I'd like to share a completely ridiculous, likely relate-able, story with you. It's the story of the beginning of my meditation practice. Once upon a time, and still all of the time, I love to climb. I love climbing big, tall rocks and smaller sassier boulders; limestone, granite, sandstone, volcanic, etc... it doesn't matter as long as it's rock (except when it's ice, then my heart really gets pounding). One day, I was out climbing and it hit me like the 500 foot granite dome I was on. I needed to be hundreds, if not thousands of feet in the air, perched precariously on the side of a rock, or even hanging upside down from my heel hook in order to feel alive. I needed to be pulling off something that pushed my mental and physical limits to truly taste the essence of life. And even though I climbed a lot, with work, life, relationships and day to day responsibilities, I was living so fully only a very small percentage of the time. I was completely unable to find the vitality of life in the ordinary - enter my meditation practice.
Now, I recognize this predicament as a definite quality of the human tendency. It seems like the further we get into life, the more it takes for us to see and appreciate its miracle. We need more of whatever "it" is to feel the vitality of life, and when we get less we don't. We need a much bigger house, a faster car, more cute clothes. We need more snow or steeper lines to have any fun at all. It takes a radiantly magnificent sunset, a big full moon, or even a super moon, to even catch our eye. It takes a more sensational experience, extreme activity, drastic landscape, dramatic conversation or spicy flavor to capture our attention and enliven our experience. It takes a more intense condition for us to feel anything at all; joy or pain or love or awe or wonder; and so the pendulum swings so big and so hard.
Even our yoga practice today reflects that tendency. It takes more and more radical poses or creative transitions, a hotter and hotter room, a more vibrant playlist, a faster flow, a more intense workout, a louder external experience for us to see any value or even to just hold our attention. And so we feed the frenzy in all kinds of ways in the very sincere hope of being able to feel more vital and alive.
Not that any of these activities, in and of themselves, are bad or wrong, they are simply layers. I still love the extremes of the mountains and a challenge on the mat. But the disconnect comes when we only get further from the essence. When we need something more to feel the vitality of being alive. When we fail to feel our feet on the ground, the air on our skin, the breath in our lungs, or our hearts in our chests and let that be enough for us to truly sense the miracle.
If this sounds like you, I am speaking from experience when I say, cultivate a practice of mindfulness, of meditation, of something that helps you to recapture the life of your moments and the vitality of your life. I am offering a short meditation here (Mantra Meditation on OM), so that you can simply begin to reclaim your power to enjoy the beat of your heart, the voice of your children, the touch of the sun on your skin, the air on your cheeks, the dedication of your ordinary every-day work, the weight of your words, the delicacy of your actions, the preciousness of your minutes, your hours, your days.
Sometimes as we embark on this path, it can seem so daunting, the vitality of the essence of life so far away. But please know that it rests right here, right now in the palms of your hands. It is at rest in the emptiness just beneath the flow of your breath, within the flow of each experience - always has been, always will be, just waiting for you to awaken yourself to it.
It was there when you were little and marveled at the rain, or the sun, or a rock, or a dandelion, or the simple comfort of your mother's arms, your father's hand.
It was there in salt of your magnificent tears when your heart was so broken and life got so hard.
It is there in the echo of your laughter and on the voice of your words.
It is in the trace of you smile.
It is in the love you feel for your most cherished friends and in the challenge you sense with your greatest adversaries.
It is in the sun when it rises, when it shines and when it sets; and in the clouds and the storms that it hides behind.
It is there when you walk or stand or run or ski or climb or garden or simply sit.
It is at the top of the mountain and at the base of them all.
It is there when you do Vrksasana (handstand), it is there when you do savasana (corpse, resting pose).
It is there before you've read one single text and after you've read them all.
The miracle is always there for you, if you are willing to look, and infinitely remains even when you are not.
What does it take for you to know?
“As it is, we are merely bolting our lives—gulping down undigested experiences as fast as we can stuff them in—because awareness of our own existence is so superficial and so narrow that nothing seems to us more boring than simple being. If I ask you what you did, saw, heard, smelled, touched and tasted yesterday, I am likely to get nothing more than the thin, sketchy outline of the few things that you noticed, and of those only what you thought worth remembering. Is it surprising that an existence so experienced seems so empty and bare that its hunger for an infinite future is insatiable? But suppose you could answer, “It would take me forever to tell you, and I am much too interested in what’s happening now.” How is it possible that a being with such sensitive jewels as the eyes, such enchanted musical instruments as the ears, and such a fabulous arabesque of nerves as the brain can experience itself as anything less than a god? And, when you consider that this incalculably subtle organism is inseparable from the still more marvelous patterns of its environment—from the minutest electrical designs to the whole company of the galaxies—how is it conceivable that this incarnation of all eternity can be bored with being?”
~ Alan Watts, The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are