There are many wonderful stories, metaphors and similes used in Buddhism to illustrate the meaning behind a particular teaching. One in particular that has resonates with me is about being like a heron - still and serene, waiting for the fish to come, poised elegantly and fully aware of its surroundings and purpose.
For the longest time I felt like I was grading myself when it came to my spiritual practice. Actually, if I'm totally honest, I've often felt like I grade myself in everything I do. I wondered if I was doing it right or doing it effectively or doing enough.
Doing. Doing. Doing.
When I began to meditate I was under the misconception that meditation was a tool to get rid of the unwanted aspects of myself - a way to transcend the uncomfortable things in life by going deeper or having some incredible revelation where I would suddenly be unflappable.
Enlightenment was my goal and I knew I should meditate as much as possible and I should be reading Buddhist texts and I should find a teacher.
I've already referred a few times to my visit to New York last year, when I finally got to hear Pema Chodron speak in person and was also fortunate enough to get to ask her a question. While the retreat was amazing I didn't start to genuinely appreciate the teachings by both her and Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel until I got the recordings of the weekend and began listening to them.
I can't tell you when the shift in my understanding happened because it wasn't like a switch. It was more like a gentle settling - like I'd been working at a puzzle for hours and then suddenly all the pieces just started fitting together and then the whole image was so obvious I was amazed that I'd not been able to see it all along.
I already knew that meditation wasn't about 'getting rid' of anything. I knew it was a tool for remaining present. This made sense to me. But I didn't know how to remain present when things were uncomfortable. Meditating when I was upset or hurt seemed terrifying because it meant sitting with a feeling I didn't want to have in the first place.
But I persevered and it was listening to the recordings from that weekend that connected the dots.
I've written before about my five days of wakefulness - the experience of being able to drop the storyline no matter what was coming up and just appreciate my surroundings and whatever was happening in any given moment. I don't think there was any one thing that contributed to it and I don't believe I could 'make' it happen.
Because it wasn't a doing.
It was a 'being'.