MEDITATION: Levels of Play
There’s this expectation that one day meditation and yoga is going to be a snap. This is especially the case for those of us who are, how should we say… fanatic about the practice. We work it pretty hard and so we expect big things. Sometimes big things happen, but most of the time it’s just a chore getting the eyes open in the morning– especially when your morning starts at 3:30 AM with a cold shower.
“Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood carry water.” –Zen Proverb
What I have found about meditation is: It’s here now and it’s never over until the fat lady sings. In other words, when meditating over time, there’s no finish line. You find the meditation or practice that’s right for you and you practice it, day in and day out and just observe your self. You won’t wake up one day and be enlightened and then write your memoirs.
Or you might wake up one day and be enlightened but then you’ll probably still have to shut the alarm and go to work like yesterday.
Meditation is a way of life and here’s how I explain it to my students: It’s like playing a sport. You practice so you can perform on game day. The assumption with meditation is that every day after you leave the sheepskin or meditation cushion, it’s game time. However, over time, the game changes and practice also changes. Take football for example. When you’re a kid, you play pop warner. Then in junior high school and high school, you play on the school’s team and that’s not necessarily easier, but it’s different because it’s a new level of play. You might play in college and that’s yet another level of play, but it’s not like the game gets any easier. It just changes, that’s for certain, but each time it’s simply a new level of play. You keep practicing, then you put that into practice within the game.
Maybe one day if you’re lucky, you turn pro. That’s yet another level– perhaps the pinnacle. It’s a far cry from pop warner where you started, and the rewards are infinitely greater, but it’s not any easier, is it?
It may be much harder at the pro level, but with your experience you enjoy the mastery of the game, its challenges and rewards while at a higher level of play. The same goes for meditation. Eventually you can take your wisdom and experience and teach or coach others to be their best.
Yogi Bhajan had triple bypass surgery and mere hours after this surgery he had his attendants prop him up so he could do his daily meditation on his mala (prayer beads.) Now that’s a pro. Think of that the next time it’s 10:30 pm and you’re thinking about skipping your evening meditation because you’re too tired.
Another time, someone asked Yogi Bhajan: “You’re a master, why do you still get up before dawn to do sadhana (daily practice)?
To which The Master replied: “Because I wish to remain a master.”
It’s never over. You make your life one continuous meditation, moment to moment, by connecting with the divine soul within you, gaining self-mastery, grace and radiance. Then you give that to other people you come into contact with by your mere presence. So there’s never a finish line. It’s exactly as my teacher, Harijiwan always says: “When you die the only thing that matters is how much did you open your heart and how much love did you give?”
When starting a practice, people often expect that at some point they’re going to graduate and it’s going to make them all better. It’s just sort of a hovering thought that’s common to all human beings: “One day I’ll be okay… better than I am now. When I get this or that or I’m at that place, everything will be okay.”
No matter what you think of yourself or where you’re at, you’re okay right where you are. There may be some things you want to improve, clear out, whatever, but the truth is “wherever you go, there you are.” You’re here now and that’s where the power of everything is– in this present moment.
And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make. –The Beatles