As I’m preparing to co-teach Discovering Refuge Within: An 8-Week Meditation Journey, I have the opportunity to reflect on how I experience this thing we call Refuge, and what the journey of discovery can be.
When I first learned about the Buddhist concept of Refuge, I was immediately attracted to what I thought would be an escape from my suffering – from the often overwhelming emotions I was feeling as a teenager. I thought I could escape from the storm of life, and the storm could happen somewhere outside me instead of inside me.
My dad the engineer was always a bit mystified when he heard that I was going to another meditation retreat or taking another class. “How long do you have to “practice” meditation before you get it right?” he’d say, only half-kidding. At the time, I compared it to playing an instrument: once you learn where the notes are, that doesn’t mean you stop playing. Now, I can hear how that comparison still has an air of “getting it right.”
I’m continuing to explore the ways in which a balance of effort and ease support me in my ongoing practice (after all, Buddhism is sometimes called “the middle way”) but my experience of meditation today is a lot warmer and more inviting than it once was. I no longer consider meditation as only a solitary activity, and have come to appreciate the extraordinary gift of practicing together online, noticing how the quality of our listening and sharing is informed by the warmth of our practice.
Now, I can experience that storm and Refuge are not mutually exclusive. I can allow myself to feel the wild weather pattern moving through my body, chattering away through my thoughts and feelings, or disconnecting me from others – and from myself. I can bring kind and gentle attention to the Stillness, Silence and Spaciousness that underlies and pervades all that weather. I can experience the vastness of the sky beyond the storm, and I can come home to the natural warmth and richness of Being.
DISCOVERING REFUGE WITHIN: AN 8-WEEK MEDITATION JOURNEY