Life Is A Monastery
Interesting observation of my new book, ‘Being Still’ which I think I’ve commented on before, but which I think I will again:
‘Hi Roger … read your new book and loved it, but I’m wondering why a central story is about a man learning to meditate in a monastery, when surely the market you’re aiming for are people just trying to do it in their normal lives?’
And my reply:
To me, the lessons of meditation are the same wherever you are, whether monastery or in the cut and thrust of daily life.
The only difference is one of intensity and time. By that I mean, when you’re meditating for nine hours a day in silent isolation, the effects and lessons learnt from meditation are more noticeable, and more intense, than if you’re slotting a half hour or more of practice into the beginning and end of a busy day.
As such, the lessons are learnt more quickly.
For example – whenever I go on month or more of silent retreat, over the first few days I always experience a lot of very intense thought and emotional activity, as well as physical pain -everything hits me in the face – boredom, frustration, physical tensions, anxiety, emotions, and so on.
And from experience, I’ve learnt not to panic -I’ve leant that this is simply unresolved muck from the life I’ve been leading to that point. I know now, that throughout these first days it will be like sailing a small boat through stormy seas – and if I just keep going, all that stuff will pass away. So I cling to the little boat of the meditation methods, and keep sailing through, and sure enough, eventually all the muck passes away – and calm comes.
Until the next layer of embedded muck arises … and so on. So I keep sailing the little boat of meditation through the storms and the calm.
Years of practice in silent retreat have taught me to surrender to this process.
I might not have learnt this while practicing maintenance meditation of a half an hour or so each day. The effects of meditation would have been too subtle, and the lessons lost as a result.
Each time boredom, or anxiety, or whatever arose, I might have thought I was not meditating properly, or begin stressing about ‘why can’t I meditate!!!’, instead of seeing it for what it is – that it is simply a new phase in the larger meditation process.
Because whether we meditate in a monastery or for a short time each day in our daily life, it’s exactly the same process.
Only difference being, in daily life, the experience is more subtle and the lessons take more time – which is why some people decide to enter a monastery or a meditation center to meditate intensively – so they can speed up the process.
Anyway, knowing this, when it came to writing ‘Being Still’, and needing to highlight the lessons that meditation teaches us, I needed the lessons it teaches to be intense enough to be noticeable, simply so I could describe them and examine their sources and explain what’s happening.
Which is why I used the inept meditator in the monastery, and his patient teacher as a pivot.
But as I said, except for degrees of intensity, the lessons are the same, whether you’re meditating in a monastery or in your bedroom for half an hour each day.
And regardless of how I approach meditation in the text of the book, the exercises (which can be downloaded for free from https://meditationmakesense.com/being-still-the-exercises/) are very much aimed at meditating in daily life.
‘BEING STILL – MEDITATION THAT MAKES SENSE’, Roger’s new book, is available now.
‘BEING STILL’ is available on Amazon as a paperback ……………. AUD $26.40 (incl. GST)
‘BEING STILL’ is also available as a Kindle ebook ………………………………………..AUD $11.99
‘BEING STILL’ the audiobook (including all exercises) ………………………………. AUD $25.00
(The audiobook includes all the exercises, as well as ebooks of Being Still, to fit any device.)
There’s a cute mythological story in Hinduism.
A great mendicant-devotee of Lord Vishnu asked the Lord if there were anyone greater than him in his devotion to Him. The Lord took him out on a long walk in disguise. They reached a village and saw a farmer’s house. It was late and the two decided to accept the farmer’s hospitality to stay over for a day or two. The next morning, the farmer woke up chanting the Lord’s name, and went about his daily duties, and then chanted the Lord’s name before he went to sleep. Vishnu said that he was the greatest. Offended, our dude said “hey, the guy chanted your name twice.. and here I am constantly chanting your name while I meditate all day. So, Vishnu gave him a pot of oil and asked him to walk around a small hillock with the pot on his head, and not spill a drop of oil. Fellow did that successfully and bragged that not a drop of oil spilt. So, Vishnu asks him “so, how many times did you chant my name ?” Fellow realises that it could be easy to be spiritual and devotional and what not when one does not have other responsibilities, but doing it WITH other responsibilities is a feat.
Meditation in daily life is just as hard, if not harder than meditating in a monastery, methinks. No?
What a lovely story …and yes, I think it’s much harder in daily life, largely because the effects of meditation in daily life are so much more subtle. And because we’re so used to getting instant results in everything – throw a switch and the light goes on,take a pill and pain goes away – we find it difficult to surrender to the slower process of daily meditation practice.
But as I said, the lessons that come with it are the same, whether in intensive practice or not.
Having said that, the challenges that arise in intensive practice are often very confronting … But they are offset by the glimpses of the extraordinary potentials we’re usually not aware of in our daily lives …
Lovely to hear from you Lakshmi.
I always look forward to your posts, Roger.