'Why do you want to meditate?' asked master Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche
by Dana Marshall
Why do you want to meditate?
At ten years old, sitting in front of meditation master Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, I was asked “ Why do you want to meditate?”
My father had organised this interview for me with his teacher at Tail of the Tiger - the first Shambhala land centre in Vermont - now called Karme Choling.
I thought “oh dear he caught me on the first question and can see right through me”.
My response “Daddy wants me to meditate but I don’t want to. Can I go play now?”.
Seven years later at seventeen I was ready to meditate and asked my father to drive me up to Shambhala Mountain Center in Colorado. I dove in with no preparation into the first week of a four week intensive meditation retreat. After two days of sitting all day I thought ‘“these Buddhists are crazy. How do I get out of here?”.
But some wise person took me out of the meditation hall and put me on kitchen duty.
I found myself cutting carrots and was blissfully happy to be in the kitchen away from my zafu (meditation cushion) and those carrots were the brightest and most beautiful things I had ever seen.
So I stayed. I stayed for the rest of the month. Three weeks of sitting. Looking at my mind. Silence. Simplicity. I was curious about how I could be so miserable one moment and so happy the next. The outer circumstances fundamentally had not changed. Only my mind and its perceptions had changed.
Four decades later I continue to practice staying - which is what meditation is all about.
It is a period of time spent in an uplifted and dignified posture. A time to rest the mind on the breath. A time to move closer to oneself and unravel confusion and suffering at its root. Ultimately it is about letting go of holding on so tightly to ideas and concepts about who we think we are and just letting ourselves be. In so doing we connect to a confidence that is beyond fulfilling our expectations and need for confirmation.This frees up a lot of energy.
Meditation is a practice of knowing oneself. Dogen Zen-ji said, “To know yourself is to forget yourself. To forget yourself is to become enlightened by all things”.
Meditation is not just for oneself. When we sit down to meditate we are proclaiming our commitment to connect with our inherent goodness. The flower turns outward and a relationship between inner and outer develops. The more we are able to connect with our kindness, wisdom and strength the more benefit we will be for our world.
Dana Marshall (Brooklyn, New York 1962) teaches Mindfulness and Yin Yoga. Dana is known for her heartfelt way of teaching and applies it to daily life. She creates an atmosphere of warmth and kindness in her classes which encourages students to relax into their bodies and minds.