The Journey to the Cushion
I remember walking into my first meditation experience in grad school. I had been meditating on my own, off and on for years and felt I was finally going to get some instruction from a teacher. Yes! We came into the room, found our cushions and collectively began to settle in and breathe. I could hear my breath and felt the collective calming almost like a weight dropping lower and lower into my pelvis.
I then heard the instructor enter the room, walk softly to the front and take a seat on his cushion. There was no instruction. We sat for 45mins. On the outside one might think I was deeply connected in my meditation. Back tall and straight, head gently bowed forward, legs crossed in my best lotus position and palms of my hands placed on my bent knees. My breathing was slow and rhythmic. And my mind was going bat shit crazy! I was in and out, up and down, pissed off, confused, forcing a smile, judging myself, the instructor, these uncomfortable cushions and that part of my mind that just wouldn’t shut up about wasting thousands of dollars on “no instruction” was like an alarm clock that wouldn’t shut off.
45 minutes of no instruction. WTF? And guess what, there was no instruction that day or the two following days. We simply walked into the meditation hall, sat for 45 minutes and then walked out. I decided this was stupid. I could do this on my own. What’s the point in sitting with a teacher? Every excuse, judgment and reason why anything would be better than those 45 mins with no instruction was bombarding my mind. I didn’t want to go. And the petulant, bratty and “I’m entitled to so much better” girl, was waving her flag big and bold. By the third day my bat-shit crazy was ballistic.
And then something happened. On the fourth day we walked in, sat and the next thing I knew the instructor was talking to us. With a slow, deep voice he simply said “the journey to the cushion is equally important as the journey on the cushion and equally important as the journey from the cushion to life.” Holy fuck!
My mind was blown. He had nailed my entire journey of the four previous days in one statement. I’m guessing it wasn’t the first time he said it, nor the last. I have passed this on to as many people as I can to reveal that where we think the most valuable “instruction for life” lives is often times not where we are looking.
I have learned so much about myself by paying attention to what happens on my way to the cushions of life and what happens when I leave those cushions and live the learning. A meditation practice is not just sequestered to the cushion. Our meditation and life practices are happening with every breath.