Friday, May 4, 2012
The Rewards of Patience and Perseverance
I snapped the above photo a few weeks ago, pausing briefly on the side of a walking trail. Back then, the days were getting really warm for the first time this year (I recall setting out in the morning wearing my jacket but soon having to take it off because it was so warm in the sunshine), but the leaves had not yet opened. I am fascinated by the architecture of leaf and flower buds, but my camera often has a hard time focusing on them, so I was quite happy to get this photo. Today, the leaves are nearly all out and the blossoms on our apple tree are ready to burst open, but ever since Beltane (the supposed start of summer for the ancient Celts), we've had nothing but cool, rainy days that have felt more like March than May.
I have often noticed that in the winter, it is almost impossible for me to imagine leaves. I can remember them, of course, but to actually imagine them covering the bare branches of the trees all around me and filling the world with green is a strain on my imagination in the snow and cold of winter. But then spring comes, as it always does, but it seems to come so slowly that it feels like the leaves will never come out. People that we meet in town all say the same thing every year: "Spring is slow this year." I wait and wait, and then one day it seems that all of a sudden the leaves are out everywhere and I didn't even see it happen. Every year I tell myself that I will notice when the leaves go from being mere buds to fully unfurled leaves, but I miss it every time.
Lately, I have been discovering some of the rewards of patience and perseverance in my personal meditation practice. I've been slowly building up my meditation practice over the last month; I started out with two minutes a day, and now I'm up to ten minutes. Most of the time, I just sit there, trying to focus on my breath and maintain my posture while a million and one random thoughts skitter through my mind. But sometimes, after five or eight minutes or so, something happens. It's hard to describe it, but my breathing slows and deepens, I no longer have to make an effort to maintain my posture, and, for a brief moment, the random thoughts are gone altogether. I feel open, light, spacious, like a cool breeze in a clear blue sky. It never lasts long, and if I try to make this moment last longer, or if my mind begins to analyze the situation or says, "This is it!", then it is gone.
Spring teaches us the value of patience. Be patient and have faith, and the spring will come, the leaves will open, the wheel will continue to turn. Even when it seems like nothing is happening, the days are still getting longer, slowly but surely. You can't rush it, but it comes just the same. You just have to wait and be patient. So too does meditation teach us patience and perseverance. Just keep practicing, keep breathing, keep sitting down day after day, and that moment of clarity and spaciousness will come. You can't rush it, you can't make it come if it's not ready, you can't control it. You just have to persevere and be patient and make yourself open to receive it when it comes.