By Michelleanne Bradley
I must confess. I’ve been practicing since the Solstice as if my life depends on it.
That has looked far more like solitary practice than even I sometimes prefer, which is funny because in most practices, I am the queen of solitary practice. I have been practicing as if my head is on fire. I have been working on this heaviness in my heart, even as it feels as if more is piled on and piled on, until even my closest friends and I have laughed that I have been praying for patience and the universe has responded with, “Oh! You need patience practice? HA! TRY THIS!” And then every little piece has cracked. Only when my response could not be anything other than laughter do I feel as if I am digging out from under a mountain of my own construction.
I have kept running, kept moving, kept the hustle, almost so that on the outside, no one could see the real struggles. How much do we let on to those outside of our circles? How much do we scratch the surface of our embodiment of the first noble truth? Do we gloss over by saying “there is suffering” without naming our suffering, and sharing our stories?
How much do those stories matter?
I read the teachings of our buddy Sid (you know, the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama) over and over again. I have been studying the various stories of Siddhartha Gautama’s enlightenment, diving into the cultural differentations and the nuances of what we finally have written down after 2600 years of this practice, knowing that roughly the first 600 years, it was an oral tradition. Let that sink in for a minute. These stories and lineages were transferred by word of mouth for centuries and survived. We still practice this tradition, and the rituals prescribed. The lineages we identify with lead all the way back to Sid.
I recently went to a talk by Karma Lekshe Tsomo at the Dharma Bum Temple in San Diego. I know that I have heard this one quote before, but in the same way that we look over and over and over again at the teachings and see something a little different each time, once in a while there is a different glimmer of understanding for something that we have seen or heard or read over and over (I generally refer to this as the “Aha!” upon penetrating both head and heart). I have been replaying this concept ever since then: “the only difference between us and Buddha Shakyamuni is that we are lazy!”
I have taken that quote very much to heart.
That idea came at a critical point for me. It was at the end of a ridiculously hilarious week; you know, the one where the sewer backed up, the furnace broke, one of the batteries died on the car, and a friend’s car (who drove us that evening) was impounded in Los Angeles. Yeah, that one. This is what I have been working on since then: owning my suffering—not pushing it aside, not brushing it off, no minimization. I have reached out to my beloved community to seek support and to share with that circle (in excruciating detail) about the parts that I have been sticking in for the past few months.
Go out and try this. Dive into your practice.
Don’t be lazy about it. Share your stories. Listen deeply to the stories of others, and practice as if your life depends on it. Because sometimes, it does.
Editor: Dana Gornall
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- I’m Back…with an Undefended Heart (or Striving to Be) - January 2, 2020