Earlier in the year I travelled half way around the world to Niagara Falls Canada to attend a meditation retreat with Shinzen Young. For those of you into that kind of thing, Shinzen teaches a style of vipassana meditation which is heavily influenced by his background in zen and science.
At the retreat I talked about my experience with meditation and what I hoped to get out of it. Shinzen’s advice was to focus my meditation on three areas – positive states (eg happiness, loving kindness etc), restful states, and flow states. To me, these three ares are the aspects of the practice that are the most warm, peaceful and fluid.
When I got this advice, I had this small, almost annoyed thought “I knew it!” He had just told me to do all the practices I had been avoiding. They were the opposite of what I normally focus on, which tends to be the more austere, tangible, stable objects of attention. My usual subjects for meditation had helped me through difficult times; things like listening to sounds in the outside world, or the talk in my head, or observing pain or physical sensation. When I think of meditating, I tend to gravitate back to these.
I’d like to say that I came home and threw myself into practice, but I didn’t. When I came home I was focussed more on doing than reflecting. I didn’t have the patience to be still and meditate, which was actually a nice change. I jumped on that energy and have been busy doing a lot of new things.
Even so the retreat bubbles away in the background. Today being my “Day of Rest” Sunday I have been noticing how the things that are good for me, the things that are the next step, are so difficult for me to embrace. My habitual way of operating is so strong, that its hard for me to even remember that focussing on happiness, rest and flow is an option. I think this is because I have developed a lot of strategies around coping and surviving. Now that I have coped, and I have survived, its difficult to let go.
Getting myself to change is like turning around an ocean liner – it can be done, but not quickly. It takes time and space. I need to take on board the idea that I no longer need to focus on survival, and can start to think about what it require would to enable me to thrive.
I am grinning to myself quietly as I begin to contemplate the possibilities of happiness, rest and flow. Focus on Happiness. Its a tough job, but someone has to do it.