Sunday, May 08, 2005

The deep satisfaction of practice

I found another passage from Nothing Special by Charlotte Joko Beck I'd like to share with you. I commend this to you if you've ever found meditative practice to be tedious. Beck offers another way to look at it:

In a way, practice is fun: to look at my own life and be honest about it is fun. It is difficult, humiliating, discouraging; yet in another sense, it's fun - because it's alive. To see myself and my life as they truly are is joy. After all the struggle and avoiding and denying and going the other way, it is deeply satisfying for a second to be there with life as it is. The satisfaction is the very core of ourselves. Who we are is beyond words - just that open power of life, manifesting constantly in all sorts of interesting things, even in our own misery and struggles. The hassle is both horrendous and wholesome...

As we patiently do this work, we come to a different sense of our lives. Recently, I had a call from a student who lives some distance away who told me, "I can't believe it. Most of the time my life is very enjoyable." I thought,yes, that's great, but... life is enjoyable. An enjoyable life includes heartache, disappointment, grief. That's part of the flow of life, to let such experiences be. They come and go and the grief finally dissolves into something else. But if we are complaining and holding on and being rigid (which is what we like to do), then we have very little enjoyment. If we have been aware of the process of our lives, including moments that we hate, and are just aware of our hating - "I don't want to do it, but I'll do it anyway" - that very awareness is life itself. When we stay with that awareness, we don't have that reactive feeling about it; we're just doing it. Then for a second we begin to see, "Oh, this is terrible - and at the same time, it's really quite enjoyable." We just keep going.... That's enough.

Charlotte Joko Beck is a Zen teacher. The Zen folks love paradox and this passage is a good example. For something to be terrible and enjoyable at the same time is actually quite possible and is a very rich way to live.

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