Today’s calligraphy is “Patience.” Actually, it’s “endurance” but a long time ago my sumi-e teacher gave it to me when I said, “I just need some patience!” It may be that there is little difference between endurance and patience in matters of practice. However, the truth is I don’t have much of the latter and rarely notice when I manifest the former.
I’m writing this after our all day mindfulness meditation session. Forty practitioners, most who only started meditating about 4 weeks ago, sat, ate, walked, and moved together with careful intention, attention, and a compassionate attitude to the struggle of practice. Graduates from our mindfulness program also attended as did Buddhist practitioners from various sanghas. The consensus among all is that this thing called practice is a struggle, a surprise, a relief, a frustration, and a joy.
If we look closely, practice is simply and only endurance. Over the years of holding these all day sessions, I’ve gone down wrong-headed paths trying to make it active and engaging, exciting and opportunistic for enlightenment. What a laugh! Session after session, I learned that these shenanigans were only to soothe my anxieties that the participants would get bored and walk out, thereby wounding my fragile ego and sending me screaming for a cave in the hills. There, I likely would rant about the short-sightedness of the public in matters of my greatness, get bored myself and return to the marketplace just in time for the next all day session. Even in my wrong-headedness, I can endure.
When we think of practice as endurance, we see it as the jaw-clenching, breath-snapping trudge up the mountain. Yet when we look back at the history of our work, it’s been simply showing up. Each morning, each afternoon, each evening. Every sitting on the cushion, every step around the meditation hall, every bow and chant. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and all the snack times in between. We’ve simply shown up each and every time. Just this moment, just this meeting of life as it is, just this appointment we make with each breath.
And that’s what forty-some of us did. We showed up at the appointed time to breathe, sit, move, eat, walk and rejoice in our surprise that life is seamless.