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Letting Small Truths be Small

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Q: What I’m wanting to achieve is a continued immersion of love. I write about very positive ideas, but all the problems of the day are still in my mind. My usual state is separate from the enlightened state I’m in when I’m writing. How do I integrate these two states?

A: The big truths and the small truths of your life are all true. The difference is in how important and meaningful you take them to be. So if a small truth or problem arises in your mind, the right way to feel is contracted. That’s how you know that that idea or problem isn’t very important. That “problem” may still need to be addressed in some way, although sometimes when a truth is very small, it also means there’s nothing you need to do about it. You don’t need to integrate the small truths and the big truths; you just need to see them for what they are. They all already fit perfectly in the infinite space of your awareness.

Paradoxically, it is by allowing the small truths and recognizing their smallness that we are freed from any suffering they may cause. In fact, it is our struggle to change them or get rid of them that causes us to suffer or feel less immersed in love. In trying to change these small truths, we get temporarily stuck in them. In allowing them, our awareness is freed to move outside, or beyond, the smaller truth they contain. And it is often then that the solutions to them become obvious.

This is backwards from how we think it should work. Trying to get more of the expanded, loving feeling actually contracts us. Wanting to be expanded contracts us! This is simply because it isn’t very true that it’s better to be expanded. The ideal is to experience each moment the way it really is. A small truth should feel small because that’s how you can tell how important it is.

You can still enjoy the expanded, loving moments, of course. However, the bigger freedom is when it doesn’t matter anymore whether you’re expanded or contracted. Contracting doesn’t mean you have lost the capacity to expand; it just means that in this moment something is shaping and limiting your awareness. In allowing and embracing the full range of your awareness, you are able to respond to each moment just as it is without needing to feel any way in particular.

It turns out that this accepting, allowing way of being does actually lead to more expanded experiences. The default is for your awareness to expand and your Heart to open. By letting everything unfold just as it does, you naturally fall into this default position more often. But the expansion just happens. You never actually do it, and anything you do to try to make it happen tends to have the opposite effect.

I will add a small tip: If you find yourself struggling with a problem, the first step is to allow your struggling and the contraction it causes. That’s what then enables you to move into allowing the problem itself. You can only start with what’s happening right now, and sometimes what’s happening is that you don’t like what’s happening. In simply meeting any resistance that is here right now, you open the door for the bigger truths of love, compassion, and understanding to flow into your experiences of struggle and difficulty.

Sitting on the Beach Does Not Cause a Tsunami

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I had a follow up dialogue on Facebook about my previous blog post about effort. Someone asked:

A helpful entry, Nirmala! I thought it insightfully traversed the "razors edge" of effort in regard to meditation. I would, sometime, like to know your thoughts on the importance (or not) of meditation in general. Thanks for sharing!

And I replied:

I would suggest that meditation can be helpful, but meditation itself does not cause the deeper shifts of awareness that just happen as a result of divine grace. My sense is that most spiritual practices function to focus our awareness on the here and now. That does not cause anything to happen, but it does mean that when something happens, you are there to notice it.

I recently used the metaphor that sitting on the beach does not cause a tsunami, but it does mean that when a tsunami comes, you are there to be swept away by it. And of course a tsunami might still get you even if you are not near the beach, but the odds are better at the beach.

So meditation and other spiritual practice is like spending time at the beach. It does not cause any big waves of awakening, but it does mean that you are swept up in them when they occur. This puts the practice in perspective. You do not measure a spiritual practice by it's results. You just measure it by whether or not you actually sit and meditate today. If nothing happens today, that is fine. You just come back to the beach again tomorrow.

You can enjoy the sun, sand and sound of the ocean while you are there, but the real purpose is just to be here when the deeper movements of being happen. And this is true of the tsunami like awakenings and also the smaller rogue waves that come and wash away your attachments and suffering a little at a time.

The Least Amount of Effort in Meditation

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Someone emailed me with some questions about the role of effort in meditation, and about their tendency to try to hard until they felt a sense of strain while meditating. Here is my response:

Your questions are very good ones. It seems to come down to the question of effort or no effort. And yet there is an in-between place where you make the very minimum amount of effort. That is what meditation is really for: to find the place where you are efforting the very least amount possible. The very least amount of effort is to just notice what is happening and then allow it to be the way it is.

This does require effort, but so little that the tendency is to still try too hard, for example by focusing the noticing in some way, like noticing the thoughts. Even more simple is just noticing whatever awareness touches whether it is a thought, a sensation, a blank or empty experience, or even an arising of presence or Being.

The point of this minimal effort is to simply to be present. The only measure of whether it was a "good" meditation or not is whether you sat there for the allotted time or not. Anything else that happens or any results of the meditation are not your concern. Even surrender is not something you do, it is just something that happens to you. By meditating, you are present if surrender happens to you. You are also present if conditioning gets triggered, or total dissolution of the ego and merging into the Absolute happens. You are also present if your butt starts to ache or you get restless. You are present if nothing happens. Your only job is to be present. Everything else is in the hands of Being or Presence.

However, there is a little twist to all of this in that if trying to hard arises, then you can just be present to the experience of trying to hard. You mention a feeling of strain that arises. What is that like? How do you know there is strain? What sensations are present that let you know there is strain present? Are they bad sensations? You do not need to fix or change the experience of straining. Just give it attention like anything else.

There are practical things you can do to allow yourself to be more present. One of them is to drop into the Heart as you mention, or you may also try dropping your awareness all the way down into your belly. Then just let the noticing happen from the Heart and/or belly. This accesses the natural capacity of your Being to just notice. It is easier to give this very least effort of noticing from the lower centers of the body without the sense of strain arising, or the counfusion that comes from trying to figure all of this out with the mind.

Lastly, you can simply know that it is working perfectly. The actual unfolding and awakening of your consciousness is again not something you do. It is just something that happens to you. Meditation and even self-inquiry are just a means to be home when Presence arises. They do not cause Presence to happen, they just mean that you are noticing when it does happen.