The Essential Paradox of Deep Practice

August 3, 2019
“Under pressure, we do not rise to the level of our aspirations. We fall to the level of our training.”

~ Bruce Lee

There are two diametrically opposed dimensions of meditation that are both absolutely essential if we want our practice to result in dramatic spiritual breakthrough.

One dimension of meditation involves cultivating sharp, steady and penetrating awareness. This means engaging in practices of focused concentration. To develop this precision of mind we have to make the effort required to focus on the minutest details, with unwavering clarity.

The other dimension of meditation is exactly the opposite. It is a complete relaxation of any effort in a total surrender to what is. To develop this open-hearted embrace of exactly what is, we must cultivate an intimate connection with the divine essence of life.

One dimension of meditation is the cultivation of a sharp mind.

The other dimension of mediation is the cultivation of an open heart.

Some of us naturally gravitate toward one of these or the other, but dramatic spiritual breakthrough requires that we master both.

I most naturally gravitate toward the open-heartedness of practice, and The Practice of No Problem that I teach falls into this category. I teach this way partly because it is a great antidote to the hyper-achievement orientation of our culture.

Regardless of which dimension of practice we start with, in the end we have to embrace both fully.

Dramatic spiritual breakthrough comes when we release ourselves into the arms of spirit. That means giving up control of our lives and allowing the energetic love and wisdom of divinity to sweep us off our feet.

There is literally nothing we need to do, and no effort we need to make, to be carried away by spirit. The energy of spirit has been pulling on you since the day you were born. It is a constant magnetic attraction that wants to bring you home.

The only reason we aren’t floating away to the source of being right now, is because we've developed conscious and unconscious habits that keep us firmly planted in the world of the familiar. To be carried off into the heart and mind of divinity all we have to do is let go.

If all we need is to let go, then why do we need to cultivate precision of mind?

Imagine that spiritual breakthrough is like consciously allowing yourself to fall off the roof of a building.

Imagine standing on the roof right at the edge with your heels firmly planted on the concrete and your toes handing over the side.

Our spiritual practice is like leaning forward ever so slightly until we start to lose our balance. That moment, when we feel our heels getting lighter and we start to fall forward, is the moment when we are beginning to let go of control and spirit is starting to take us.

At that instant, our bodies will recoil. We will tense up and pull back to regain our balance and stay planted on the rooftop.

This same thing happens in our spiritual practice. We let go and let go. We allow our awareness to open to whatever arises, and eventually we begin to feel the energies of divinity moving our soul. We feel ourselves beginning to lift upward.

Suddenly we feel ourselves leaving the ground, and we panic. We’re losing control. We clench and retract and regain our footing.

A second later we realize that the door to spiritual breakthrough had just opened and we missed the opportunity to fall through.

The history of our spiritual practice is often a succession of such missed opportunities.

The cultivation of sharp, steady and penetrating awareness will get us passed this threshold.

You see, we may aspire to spiritual breakthrough, but at this critical threshold moment when we experience panic, we don’t find ourselves naturally rising to the level of our aspiration.

It is at this critical moment, when we feel like we have to recoil and pull back, when we need our training to kick in.

If we have developed a mental habit of clear, steady presence through all circumstances, then at that threshold, we will find ourselves simply being aware of what is happening as we pass through the density of reality, into the freefall of awakening.

At the moment when we’re tempted to pull back, our training kicks in, and carries us over the edge into a miracle. What happens after that is anyone’s guess. It is no longer in our control. We have surrendered into the loving wisdom of divinity and life will never be the same.

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