I spent years trying to learn how to meditate. I obsessed over doing it “right” and yearned for that holy grail of
transcendence. Yes, I thought that might include levitating in the very spot where I was sitting cross-legged in deep concentration. I followed gurus. I followed people I met who seemed highly spiritual to me. I read countless books on the art of doing it right…and still, no levitation.
Then, I read a little book called “The Lazy Man’s Guide to Enlightenment” (yes, you know the word that appealed to me). Literally, this book can be read in an uninterrupted hour, it’s so small – but, boy, does it speak volumes.
Although I read it, thought it was good, put it down and for the most part forgot about it, the words in the book came back to me many years later when I finally “got” it. That’s how most life lessons are – they take a little while to marinate before they reveal their full flavor.
After years of chasing perfect stillness as a means to enlightenment and wisdom, I realized that it is impossible to shut out all the noise. The trick is to exist within the noise, but not let it overtake you. To acknowledge its presence with a friendly nod, but then walk right past it. Nothing to see there, folks.
Once I understood that I am not my thoughts, that I am basically just a host for the flitters of inspiration that pass through, it was like a light bulb went on. I became an observer instead of adding to all the chatter with yet more chatter. Observation is a very interesting state to be in – it’s transformative.
When we emotionally take ourselves out of the fray, so to speak, we realize that opportunities for meditation are all around us. Yes, we have the picture of the smiling Buddha in repose sitting on a sacred pillow. But that’s the picture - it’s the form, not the function.
Meditation is in a conversation with a small child, stopping to notice all the colors of the vegetables in the local farmer’s market, a solitary walk through the park on a drizzly day, an early morning moment to enjoy a cup of tea.
These are the words in “The Lazy Man’s Guide to Enlightenment” that have stuck with me the most through the years:
“It is not arbitrary nor an accident that you are where you are, so you might as well get your attitude straight before you make a change. Otherwise you might find yourself chasing all over creation looking for the right place, and not even the Sea of Infinite Bliss will feel right to you.
You take yourself with you wherever you go. As they say in Zen: If you can’t find it where you’re standing, where do you expect to wander in search of it? There is never anyplace in the universe to be except among your equals. The direction of change to seek is not in our four dimensions: it is getting deeper into what YOU are, where you are, like turning up the volume on the amplifier.”
Powerful advice indeed.
In spite of the name of the book, there are no short-cuts to the answer for our life’s purpose. Even though most of us are aware of that fact, we often trip ourselves up with the direction we move in to search for the answers. We look outward and all around us when what it really takes is starting right in the spot where we are…and then going deeper.
Meditation is the process that helps us take that inward journey and the vehicle is different for all of us. You don’t need a special room or even special words or clothes. All you need is your attention. Be still and become an observer of yourself and the world around you. Not in a judgmental way. Just neutral. Just noticing and nodding. If something “triggers” you or upsets you, just say to yourself “that’s interesting” and move on. See if you can do this for one whole day. No judgments, no complaints, just calm observation. Then come back here and tell me your thoughts. I’d love to hear about your experiences with this exercise.