spirit flows thru -- Alison Rittger's spiritual reflections on finding the holy in the daily
World seen thru the eyes of April Fredrikson
This posting is rated “M” for meditational content.

I had in mind for today, “Waking Up is Hard to Do” and while that is still true and could be what most of this is about, I swerve from the path.

It happened like this. Just as I adjusted my earbuds to drown out Starbucks’ musical choices with a Tara Brach meditation podcast, I swerved from my intended path.

Swerving in this case means that given the chance to practice dana (giving or generosity), I took leave of the dharma (study of Buddhist principles) and made a mini-sangha (community of likeminded people).

Because I was at my usual Starbucks on Fillmore and O’Farrell, my sangha was young barista, April Fredrikson. Her intention in that moment was to mop the counter at which I was sitting, and when my phone got knocked and began to fall, and I grabbed it and she helped retrieve it, she saw Tara’s face on the screen as I was 26 minutes into “Unconditional Love for the Life Within.”

I removed my earbuds, paused Tara, and explained the Dharma talks and she exclaimed, “Oh! Have you ever heard of Eckhart Tolle? He changed my life.” I said I had, having read one of his books and written about breaking up with myself based on his, “A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose.”

At 27, April is years ahead of me in her renunciation of dhuka (suffering), but we are on the same wavelength because Tolle’s premise is the same as Tara’s, to become aware of identifying with and believing your thoughts and feelings and thus getting stuck in the self. This condition is called the human condition and talking about it further complicates it.

Anyway, it wasn’t complicated in Starbucks that morning as April and I exchanged web addresses and promised to visit each other’s web sites. She’s a photographer and said if I saw something I liked at lirpalife.com, I could use it for this blog.

Having swerved for the awakened, energetic April, I now reboard my original train of thought wherein I grapple with mindfulness and “waking up” and ponder why I am not yet a wholehearted meditator.

Oh, I love the idea of meditation. I like allotting time throughout the day to set my timer app and sit, allowing whatever happens to happen and noting it. The form of meditation I am following is the Vipassana or mindfulness form.

In sitting, I get to calmly watch my mind, awaiting insight into my behavior. The goal is to wake up, that is, to be so vibrantly aware I will detach from what I have called “me” all these years to be present in the moment. At least that is the premise of Vipassana meditation. And I wholeheartedly like it.

My problem is believing the very basis of all meditational practice, that reality is a universe of love, wherein it is natural to be kind to self as well as to others. Wisdom leaders describe this truth as like golden light.

Having lived these many years resorting to self-protecting feints and strategies, of directing anger against myself to “succeed at all costs” “come hell or high water,” I have had no personal experience that a kinder, gentler way is the better way. I like thinking so, but for me kind and gentle are still unembodied ideas.

It is possible that Tara Brach is one of those people who has mastered kindness, but I have not met her, so lack personal proof that she is who she sounds like she is. And there is my good friend Kate, who is kind, and sometimes when I’m not sure what might be a kinder alternative to the thoughts I’m thinking, I ask “What would Kate think?”

Right now, my meditation practice brings to mind a brass frog doorstop propping ajar a heavy door so in can stream a thin ray of gold light. The frog is me in my meditation posture, my elbows slightly out, my palms up, creating a rounded feeling. By sitting, I hold open the door through which I hope will flow that gold light, the basic goodness of the universe.

But first, I must believe it is a universe of basic goodness and then practice faithfully enough to create the space of awareness into which will flow the golden goodness. Not yet, but maybe soon? Meanwhile, I swerve from the path to greet the divine in April. Namaste.

Liz Strand
1/23/2012 02:25:07 am

I too am practicing Vipassana meditation. And "practicing" is an apt word for what I do. I've been going to Spirit Rock for a couple of years on Wednesday mornings regularly and have learned a lot. I am aspiring to a daily meditation but have been very spotty over the years. For New Years, I set a goal to do it every day in January and see if I would be able to carry it beyond that. I sit before I go to bed for 15 minutes. I've done it every day so far except the day I was exhausted and needed a nap but had a flat tire and rescued a dog and spent the afternoon posting signs in the neighborhood and finding his owner instead. I am toying with the idea of upping my sitting to 30 minutes a day in February. It is way too early to see much benefit beyond feeling good for having done it. I may be sleeping a bit better some nights. I'd enjoy it if you wanted to join me going to Spirit Rock some Wednesday morning. I could pick you up at 7:45 or so. I really enjoy your posts! And I listen to Tara Brach too. She speaks to me. Love and namaste, LIZ

Alison Rittger
1/23/2012 06:33:16 am

Yes, Liz. We are like minded. How fun that would be to go with you. I have intended to go to Spirit Rock and now it may happen

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