On Meditation and Time
I've heard about the magic of 20 minutes of meditating a day several times - most memorably from a middle-aged woman in a hotel gym bathroom who said that she and her husband were promised by a guru that meditating 20 minutes a day would change their lives, and bingo, five years later and they own their own strip mall! No judgement - each has our own idea of enlightenment...
My question: what can be accomplished if you only have 10 minutes a day?
Sweet love, I am not a guru and I make no promises other than to tell you the truth as I know it, but I will say some things about practice and about time. This little question, is, you might be surprised to hear, the hardest one I have been asked in this Meditation Course thus far -- because the answer is along the guru lines. Guru literally means "dispeller of darkness." In America, we use guru to mean teacher. In India, a guru is an enlightened being who is standing on the rim between states of awareness shouting COME ON IN THE WATER IS FANTASTIC.
The people the guru is shouting to, they look up the hill the guru is standing on, and they think the climb looks hard. They wonder if they brought the right shoes. The guru (or in my case, the teacher) coaxes the people with lovely assurances about the water: PRACTICE IS AMAZING, we say. And it is, it is. PRACTICE WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING, we say. And it will. It will.
That's the thing: it will. It will change everything. And sometimes, change is beautiful, but sometimes, change is hard.
So, you get to set the pace. You don't have to want to climb all the way to the top of the mountain, or jump in the water. But when you ask me, it is my sacred duty to point out: you have more than 10 minutes. You are choosing to give 10 minutes -- which is fine, but it is my job to point out that it this is your choice.
The thing is, we have 24 hours in each day. That is the time that we have. One of the best and hardest things I have ever been told by my own teachers is: We do not make time; we have time. If you want to see what your priorities are, look at how you spend your time.
We tell ourselves a certain story; the ego tells a story of what is important to us. But the actual choices that we make are the true reflection of our values. I might sing a song all day about how I just love to meditate, go running, and eat raw food. But if what I do instead is go to work, eat lousy takeout at my desk, come home, zone out on the couch, and look at random things on the internet, then in truth I value those things more than the ones I sing about. Because that is what I choose to do with my one beautiful life, with the now, now, now that is the thrumb of my being.
I do not say this with judgement. We all are where we are. You get to pick what you want, and we all have to take the path that we need to take, with the wise and the painful choices that teach us what we need to learn. Yes, there are absolutely times in one's life where one must choose between sitting for meditation and sleep or eating; those of you living with small children have profound time constraints, I know. But most of us have a lot more choice than we tell ourselves we do. It is one of the hardest things about right now that we all tell this story of BUSYBUSYBUSY, but much of that is illusion; we fill a good bit of our time with junk activities that neither relax and rejuvenate us nor accomplish anything useful, but which allow us to dissociate, which is often the closest we get to really relaxing. We just tune out. What you are learning now is the joy and the sometimes dizzying depth of tuning in. Ah.
Practicing every day is going to do you good. More practice, more good. This doesn't scale endlessly, of course, but within a certain range, it is so. Ten minutes a day is good. Compared to not practicing, ten minutes a day is splendid! Twenty minutes a day is even better. Half an hour is more beneficial still. There is a dance I must dance, encouraging and goading, both, soothing and ripping off the blindfold, both. Because it is hard to come to practice. We resist the change. "Well! If I had to spend a half hour a day to transform my life to greater joy, ease, and health, no. Nope! I'd rather not." That is what most of us choose. You can see it within this course, how hard it has been hard for people to follow through on their commitment to practice. There are actually nine people in this course. Some have never posted to the conversation. And that is FINE. Sometimes you buy a great book and don't crack it open for a long time. The time for practice will come when it comes. The fact that the intention was laid out is in itself beneficial, even if there was no participation. But if I only say "Oh, fine, it's okay," then I'm not doing right by you.
The thing is, what most strongly motivates people to practice is suffering. People tend to come to practice when the pain of the way things are becomes unbearable. Why change if life is fine? Life is fine. Watch some Netflix and have a glass of wine; way more fun than sitting on a cushion and facing your own mind, right?
Except that meditation, deepening your relationship with yourself and the heart of existence, is quite possibly the most vital thing you can do to know your own truth and live the best possible life while you are alive.
I am a little worked up today. The mother of the little girl whose body was found in Santa Cruz last night is a friend of a friend. It's just so close. As a teacher, it is my job to take care, to coax people just right, to soothe them and rip their blindfolds off in just the right moment for each. Some teachers rip your blindfold off hard and fast, some turn the light up slowly. Today, in the clear light of death, I have to say: Please, please, please. Many of you reading this right now have come to practice because you are curious, and that is very special. Very, very special. You have the chance to grow stronger, deeper, wiser, more connected to what-is as you understand it -- now, before the future comes, with whatever it holds of beauty and joy and horror and suffering.
All of us will face hardship. All of us will have days where it takes every shred of what we have to carry on. Building the foundation of meditation and a relationship with yourself and what-is before that comes, that is one of the best gifts you can ever give yourself.
So, darling: ten minutes will bring you what ten minutes does. From your sharing so far, it seems to have brought you spiritual growth and physical healing. That's magnificent. But the question I wish to encourage you to consider is: How much further do you want to go? Because it is my sacred duty to encourage you and also to point out that you almost certainly can, actually, sit for 20 minutes.
It's all up to you.