I was at a day-long intensive with Adyashanti a week or so ago and he posed a rather sobering question, "So, you've been meditating for years... do you really know why you're doing it? Do you really know what your intention is? And how are you going to know if it's really working?" I had to confess that I didn't have an answer to any of these questions. I saw that I had simply put my faith in the Buddha’s teachings and his meditation instructions (which is a great place to start), but was still just following the rules hoping that one day it would lead me where I wanted to go (although I couldn’t say where that was either). I’ve benefitted tremendously from meditation practice, but it was finally obvious that it was time to look more deeply within for the "What? Why? And how?” of my own practice.
But then, you know… life. The clarity and inspiration of the retreat started to fade, along with these penetrating questions about practice, and I got swept back into the current. Luckily, I was about to get dealt one of the most intensely disappointing experiences of my adult life and the utter disorientation and pain that ensued was enough to glue my butt to my cushion. I NEEDED practice, but the follow-the-rules-and-hope-it-helps approach wasn’t going to cut it. I needed it to be focused, purposeful, and measurable - I needed it to WORK.
Mere moments before the disastrous disappointment descended upon me, I stumbled across a podcast episode that my friend Lindsay Chrisler had created about her spiritual practice called, “God Time” (find it here). One of the many, many things I got from it was the importance of creating an altar (and how). So I put together my very first altar and resolved to sit down in front of it until I had some answers.
I had also been working with the Soul-Voice Meditation as taught by my other friend Meggan Watterson (download the free, guided version by Megg here). This practice guides you deeply within and accessing the wisdom you already contain.
With the support of the altar and the tools of the Soul-Voice Meditation, I sat there for the better part of a week. Here’s what I got:
Practice is about connecting to God,
in whatever way works for you
(and whatever else you might want to call it: Soul, Love, Spirit, Source, The Void, Life, whatever).
Because when you are connected to God, here's what you know:
YOU ARE OKAY.
Everything is going to be okay, because there is a Life that is meant for you and you cannot miss it.
You are doing the best you can. In fact, you’re doing a really good job.
You are whole, you are safe, you are enough, you are worthy of love and belonging.
This doesn't mean that sad, scary things aren't going to happen (they are), but when you're connected to God, you know that:
1) They are spiritual assignments sent to you on purpose
2) You already have (or will be given) everything you need to make it through, and
3) It has NOTHING to do with your goodness or worthiness
And when you know all these things, it's like you start to see yourself and your life from God's perspective. It becomes easier to trust, easier to express gratitude, easier to roll with the punches and extend patience to others who are struggling, easier to receive the guidance and blessings that want to come your way, easier to slip into the river of Grace and let yourself be carried. And you don’t even have to be enlightened or awakened for all of this to happen.
So now I know... I sit down and I do my meditation because I want to be connected to God. And I know that it’s working when I become able to say YES to Life on Life’s terms, when I’m able to say THANK YOU.
And yet… it is so easy to slip back into my little self’s perspective where things can seem dark and scary and lonely. It can be so convincing at times, so I also see that spiritual practice is about finding and walking the pathway back to God over and over again, until it becomes a wide road, until I decide once and for all to just pitch my tent there and never leave again.
The Deeply Disappointing Disaster touched many a raw nerve in me, one in particular was this notion of "home" (and how elusive that experience has been in my life). In one of those deep, quiet moments of stillness and listening, I heard this:
"Home is the only place you never left."