to, think and reason our way out of our “troubles”.

So, we sit and meditate in the midst of all the mess that represents the aggregates that we call us.

Over time we learn to allow what is to be, to stop pissing into the spiritual wind, as it were.

The path to enlightenment is the meaning of life. Call it salvation, finding peace, seeing clearly or learning the way of love, it is why we are here. No other pursuit in this life will ever calm the flames of passion that drive us like lemmings over the cliff to oblivion. There are basically two choices. Believe, against all evidence, that we will find permanence and satisfaction (which we won’t). Or, do the work of nothingness and nowhere (now here) and see truth for ourselves, then act accordingly in humility and compassion.

As it turns out, these simple pillows on my den floor, in the clutter of all that is my life, is the perfect place to wake up.

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Assistant Editor: Jamie Khoo/ Editor: Catherine Monkman

{Photo via Flickr Creative Commons}

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