Arriving Home :: Knowing The Roadmap
When it comes to our meditation practice, authenticity is important. Authentic teachings. Authentic practice. Authentic community. Authentic guidance.
To make way for a true experience, we must:
1 - Know the roadmap of meditation, and
2- Trust that we are learning and growing within a safe container of community.
Much of my early days of daily meditation were spent dancing between these two requirements. In 2009, when I sought and learned a daily meditation practice, I would join with my teachers and a group of 200-600 fellow seekers; we would show up from all around the world, share, commune in silence and receive teachings on meditation, health, awareness and consciousness. It was inspiring, fulfilling, life-changing and heart-opening. Shortly after our community would dissolve as we all took the teachings back to our own individual lives. Here, I would swing to the side of dancing down the roadmap through days, weeks and years of solo practice. Every morning I would get up early at dawn, walk out to my meditation cushion with a blanket wrapped around my shoulders. Look out at the views of the Sausalito Hills and Richardson Bay. Tiredly, but willfully, sit down on the cushion and begin my morning practice.
Though in reality these were solo sits, and I grew my own daily meditation practice and routine. Always, when I would begin my meditation at that beginning stage of daily practice, my teachers and my community would come to my mind. Images of my teachers would float into my awareness as I closed my eyes. Echoes of teachings and moments of being in-person with my fellow 600 meditators would arise in my heart. I felt at moments that I was sitting with them, around them, we were sitting in our community, and they were sitting with me.
This moment was always fleeting, as then I would settle into my meditation practice, focusing on my breath, letting go of thoughts, resting in awareness. Yet on some level, my teachers and community were sitting with me. And for sure, remembering our group practice and the moments on the other side of the dance helped me actually sit down and stay in my meditation. I wasn’t alone though it was just me in my apartment and the cold morning air.
When I get asked if there is a roadmap of practice, I gladly share that there most definitely is. There are certain qualities and attributes to look for when it comes to being a beginner, intermediate and and experienced meditator.
Beginning Stage: When someone is first starting a meditation practice, and they are beginning to become comfortable with their practice.
You know that meditation helps you, so you begin to make the effort and intention to spend even 5 minutes in meditation as often as you can.
You become familiar with attention and concentration. It may not be easy for you to stay in the present moment, yet you have the intention to be present in your practice.
You understand that thoughts are part of meditation, and they are not bad.
You start to notice meditation improving your life in small, subtle ways.
You are more calm when normally you would react, more patient when you would normally be hurried or feel a bit more light and relaxed.
You start to see certain aspects of your personality traits, emotions and repeating topics of thought.
Intermediate Stage: When someone has had some consistent time and experience with meditation, are past learning the basics of how to meditate and are experientially in the practice.
You are starting to establish a level of consistent practice in your life, and it’s getting easier to meditate daily or weekly.
You feel that you are able to show up and stay in meditation, even when you don’t feel like it.
You are working with thoughts and emotions in meditation more skillfully.
You are starting to deepen in your meditation practice.
You see yourself and your life beginning to transform.
You are more concentrated in meditation, more at ease and are meeting some deeper layers of your own psyche or past traumas, and you know that this is part of growth as you are becoming more aware.
You feel at home in your practice - no matter where you are in the world.
Experienced Stage: When someone has had more than a year of consistent meditation experience, and meditation has fully integrated in their lives.
This is the bloom stage. You have laid the groundwork and tilled the soil of your meditation practice, and now your heart and mind are able to truly bloom and grow.
You are heart-based instead of thought-based.
You still have some thought-filled days in meditation, yet you now are very familiar with a calm and spacious mind.
There are long gaps between your thoughts where you are following the breath, your object of attention or simply resting in awareness.
You self-heal through meditation.
You meet each moment, yourself and others with compassion and kindness.
You forgive more easily.
You are living your life wakefully, consciously and are engaged with mindfulness throughout your day.
The Container of Authenticity & Community
It is always important to embark on the roadmap of meditation with the guide of a trusted teacher, an authentic set of teachings based on tradition and lineage and with the support of a community. Practice is a living breathing energy and it gains strength through integrity and truth.
To become strong and confident in your meditation practice, to successfully know you will make it down the road and experience each signpost along the way, you also must feel safe and confident in the container - that which holds and fosters your practice.
Whether we are aware of it or not, when we join together in community, we are contributing to each other’s practice, leaving imprints in each other’s hearts. There’s something to be said about spending time with other courageous souls who are willing to take an honest look at their own hearts and minds. More so, there’s something about entrusting your heart and mind to be guided by a teacher who is also walking the roadmap as a fellow human being. Authentic teachers are the container of non-judgmental loving awareness continuously pointing you back to your own heart and truth over and over.
As you begin, develop, deepen, grow and bloom a meditation practice, may authenticity be one of the key signposts reminding you that you are walking the right way.