Updated: Aug 26, 2019
Humans are funny creatures. When we are in pain, when we are pressed from all sides we often seek relief in the form of spiritual practices like meditation and breath work. We turn to our practices as a life-line and a savior. We come to our practices looking for a way out of the pain.
But what if our practices aren't designed to save us from pain? And what if instead they are in part a pathway to building resilience and luminosity in the face of and even because of our intimacy with pain?
What if we put in the time to build our center before the pressure comes? What if we used our internal pressure to cultivate discipline (read devotional love) in our spiritual practices before external pressure drives us to the meditation cushion, the community class, and our prayers?
Here is the thing, spiritual practices have a half-life. What is a half-life? In archaeology we use something called a half-life to measure how substances degrade so that we can get a measurement of how much time has passed. For example, carbon degrades at a very specific rate. Meaning that within a set amount of time half the carbon that was there when the thing was created is no longer present.
Our spiritual practices are like this. When you meditate you are building something. You're building your center. Your ground. Your stability. Your connection with timeless peace and Presence. And every time you sit that center expands. Imagine if you will a golden bubble around you that grows in flexible strength and luminosity every time you sit with yourself.
That center is also constantly besieged. The stresses of every day life dent, bruise, degrade that luminous bubble of protection and resilience.
Are you getting the picture? Consistent meditation practice continually feeds your center, growing your capacity and your luminosity, making that bubble stronger and more radiant. The more consistent you are the more you are able to press back against life's pains and pressures with peace.
But if you're relying on the spiritual work you did last week, last month, last year, the last time you went to a retreat, the last workshop you took, then eventually that center is going to become worn thin and you will find yourself shaken and unraveling.
The world is volatile, unpredictable, compelling, and often besieged and all that we are promised is constant change. Learning to stand in the groundlessness of it all requires we be creatures of radical personal responsibility. That we take the time to invest in our center so that we can be less taken and less shaken by what comes our way.
Recently I asked KhenRinpoche a high lama at the Ewam Buddha Garden how to stay steady when I feel like I've lost my footing.
He said "when the lama enters the room and sits, the disturbed minds in the room fall into peace." What he was saying to me is that the lama is a carrier of peace because he/she is steeped in practice. And because of that the lama is not pulled into the disturbances around him but is instead like "cool water poured into the heat."
Don't wait till you're bleeding out to do your work. Do your work so that you are fortified against the arrows that come your way.
We can be that cool water. We can be the bearers of peace, the one's that change the atmosphere if we take the time to build our center before it is "needed."