A Tightly Gripped Quail

Sometimes I squeeze too much

So this morning I gave up on trying to follow the breath at my nose and followed it at my diaphram instead. I’ve read that in a certain way you should or you ought to follow it at the nose because this or that person says to it and Leigh B recommends it and when I do it I get a headache and it hurts and it’s hard to follow like reading The Prince of Darkness when you’re high or something. When I let go of meditating like this and just said “I’m going to meditate in a way that doesn’t hurt, that feels better and more calm and more stable” I started to smile and felt this release like “oh, I don’t have to twist my back to be ok”. I think recently I’ve been twisting myself too hard on these precepts, wringing myself out and not letting myself take a breath. There’s merit in them but it feels like I’m pushing too hard on the rubber band and it’s fraying. That I need to chill for a moment and stop guilting myself. Walk before I run, add more and let it naturally ease out what was there before.

I’ve seen other practitioners talk about how eventually you just come to a point where continuing with the thing seems silly and I get that, I’ve had it with music. Where I was just driving to work and realized I wasn’t actually listening to the music it was just playing and I wasn’t engaged or happy. So I turned it off and haven’t looked back since then. Maybe cutting videogames was a little premature but I think I would’ve fought before kicking that anyway and I do think letting go of it is going to be a struggle either way. So I’ll take this new track of pouring more sugar into the cup until it displaces the water, add more practice not scoop out entertainment. Stay where I’m at, keep watching Netflix, don’t push so hard. Do what works in the meditation, stand up or stretch my legs when I need to, stick with the breath but not in a way that’s so rigid it’s like reading a textbook. Like trying to force water back into a rain cloud.

This morning and last night I had this sense that I have really been missing a community of practitioners. Friends on this path and that doing it as alone as I have for so long is in a real way lonely and that loneliness, given enough time, will go away but damn if it sucks on the journey. Then when I changed my breathing and felt happy I remembered all the times I’ve meditated in the last year and felt this deep happiness, this calm palpable gratitude. Often at the end of those sessions I would express this thankfulness to the Buddha and Sangha for showing this way to happiness in the here and now. Then with my delusion I forget that ever happened. It’s not satisfying in an ultimate way, which makes sense it’s not enlightenment and yet I forget that I’ve had those good times precisely because of this path and that I can have those good times again, because of this path.

A friend of mine shared me this show Midnight Gospel and it’s really neat, it’s like an interview/conversation over 20 minutes put to acid trip visuals but it’s actually about stuff of substance. The first episode was about drugs but not in a stupid or zany way but about the real dangers and benefits they carry, it’s all stuff I’ve been through but just that fact led me to focus on the visuals more and that engaged enough. Then the second had all this to do with accepting and understanding death and how our denial of our inevitable death creates all this stress and I-me-mine making that creates opposition. Since I started doing death meditation I credit it with making me so much more at ease with everything, accepting that I’ll die, that my friends and family and everyone I’ve loved and hated will die too. It gives some slack. I’ve been much in my head lately that it’s nice to take a step back for a minute.

I asked myself after writing my most recent post how long I would have to work at this path without a “return” before throwing in the towel and I think I’ve already had the returns. I’ve already seen gains and growth and positive change. Recently I think I’ve just held the dove too tightly and strangled myself a bit. I have to work up to that point not jump there in a hurry. I have to loosen up a little in how I do things because when I do I actually notice these better results. I don’t have to hold on so tightly to always being right, I can focus on doing what’s effective, without judgment.

Suppose a person was to grip a quail too tightly in this hands—it would die right there…

Suppose a person was to grip a quail too loosely—it would fly out of their hands.

MN 128