It is such a pleasure to be in a place where I can feel the elements strongly. The tropical Balinese climate brings the earth to life. When I wake up, I am surrounded by a thatched bamboo roof. My feet meet the smooth wood floor, until the bathroom, when they walk on rounded stones. Outside, the air is thick and heavy with moisture, and the trees are plump with past rain. The stone steps and railways are covered with moss, blending into the forest. And this morning when I walked out to the organic garden to meditate, I could see and breath and touch the dirt and the growing vegetables.
I find that my body is very sensitive to my environment as well. In the cold climate of the Himalayas, trekking every day, I gravitated toward heavy carbs. Here, I naturally and easily prefer green vegetables, fruits, and light meals. This morning I had an avocado and aloe vera shake that made me feel, with each sip, that I was swimming to the bottom of a deliciously cold and life-giving lake. I can’t remember the last time when I felt so energized by something I ate. (I also appreciated the fact that I got this shake at a Balinese-owned spot–Dayu’s Warung on Sugriwa Street. The shake was around $2, making it economically easy to be healthy as well.)
This morning when I got up to meditate, I was thinking about what kind of meditation I wanted to do. There are so many different varieties: guided imagery, contemplative, devotional, focused awareness. Sometimes it feels overwhelming. But even though part of me is intrigued by meditation practices like guided imagery, my personal meditation is usually pretty simple. I am okay sticking to my simple practice because it is what feels nourishing to me. Just like your body wants a certain kind of diet, our spirits also cry out for a certain kind of meditative practice. The answer will not be the same for everyone, and it may change for you over time. Trust your instinct and don’t make it more complicated than it needs to be. Give your spirit the nourishment it is craving.
My simple meditation practice is about giving myself space to just be, to stop trying to do or achieve anything, and go completely into receptive mode. It feels like surrendering myself to the flow and rhythm of life. The touchstone for this surrender is my breath. If my mind wanders and I stop paying attention to my breath, or if I try and control my breath in any way, I know my ego is trying to take over again. And so I refocus on my breath and that feeling of letting life go first, while I follow.
Inevitably, I feel a sense of relief, knowing that I don’t have to fight so hard. Even when I let go of control, I am still here, breathing, existing. Life is taking care of me. It is supporting me. I don’t have to prove myself. As I feel this space and support, I naturally fall into a state of gratitude and softness. I move out of my head and into my heart. This is the resting point my soul wants to come back to, to identify as its home. And so I practice returning there again and again.
After I meditated, over breakfast, I began reading The Sacred Path of the Warrior by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. To my delight, Rinpcohe’s description of meditation clearly spoke to what I was feeling this morning. Here is what he wrote:
“By meditation here we mean something very basic and simple that is not tied to any one culture. We are talking about a very basic act: sitting on the ground, assuming a good posture, and developing a sense of our spot, our place on earth. This is the means of rediscovering ourselves and our basic goodness, the means to tune ourselves in to genuine reality, without any expectations or preconceptions . . . The ideal state of tranquility comes from experiencing body and mind being synchronized . . . This method of synchronizing your mind and body is training you to be very simple and to feel that you are not special, but ordinary, extra-ordinary. You sit simply, as a warrior, and out of that, a sense of individual dignity arises. You are sitting on the earth and you realize that this earth deserves you and you deserve this earth. you are there–fully, personally, genuinely. So meditation practice in the Shambhala tradition is designed to educate people to be honest and genuine, true to themselves.”
I love this simple and honest spirituality. Many people think that to have a spiritual practice, they have to be special. So they shy away because they don’t think they are not “spiritual” enough. Or they become “super spiritual,” and adopt a false posture of pseudo-enlightenment. But spirituality doesn’t have to be fancy. It can be as simple and life affirming as feeling the wood and earth beneath your feet, as truly tasting the vibrancy of a healthy drink. It can be as graceful and dignified as sitting down and feeling–for even just a few minutes–the power of life that runs through you.
If this article touches you, I would love to hear your own description of the “home” that meditation and spiritual practice creates for you. In addition to meditation, what simple practices help bring you back home?