Friday, August 22, 2008

Practicing like your hair is on fire. . .

Patricia recently passed along a suggestion from one of her yoga teachers: "When you are sitting, practice like your hair's on fire." What a wonderful way to get across the essence of the necessary attitude for meditation! 

It is so easy to get pulled out of Stillness by the seductive activity of the thinking mind. I know that, for myself, there is almost a rhythmic quality to my sitting. The first bit it letting go of all the accumulated content since the last sit. Then comes the first brief layer of Stillness. This is usually short-lived, interrupted by thoughts of what I "need" to "do"- challenging me to combat my thinking mind. What I mean by that is that there is a tendency to try to repress the thoughts - which never works. All that does is get me more and more engaged. The trick it to simply allow the thoughts to float away. If I can keep from rising to that challenge, it usually subsides for awhile and I can often get some decent Stillness in. 

Then - often after ten to fifteen minutes of decent sitting - I will start getting waves of input from thinking mind about how I could use my immediate experience to teach this sitting to others. I assume this is just something that gets to to me because I teach. For others, the thinking mind probably comes up with equally engaging antics. The strategy seems to be to get me thinking of what good material this is, and then believe that I need to remember it when I come out of Stillness. Well - I'm not in Stillness anymore, am I? 

I've found that returning to the idea of "practicing as if my hair is on fire" really helps me to move through these layers of thinking/not thinking. It reminds me that the only thing that matters - right now - is my practice. Everything else can wait.