Many students have come to Insight Meditation retreats to learn the Buddhist awareness practice I teach after having sampled the numerous traditions that are now available in the West. They have been initiated by lamas, done Sufi dancing in the mountains, sat a Zen retreat or two, and participated in shamanic rituals, and yet they ask: Why am I still unhappy? Why am I caught in the same old struggles? Why haven’t my years of practice changed anything? Why hasn’t my spiritual practice progressed? And I ask them: What is your spiritual practice? Do you have a committed relationship of trust with your teacher and a specific form of practice? They often answer that they practice many ways, or that they have not chosen yet. Until a person chooses one discipline and commits to it, how can a deep understanding of themselves and the world be revealed to them? Spiritual work requires sustained practice and a commitment to look very deeply into ourselves and the world around us to discover what has created human suffering and what will free us from any amount of conflict. We must look at ourselves over and over again in order to learn to love, to discover what has kept our hearts closed and what it means to allow our hearts to open.
If we do a little of one kind of practice and a little of another, the work we have done in one often doesn’t continue to build as we change to the next. It is as if we were to dig many shallow wells instead of one deep one. In continually moving from one approach to another, we are never forced to face our own boredom, impatience, and fears. We are never brought face to face with ourselves. So we need to choose a way of practice that is deep and ancient and connected with our hearts, and then make a commitment to follow it as long as it takes to transform ourselves. This is the outward aspect of taking the one seat.
Once we have made the outward choice among the many paths available and have begun a systematic practice, we often find ourselves assailed from within by doubts and fears, by all the feelings that we have never dared experience. Eventually, all of the dammed-up pain of a lifetime will arise. Once we have chosen a practice, we must have the courage and the determination to stick with it and use it in the face of all our difficulties. This is the inward aspect of taking the one seat.
mesmerized by reframing our mundane experiences…….surrendering the dogma and uncertainty so that we may find clarity in how we actually are in this world…..real and unwavering, yet without judgment or life-shattering criticism……may this honesty awaken and heal…..
The next time you awaken from a long train of thoughts, take a moment to ground yourself in presence- in your immediate experience of sensations, feelings, sounds- and then compare being here to where you’ve been. Waking up from thought is much like waking up from a dream. While we’re in it, the dream experience is real; we react to its story line with real emotions, pleasure, and pain. But the dream is not true. Its pictures and sound bites represent only fragments of the living world. Similarly, thoughts are real (they are happening, they create a felt experience) but they are not true. When we are caught in the virtual reality of thinking, we inhabit a sliver of experience that is disassociated from the vividness and vastness and aliveness of the hear and now…..Tara Brach
Your beliefs become your thoughts
Your thoughts become your words
Your words become your actions
Your actions become your habits
Your habits become your character
Your character becomes your destiny