Thursday, 12 March 2009

"A strong back and an open heart"

I am trying to get more serious about meditating regularly, as I find that when I do make time for it, it helps me to feel less frazzled. Whether it's concern for the state of the world, frustration over office politics, or wondering why my broccoli sprouts are taking so long to grow, even 10 - 15 minutes of meditation at the end of the day helps me regain a measure of mental equilibrium.

One day last week, I was feeling some grumpiness about something or other, and felt like spending my lunch hour searching the internet for all manner of things meditation-related. I even found an Alberta-based website with info on meditation, and came across this lovely description there:

We sit meditation upright and open. This develops the habit of being both steady and relaxed regardless of external circumstance. Sometimes it is difficult to find our true home of awakening in the midst of trying circumstances. Sometimes things around us might sway us into feelings of anger or misunderstanding. We need to have a strong back and an open heart to sit upright.

Our steadiness does not close us off from the reality of our interconnection with others. We only sit upright because we sit upright with others. We don’t hunch over or lean because we have nothing to protect. Our hearts are open and we welcome circumstances exactly as they appear.

Well, let me tell you, this idea really woke me up because I have been a bit of a slacker in terms of the posture I use when I meditate. More and more I've been sitting on a chair and putting a pillow behind my back to keep myself upright, rather than sitting on the floor with the pillow under my butt and holding myself in the proper posture. It's more comfy that way, and I could sit longer.

It was one of those neat 'aha' moments -- I realized that the actual physical aspect of the sitting was just as important as taking the time to sit in the first place. That sitting that way isn't just for show or to make my back uncomfortable on purpose, but that it is the form-al representation of what meditation is supposed to be all about: simply opening oneself to and accepting what is. I found the unity of this form and function very profound. This merging of form and function makes my brain all tingly when I think about it.

Silly Theresa: it's not about how long I sit or how comfy I am! It's about genuinely cultivating a strong back and an open heart, both literally and metaphorically. (Just now, I'm thinking that the exact same thing applies to Tai Chi.)

May we all develop the habit of being both steady and relaxed regardless of external circumstances.

Picture courtesy this flickr site.


SoapBoxTech said...

Congrats on the epiphany, Theresa!

Theresa said...

Thanks SBT - it's neat when those things happen :)

Eco Yogini said...

This was a beautiful quote/post. Practicing with an open heart is so difficult for me- but it is part of my goals. :)

Also- my fiance and I checked out the carbon calculator you had linked in December- nice to find a Canadian one! We are doing fairly well in relation to the average. But then the number of 4 tonnes was kinda scary- that's a lot of CO2 for just me...

I'm glad I found your blog! :)

Theresa said...

Thank you EcoYogini. It was really nice to come across that quote - it has stuck with me ever since! :)

I am glad to have found your blog as well. I have been doing tai chi not yoga (other than when I watch Padma on the Body Mind and Spirit Channel), but I find your yoga posts fascinating. Thanks also for the heads up on the chemicals in Lush products - that was certainly news to me!

ben said...

What you wrote about "strong back" brought back a special moment for me, a poignant moment when I had a thrilling insight into the apparent contrariness of Vajrya master Chogyam Trungp, Rinpoche. Having done formal Soto Zen training I was pretty well established with sitting practice (read: prideful and opinionated *grin*) and was discussing my style with a meditation instructor whose credentials I wouldn't think of questioning (a nun, resident at Gampo Abbey). Likely I said something about "strong back" ... and she blew me away by suggesting that perhaps even more important was to have a "strong front", so we could greet the world openly.

Blew me a away.
The thought that came to mind then: if we manage to be open and honest and deal with the obvious with a certain simplicity, that simplicity opens to something just as simple but more nuanced ... strong back? heh ... I'll recommend strong front.

p.s. thanks for the follow on Twitter.

Theresa said...

Hi Ben, thanks for coming by and taking the time to comment. Now I get two epiphanies instead of just one! But of course since they are epiphanies to me, it must mean I am still holding on to certain assumptions about how things are supposed to be, instead of seeing them for what they are.

Thanks to you for the twitter follow as well...neat how these connections get made :)

ben said...

You've pretty much summed it up with "instead of seeing them for what they are"!
"See clearly; know what is; act with confidence."

I'm particularly fond of how samatha is described as "calm abiding", so we can become familiar with huh huh how we distort things. *grin*

Theresa said...

I am still working on both the 'calm abiding' as well as the seeing things as they are part!