Sogyal Rinpoche stresses the need for us to integrate our practice, and what we learn through the teachings, into our daily lives. But, how about the "boot camp" experiences of our lives, how about the really tough stuff that we encounter as we go through our daily routine?
Recently, I've been practicing taking what I've learned "on the cushion" and bringing it into the difficult situations, the "rubber meets the road" circumstances that I encounter in life. In fact, I've purposely encountered difficult situations (see the list below) to see whether I have the mind-mettle to meet the challenge!
I've found that I can actually make a "game" out of putting my practice to the test. That's not to say that meditation is a game, or that I view it simply as another way to distract myself. In fact, what I find when I'm sitting in the steam-room, for instance, is that it really pushes me not to be distracted if I can practice. Or when I'm being unreasonable with my spouse, the last thing that I want to do it to relinquish my "position" and remain present.
By game I guess that I mean, "lighten up." Not take things too seriously. See if I have the resolve to stick with it. Does that make sense?
So, here's a list of 10 "tough" situations that I've used to hone my skills, test my mind, and "play" with. This list isn't theoretical; I've encountered all of these situations within the past few weeks. Sometimes I've succeeded, other times I've had to return to my practice repeatedly upon finding myself distracted or checked out. See what you think:
- Sit in a steam-room or hot sauna. It's amazing how quickly my attention can waver when the "heat is on." I find that steam is particularly challenging when it reaches its hottest and all I can do is to watch my breathing...so that I don't pass out!
- Go outside when it's hot, or cold. Autumn is here in the Rocky Mountains and with it, chilly night temperatures. As one who doesn't indulge in...hair, I find my scalp particularly susceptible to cold. So, every once in a while, I don't wear a hat, and experience the feeling of a really cold head. Once I get used to it and stop resisting it, I find it invigorating. In fact, last winter when the temperature dipped to -11 degrees, I tried it. Yikes! That was cold!
- Watch a really scary movie, maybe even a horror movie. I really don't like doing this. There's something about watching a movie that's deliberately trying to scare the heck out of me that I really resist. And, I usually don't manage to succeed with this one.
- Call someone or visit with someone who you'd really rather not be in contact with. I've just started a new business and am having to contact many people who I'd rather not do business with. So, I do it anyhow...I have to!
- Ask someone you don't know who is doing something that bothers you to not do or change what they are doing. So, for instance, if you're in line at a store and someone is accidentally elbowing you in the ribs, and you'd normally "suck it up" and not complain, then..complain!
- Eat less than you want or need to and see how it feels. Feelings of hunger can hit a primitive note within our reptilian mind.
- When in an argument or disagreement, take the other person's point of view completely. This is very powerful in relationship. Much like the practice of tonglen, it can free us up from a lot of grasping after our own agenda.
- Don't do something that needs to be done. Pay a bill? Clean up a mess? Arrive on time?
- Speak up in a social setting if you're uncomfortable doing so. For some of us, this isn't a challenge. But for others...
- Allow some chaos into your life. Even if you like chaos, allow it to show up someplace where you don't usually allow it.
These are things that I've encountered in the past few weeks and don't necessarily apply to you or to what you would choose as "tough." I've shared these to get you thinking about what you can do. Be creative. Experiment.
The gift that I've found from purposely encountering circumstances that challenge me is that when the unexpected does arise, because I've lessened my habitual attitude of resistance, there's a slightly less degree of aversion on my part to engage with whatever it is that has arisen.
What do you think? Is this worthwhile? Does it work for you? Are you already doing this? Have you found other ways to encounter difficulties without having to actually engage with them?