The sitting practice of meditation is a powerful means to get to know yourself, to introduce yourself to yourself. Meditation is a discipline, a technique to transcend technique. You sit down on a cushion or a chair and simply experience yourself: your body, your breath, and your thoughts. You just be there, very simply.
There are several aspects to meditation that are part of establishing friendship with yourself. One is mindfulness. Mindfulness is keeping track, or keeping a pulse, of being there, in a nonjudgmental way. There is no good or bad. Everything is allowed to be. Among other things, mindfulness is a stabilizing or pacifying influence. The panic of everyday life and every expectation laid on life can subside. This is a huge relief. It is called the discovery of peace.
Finding peace in the practice of meditation involves slowing down. Physically, you call a halt. You park your body somewhere, and you stay put. Your mind may continue to race for a while, maybe for a long time, but you become aware of the mind racing. Awareness is being in a bigger space, recognizing that there is always an environment around our thoughts and feelings. When you begin to sense that atmosphere, there is both intelligence, or sharpness, and relaxation. You begin to see things much more precisely and your native intelligence begins to awaken.
Becoming more aware is a very courageous thing to do. You allow yourself to look honestly at your experience. And that solid sense of self—of who you are—is revealed as being not so solid. You begin to experience gaps, holes in your suit of armor. You realize that you are really more like Swiss cheese than Cheddar.
When you are there, just there, without trying to hold everything solidly together, you also begin to find that you don’t need to sustain a storyline about yourself and your life. Who is it for anyway? You can afford to relax with yourself, get to know yourself. You don’t have to put on makeup for yourself; you don’t have to put on a smile. You can leave the mental toupee on the shelf and like yourself just as you are.
There is something genuinely good about being you. You may not like every little thing about yourself, but overall you have an honest heart and you can connect with it through the practice of meditation. You have the courage to face yourself. From that connection with yourself and from actually liking yourself without conditions, you begin to see how brilliant and available life can be when it is without preconceptions or adornments.
As you open yourself to yourself, you become more aware of the world you’re living in. The development of awareness here is a bit like having cataracts removed, or getting a hearing aid; you didn’t know your vision was so obscured until you finally see a brilliant yellow daffodil in the field. You couldn’t hear the first bird of spring singing in the meadow. You couldn’t taste the bitter onion flavor of chives by the stream. You didn’t see the face of your beloved, until you ran right into him. Then suddenly you begin to feel your world. You begin to understand love in an entirely new way.
At that point, as you become more open, you also may begin to see where you’re stuck, how you’re often living in a hall of mirrors that you create for yourself. You see your speed and how that has produced panic. We may actually recognize and experience ourselves as the monkey bouncing off the walls in our house of mirrors. What you’re bouncing off of is often simply the reflections that you project. When you bounce off yourself, this can take the form of self-hatred or it can be twisted into some kind of false arrogance and pride. Unfortunately, your dearest friends, lovers, relatives, and partners are often the mirrors you project your reflections onto most intensely.
We demand a lot from intimacy, often more than it can possibly deliver. We ask ourselves and our closest friends to confirm us by reflecting some things and not others. Essentially, we ask, “Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest one of all?” And we expect the answer, “You, my love!” This a burden to others and to us, and ultimately it doesn’t work. The mirrors crack.
If you want to live in a hall of mirrors, this is a disaster. If you’re willing to find a true relationship with yourself and others, this is welcome relief from your self-imposed isolation. It reveals the tremendous space that is there when the myth of satisfaction is seen to be a fraud.
Over the course of time, if we are committed to meditation as an ongoing practice, then it can provide us with this honest feedback. Although we might try to filter information, if we sit long enough, reality wells up in us and breaks through. This is inevitable, because it is just discovering what is there and we can’t block what is there forever. Facing reality is not creating something new. It’s allowing a barrier to dissolve. It unlocks in us the power of loving-kindness and is the beginning of real warmth toward ourselves and others.