I was far too awake at 1 AM today. As much as I closed my eyes, I was not going back to sleep. Discomfort swirling around the uncertainties of my situation persisted, overruling any coherent thought about the situation, or practical matters of any kind. A low-grade and petty distress they refused to give way to rest.
Fortunately, thanks to Dan Brown and his Pointing Out Way, I have options. Sometime near 2 AM I surrendered cheerfully the intention to go back to sleep and turned to using my time for something more productive than the absurdity of niggling worry. Dan has been practicing for many years perfect his capacity to bring terrifically advanced techniques, honed and refined in the East, through translation to the Western mind.
When I first encountered his work, it looked like so much else that I’ve seen over my past nearly 2 1/2 decades of presence to the field of spiritual practice. It looked familiar, and distinctly of high quality. As I attended lectures (remotely) through his website (https://pointingoutway.org) and began to follow along, I began to further appreciate the nuance of what he was presenting.
Eventually I decided to seek direct instruction have been working with the practices he offered ever since. In spite of my doubts that this was anything new, I found myself on distinctly new legs as it were. Those doubts have since long faded and what I know as meditation practice today is like day to night to what came before. To be fair, the many practices I have encountered over those decades – the vast majority of them – have been a very high quality, and delivered by teachers with skill and maturity. I think the key has been “translation.”
Returning to 2 AM this morning, when I decided to shift my energy from restlessly combating a subtle neurosis to a focus on a fruitful practice of meditation, it was as if walking out of one room and into another. Cheerfully, I knew that those worries and confusion would die a quick and painless death, almost immediately as I turned my attention to the meditation. I knew this from the experience gained over the past days and weeks. They did vanish, like morning dew after sunrise; simply re-metabolized into the thriving ecosphere of the world.
In their place, the light and warmth of day. Through following the guided practice and prescription for attention on the breath, I found myself right back on the “elephant path.” (https://terebess.hu/english/oxherd27.html) Happily plodding along, novice as I may be, I had reclaimed time lost to rest, now firmly fixed on growing the precious jewel of awakening.
It might be easy at this point to misplace the purpose of the meditation, assigning it value as a way of clearing a cluttered mind. This would be a mistake. Meditation is not a response to that discomfort, but rather an alternative. Had I allowed myself to indulge that mind wander of confusion, morning would have found me ill-rested and poorly prepared for the day. Instead I chose to USE the unquiet mind as an opportunity to make time for the incredibly important and valuable practice of training the mind.
After about 60 to 90 minutes of practice along with the guided techniques, wherein I experience my own successes and struggles with the meditation, I had reestablished my connection to the foundation of a wakeful awareness. At that point, it was a matter of luxury to turn my attention to the practice of resting deeply. Flowing from there into the early morning gave me the opportunity to rise with a sense of strength and energy for the day. Again, not the point of meditation.
Even as I came into the day; breakfast, to do list, weekly review, reading, etc. combing through files, organizing, and working efficiently – all artifacts of a slightly clearer, and more calm mind – this is not the point of meditation. These hints of clarity, and minor tilts towards efficiency are like raindrops to the ocean of a wakeful awareness that stands aside from time, ever present and ready to meet in perfect harmony whatever it is arising in the moment.
If all of that sounds poetic, it is, aspirationally so. When all of the work has come and gone to do, when the seriousness of life has reached its crescendo and broken on the shores of a profound eternity, there will I stand, arrived at last to the realization of the boundless freedom I have never not known. This self is me. All of this work, the complex situations, the seemingly challenging decisions, hidden opportunities, and acts of effort and surrender, are precious gifts of life and I am grateful to receive them.
So I spent the day, wandering in and out of the halls of clarity and confusion, on pointed this and distracted that, playfully bantering with Caitlin over lunch and the various mundane tasks of connecting the smoke alarm to the Internet, corresponding for meetings later in the week with old friends, and on through the textures of the surface of life. I’m happy for the various little triumphs of getting a folder organized, finding surrender, or having a conversation with my dad to bring him up to speed on the place of my feet in this journey.
Excellence is doing my best, even when I can see that I could be doing better, but all I have at hand is to strive a little more carefully, with a little more effort. Excellence is good enough, until – with grace – I may find myself Awake to the timeless and infinite, boundless and undying preciousness of now.