the fruit of practice

This week’s theme resonates deeply. I feel a keen awareness of the shifting shape, tone and depth of physical sensations and the stories that arise. It’s almost too much to bear at times, and yet I’ve been quicker to notice when the mind resists or softens physical sensation by surfacing a memory or fantasy — on and off the cushion. I feel like I’m in a boot camp, of sorts. As I move through the world, I gently remind myself to come back and to keep training. Adding “keep training” seems to make it easier to let go softly: the phrase serves as a sweet reminder of why it is we practice.

I received some jarring, heart wrenching news this week, absolutely the opposite of what I ‘wanted’ to hear. As I sat with this, my body was overcome by intense sensations. Tears flowed, the heart clenched up, breathing accelerated and heat flushed the skin. Without effort, the mind dropped into the body. Here, the fruit of practice.

First, tracking the breath as it panted the ribcage open and closed, tightly and forcefully. Then, skirting the edges and feeling trembling in the fingers and constriction in the front of the throat. Thoughts floating in and out, tumbling across one another — I watched them with an observer’s eye, interested in their tone and message yet not latching on to any. Now, dipping into the full intensity of this pain. The heart, so tight, palpably broken beyond what had already felt like the uppermost threshold of pain before this moment. As I sat there, the shape of sensations shifted slightly and I became aware of their multilayered nature. The constriction in the throat was lumpy and then tight, rounded and then narrow and deep. The broken sensation in the heart was constant, but a momentary wave of warmness also rose along the border and tapped the belly. Noting that these feelings — gratitude for the practice and metta for the messenger — were present alongside shame, hurt, despair, anger, regret. Here again, the fruit of practice.

This is how it has been this week. Incredibly difficult and also gratifying to try and stay with what’s arising now, instead of tabling the experience for a later visit.