Here’s one from the Archives.
From the Department of Failures and Beginnings
I often listen to podcasts on my morning walk with Trixy the Dog. Today I heard Sharon Salzberg talking about meditation.
She spoke about “beginning again” in meditation: how the hardest work is not the sitting down and shutting up, it is how one shows up again AFTER spacing out, fantasizing, daydreaming, worrying and the like: starting anew, over and over and over again.
In this sense, meditation is a really a practice in failure resilience.
I sit and experience “failure” repeatedly, and then, because I remain seated and committed to the present moment, I have a chance to choose to start over, to begin anew.
To be sure, failure is strong word to use in this context, and the usage itself leads to the awareness that a critical element of this practice is the tone of the voice with which I welcome myself back. Is it kind and forgiving? Or judgmental and harsh?
Do I welcome myself back , or scold myself for the absence?
For much of my life, my failure resilience was negligible: I interpreted each new stumble and fall as simply more evidence of my long demonstrated inherent sucky-ness. Just more fuel for the grinding shame-machine.
Over time, with practice and attention, I have gradually shifted that internal voice to one that is gentle, loving, amused, and even delighted. After a reverie into the future or the past, I now (usually) wake up and smile:
“Oh Dave, you sweet silly man, welcome home!!! The fire is lit, there’s food on the stove, and here’s a nice hot cup of tea!”
As I have become more gentle in my sitting, I often find myself smiling quite a lot. And with each smile the use of the word failure shifts again to “human-ness” or “presence” or just “being alive.”
What could be more human to than to lose attention, to slip away for a reverie, and then to reluctantly but gratefully return home.
I worry about the many many people that I love that still speak to themselves with a harsh and unforgiving voice. Sometimes I will even hear the voice out loud, as a friend scolds himself for a mistake.
I usually can’t help but butt in: “Hey don’t be mean to [that person]. [That person] is a good friend of mine.” They usually smile.
So to all you lovely friends on this glorious Tuesday, I invite you, be gentle with yourselves. Be loving and kind. You deserve it.
and here’s a favorite poem on the topic.
Dave Klaus, King Bee, Fire-Tender
Nobody Fails at Meditation
Nobody fails at meditation
like I do.
Note the arrival of thoughts
and allow them to pass through
like clouds crossing a summer sky.
Let judgment go.
But one cloud
is always running
like a woman with a torn dress,
the wind pressing its folds
against her body,
and I suddenly wish
to wheel around on my horse
and thunder back to the farmhouse,
spattering her white frock
with mud as I swing from the saddle
into her trembling arms.