Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Meditation: From a swift river to a placid lake

Imagine yourself in a canoe moving on a swift and turbulent river. Can you stare into the depths of the river? Heck no.. You only have time to stare ahead and keep the canoe steady. After a while, the river reaches level ground and slows down, but the moementum generated thus far still makes the river move quickly, though less turbulently. Now, you try staring into the river, you can see some fishes below the surface, but no more than that.After a while, you notice that the river branches out into different tributaries. You choose to move on one of them.. You immediately notice a difference.. The water has slowed down quite a bit and it is moving along gently. You can stare at the bottom of the tributary and see the rough outline of the river-bed.
This is quite an improvement from the swift and turbulent river you started out on.
You keep rowing on the canoe and the tributary opens up into a vast lake. As you enter the lake, you notice that the lake is very still and that the movement of water around you is only due to the movement of the canoe. You slow down the canoe to a halt and stare into the lake.. You find the water is very clear, very placid and that you can easily see everything below the surface unto the depth of the lake.

Now, the connection of the above canoeing experience to meditation:
Meditation is a journey like canoeing. In the beginning, the mind flows swiftly and turbulently with a lot of thoughts, some of them quite wild. It's hard to silence the thoughts.. You just try to get through the meditation just like you just focus on keeping the canoe steady when it's on turbulent waters.
As you steady your practice of meditation, the mind slows down, though thoughts still come and go as they will. You experience very brief periods of calmness during the meditation.
You stick to your meditation practice and after a while, you find that the periods of silence keep increasing.. the river has slowed down quite a bit and the water is very clear.. the mind is like a tributary of the river.
Moving on, one day you find that you had one of those 'perfect meditations' - Your mind became a lake and you had virtually no thoughts..

This is the progress in meditation - You start with the mind being in the turbulent and swift river phase, moving onto the fast but less turbulent river, to the slow but clear tributary to the placid and still lake.

It is easy to lose heart in the swift and turbulent phase of the meditation, since sitting still seems so difficult. But once you move on to the fast river or slow tributary stage, you would have established a good meditation practice that would ultimately lead you to the placid lake - deep inner peace and happiness.

I didn't come up with the river analogy to meditation, I read about it in a meditation book called, "Joy of living - " by Rinpoche Mingyur. Ofcourse, I changed the analogy a bit, by adding a canoe and giving the idea of a journey!
Right now, I would say I am somewhere in between the fast river and the slow tributary phase of meditation.

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