I hadn’t been getting up for morning meditation for months.
This year we’ve had a meditation slot in the temple schedule from 7:30am to 8am. Satya and Jnanamati have been holding the space between them. In the spring time we decided to open up Thursday morning’s to members of the public, and occasionally someone would come along.
I made an effort to get up on Thursdays, when Jnanamati wasn’t here, so that Satya would have some support.
Then the summer came. Jnanamati offered to open the morning meditation space a few times a week to members of the public. Whilst Satya, Jnanamati and the housemates meditated together, occasionally joined by someone from outside, I stayed in bed.
Throughout the summer I’ve been working with the precept, ‘To be joyful’.
I noticed a tension between what I felt I ought to do, and what my heart longed for. Or rather, when I felt that I ought to be doing something I didn’t know what my heart longed for, I lost touch with what actually inspired me. All I could feel is the ‘ought’ and the resistance to the ‘ought’.
I noticed other things too – but noticing this wresting with ‘ought’ shone a light on why I’d been staying in bed.
First thing in the morning I can feel less present than at other times in the day. It often takes me a while to surface from the dream world. It used to be the time when I would notice the edge of depression, and the possibility of tipping over into that, or floating up through it. These days, when I notice those dark tendrils around, I mostly float up through them, and they lose their grip.
I felt like I ought to be going to morning meditation; isn’t that what someone who runs a temple is supposed to do? And if I was going to morning meditation, I felt like I ought to have some sort of steady presence there, and be reasonably pleasant to the people around me. I wasn’t sure I could manage that, first thing in the morning.
At the end of the summer, after working on the joyful precept, and everything that bought up for me, I realised that I had been using staying in bed as a way of avoiding feeling the ‘ought’ around morning meditation, or at least feeling it less. If I wasn’t up – I couldn’t go. If I was awake – what excuse did I have?
Yesterday I woke up just in time for morning meditation, and I can’t justify staying in bed, having seen through my egos strategy.
I get up. I’m not sure what I want to do at this point. I’m still struggling with the ‘ought’. I want to find out how it is to go outside the rules, so I decide that I’m not going up to the shrine room.
I perform a moving chi-gung meditation for around twenty minutes, on my own, and for the first ten minutes I have a powerful feeling of guilt. Then the movement becomes a little more complex, I allow my body and physical sensations to fill my awareness, and there’s no room in my head for the guilt. By the end of the twenty minutes I feel okay.
I’m up, but not up in the shrine room, and the world hasn’t ended. No one seems to think I’m a terrible person for not having joined them (as far as I know), and even if they did, I’m not sure that’s something I need to worry about.
This morning I woke up at 8am, just as morning meditation finishes.
I’m not sure what I’ll do tomorrow.
Will I find that underneath the ‘ought’ I do want to practice in the shrine room? And if so, will I be able to find a way of bringing my whole self, including my anti-social morning self, to the practice? Or will it turn out that the deepest impulse is that it’s best for some solo practice? Only the Buddha knows.
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