The other day was lovely. My husband had a day off from work for Columbus Day. The kids wanted to go fishing so we all got in the car and drove to the beach. You would think this is when a person counts her blessings. But instead here comes a wave of irritation that wants to crash right over my husband’s head.
Before I began learning about Buddhist meditation, I’m sure I would have indulged the annoyance and found something to quibble about. It’s his fault I’m irritated. But in this case, I thought of my meditation teacher’s words about emotions arising and falling for no reason. “Here’s an emotion, like loneliness. We feel we need to justify the presence of the emotion with a story. It may just be arising from nothing. Anger, fear, any of these can just arise. It doesn’t need to be justified. When you justify, you invest it with energy. Just release the story.”
So I did that and instead focused my attention on what the irritation felt like. Of course my mind wandered off that task and before I knew it, the irritation was gone. It was just a small thing. I didn’t snark at my husband. But really that’s a big thing. Because that’s my life. Moment after moment.
Meditation is the part of the day when I sit in my office and try to develop concentration and mindfulness. I try to sit for 30 minutes, but sometimes it’s only twenty. It’s like going to the gym, for my mind. Like a run in the morning that infuses my day with calmness, meditation in the morning offers a steadiness of mind and a self-awareness that I feel in my daily life.
This is true for Mussar practice as well. From the book, Everyday Holiness: “Mussar teachers have never counseled withdrawal from the messy currents of life, as if to beach yourself on some sandy, palm-fringed shore where life will not disturb your peace of mind. Practice is meant to ready you to stay upright and awake right within the torrent, so you can see it just as it is and choose your course.”
So it turns out meditation and spiritual practice is not airy fairy. Beams of light do not shine down onto my head. I haven’t (and will not!) renounce cool shoes. Instead it is just about small stuff that’s in my life. What to do, what to do.