As I sat quietly in a comfy chair and meditated for the first time in 2006, I don’t think I understood that I was actually embarking on a lifelong spiritual journey. Back then, I didn’t have any expectations nor any real idea of where the path would take me. In reality, I still don’t. Yet instead of resisting the uncertainty of it, it has become part of the inherent beauty of my spiritual practice. Back then, all I knew was that I felt lost, desperate to make some kind of a change in my life, and a little paralyzed and very much alone. I was looking for something, but what, I couldn’t have told you.
What I’ve come to realize is the greatest gift of my progress has been the gift of clarity; a basic capacity to become aware or see. In Tibetan Buddhism, the word for it is actually translated as “luminosity,” a capacity to shed light on or illuminate our experiences thereby being able to be aware of them.
Our lives can become so full, so fast and so automatic.
Sometimes the challenges we face produce profound moments of clarity. Sometimes, the challenges can become so overwhelming that we forget to even look.
Recently, I was in a family situation which seemed to bring out the best and the worst of us as a family unit. As it unfolded, I didn’t notice that I had been triggered by a litany of old inherited stories about myself that had originated decades before. In the moment, I didn’t recognize who I am now, how much I’ve grown, how far I’ve come. I had forgotten that although these people are my family, we had never been close and not one of them truly knows who I am today.
It took me a few days to remember what I’ve been taught: that simply looking at my experience begins to transform it.
This is the true value of your meditation or spiritual practice: the practice of noticing, of becoming aware, of illuminating all of the “stuff” that passes through your awareness without even noticing it.
We cozy into our cushion and close our eyes. Allowing our bodies and breath to settle in, we attempt to focus on our breathing or on a mantra. Before long, we find ourselves distracted by all sorts of thoughts and feelings, memories, judgments, and perhaps even physical sensations. Some of this might pass quickly while others might hang around for a while creating other thoughts and judgments.
Then, all of a sudden, we realize “Oh no! I’m supposed to be focusing on my breath/ mantra!” It’s this brief moment of recognition that is, for many of us, our very first taste of clarity. And if we’re new to the practice, this clarity might be quite brief. It takes time to develop stability, but gradually, these glimpses of clarity become longer while at the same time, the clarity that recognizes thoughts, feelings, and sensations becomes more stable.
Some of my students worry that because they get lost in thought, that means they are not successful in their meditation practice. Just the opposite is true. The fact that you are noticing your mind straying as you meditate is a sign of success. It means you are beginning to become aware and recognize how much “stuff” passes through your awareness, oftentimes without you even noticing it.
It is when we become more accustomed to turning our awareness inward that we begin to use the process of distinguishing our thoughts rather than being used by them.
It is then we begin to see how our past experiences might turn into present patterns.
It is then that we begin to see the possibility between what we see and our capacity to see.
This is the clarity of awareness.
If you are just beginning along the path, are wanting to deepen your spiritual practice, or are seeking a spiritual guide, mentor, and coach to help you navigate your spiritual path, I’d love to support you on your journey. I offer a Complimentary 30-Minute Zoom Coaching Session to help you get started. Click HERE to schedule a session.