When I first went to India in 1970, I went overland through Europe, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan before arriving in India. I was eighteen years old, and the farthest I had ever been from my home in New York City was one family trip to Florida.
When I arrived at the banks of the Bosphorous River in Turkey, which "divides" Europe and Asia, I stood looking over toward Asia, wondering what it would bring, wondering what it would be like. I remember feeling a sense of awe, openness, and adventure. Standing on the bank of that river, I had no idea that the people and cultures and spiritual traditions of Asia would become the center of my life. I only knew that I was looking for a greater happiness and I was willing to open to whatever might come. In meditation, too, we journey to discover many things. It is an inner adventure.
In Burma, there is a teaching story that is told about a hunter who goes into the forest to try to capture a bird. He may wander for a long time in the forest and, in the end, may not capture the bird. But that is all right, because in all that wandering, he has learned the ways of the forest.
It is just like that for us in meditation. We may have the idea that there is something we would like to capture, perhaps something we can show off. But any meditation experience we can show off doesn't matter. What matters is that we are open to learning the ways of the forest, the ways of the body and the mind. What matters is that we learn how to wander, how to explore, how to make this journey of discovery. To learn how to have wonder at the changing array of our own experiences. That means there is no particular experience that is “good”, while the rest are considered inferior. It’s all “good”, in that we can learn from everything.
This week we focus on our emotional landscape. Observing thoughts and feelings without clinging or condemning, we learn to have a different relationship to them, whether they are painful or pleasant. Our work is to learn to bring awareness, balance and compassion to whatever we observe.