One of the many boons of meditation is that it helps us take an interest in our life in a way that is curious and expansive, rather than seeing life’s complexities as a constant struggle. By “struggle,” I mean not wanting life to be the way it is. This is really common.
Exploring this in my own experience, I’ve found that we aren’t just constantly rejecting our experiences in life—very often we reject the whole thing all the time!
The symptom that shows us this is true is that our minds are always elsewhere. We’re thinking about dinner tomorrow or a conversation from a year ago. We’re thinking about our to-do list or how we wish we had said this, that, and the other thing in yesterday’s conversation.
Rejecting our life isn’t always about carrying a big story line such as “I hate this” or “This relationship or this job or this car isn’t working for me.” In many cases, we can even be eating a whole box of chocolates with the idea that we are doing the most pleasurable thing in the world, but the fact is that we rarely allow ourselves to eat even one bite of chocolate and be fully present for it. The mind—the monkey mind, the wild mind—wanders. Yet in this space of open awareness that we cultivate on the meditation cushion, whatever arises becomes our support for training in being present. In order to get to this place of nonstruggling, we allow every single thing that occurs in our practice and in our life to be a support for being present.
This takes an enormous shift in attitude. Rather than seeing everything as a problem, or an obstacle to being happy, or even as an obstacle to meditation and being present (“I could be present if it wasn’t so noisy here,” or “I could be present if I didn’t have so much pain in my back”), we can see it as a teacher that is showing us something we need to know. Everything is support in our awakening. We’ve been conditioned to kvetch, kvetch, kvetch. Blame, blame, blame. One of the major ways that we don’t stay present is blaming. We blame ourselves; we blame other people. I often see students blaming the outer circumstances or blaming their own bodies and minds for why they can’t be present.
Consider that what needs your attention and consideration is your own mind, and how you view these outer circumstances. You can befriend your circumstances; you can have compassion for your circumstances and for yourself. What happens when you do that? I recently heard contentment defined as “knowing that everything you need is contained in this present moment.” Dissatisfaction and discontent are like a hum in the background that distracts us from accepting our life and the present moment. If we deeply allow whatever arises, we finally can touch, smell, taste, hear, and feel what’s really happening.