#3 On Resistance and Commitment

Forging ahead today to keep the momentum of this commitment to write each day for one month, I pull myself away from the internet and its wide, sparkling sea of gems, diversions and straight up time and energy suckers. Habits die hard, we're all familiar with the truth of that.  But lately I have started to see that habits are master shape shifters which, with mercurial grace and subtlety, vanish and return moments later newly formed.  Maybe it is useful to see this as a game that asks us to look beyond the surfaces, no matter how beautiful or revolting, and sink into the feeling body as the only reliable measure of choice.  I shut down the browser and almost instantly space opens, like after a loudly buzzing overhead light is turned off and the nervous system lowers its guard.  The internet is an obvious example.  What is the siren song that takes your attention off the course you have set?  You probably won't shipwreck and be dashed on the rocks, but isn't being suspended outside your body deep in a dream of you-name-it one kind of death?

I recall the first 10-day meditation retreat I sat around New Year's in 2000.  It took several years of talking with friends to find the courage to make the commitment to be in silence for just under ten days.  Frankly, the prospect of it scared the shit out of me.  The physical pain of sitting 14 hours a day, and the car crash of my life with this sudden imposed stillness, I remember well.  But by far the most significant experience happened at night as I lay dreaming in the simple, bunk room shared with 6 other men.  When we finally broke silence and could speak, one man told us he was awakened on several occasions by men talking in their sleep, and that other men were answering!  Unbeknownst to me, some of us were having subliminal dialogue, a veritable call-and-response from the depths of the dream realm.  I believed this story readily because of what started happening around day five:  a clarity came to my dreams I had never experienced.  Snorkeling along the Great Barrier Reef near Cannes, Australia with its brilliant array of creatures under the merciless sun is the only waking experience that begins to compare.  Such was the stunning brilliance of those night time visions.  The sitting, with all of its attendant challenges, had taken my unfocused mind beneath the field of interference for the first time.  These ten days and nights sketched for me a quality of awareness I couldn't have imagined before.  That retreat was a doorway that had opened and that I had stepped through; certainly, into a terrain of promise, but also into a place of greater complexity.  As one who now loves silence and practice, I say honestly that the responsibility that comes with the awareness is at times exhausting and overwhelming, and sometimes I succumb to the inertia and tug of old habits.  

Even still, I don't ever truly desire to go back, and the habits offer less and less of substance or solace.  And since ultimately there is no going back, I would call that good fortune.  What remains is a deeper call to vigilance that keeps all of me keenly attuned to signs of the next doorway (and that which might obscure it).  My current pledge is to intimate partnership, family, right work and the call to tend to our struggling planet.  The true solace and refuge is never far, but only momentarily forgotten.  To be mindful, simply, is to remember.  I stand by this pledge, with my foibles and doubts, and with the clarity, compassion and strength that lies just below the whitecaps and roiling waves.

(510) 704-1351     jamesryderyoga@gmail.com