Why is it so difficult to maintain a steady practice?


“Now if the practice is so good for us, why is it so difficult to maintain a steady practice? It may be that the notion that practice is ‘good for us’ is the very impediment—we all know how we can resist what is good for us at the table, at the gym, and on the Internet. This mechanical notion of practice, ‘if I practice, then I will be (fill in the blank),’ leads to discouragement because it is not true that practice inevitably leads to happiness or anything that we can imagine. …

How, then, to put our minds in a space where practice is always there, whether tumultuous or in the doldrums? It requires a completely radical view of practice: practice is not something we do; it is something we are. We are not separate from our practice, and so no matter what, our practice is present. An ocean swimmer is loose and flows with the current and moves through the tide. When tossed upside-down in the surf, unable to discern which way is up and which is down, the natural swimmer just lets go, breathing out, and follows the bubbles to the surface.

And so it can be with our practice. Seeing our practice as our life, we just let go and do it. We just practice a steadiness in our daily meditation. Without expectations of any kind, we just practice, day in and day out, through the high points and the low. “I really doubt this practice is helping me. Okay, still, it is time to sit, right through this doubt.” Or, “Oh, I didn’t sit all week! Okay, right now I’ll sit for twenty minutes.” And each time we come back to our practice, we experience it as more inherent to our life. Maezumi Roshi, based in Los Angeles, would often use the Spanish expression for “little by little” to indicate this patient quality of practice: “Being one with the practice, you are transformed, poco a poco.”

This understanding of our practice is expressed by the great thirteenth-century Japanese Zen teacher Dogen, when he says that our meditation practice “is not step-by-step meditation; it is simply the dharma gate of peace and joy. It is the practice-enlightenment of the Ultimate Way….When you grasp this, you are like a dragon in water, or a tiger in the mountains.”

~  Roshi Pat Enkyo O’Hara, “Like a Dragon in Water”
Read entire article at Tricycle.com through May 10, 2013

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