We do not have to accept ourselves as we are. Genetic code or brain bio-chemistry, astrological configurations or Tarot readings, early traumas or upbringing- none of these can ever limit our potential. The Buddha explains, "All that we are is the result of what we have thought." By changing the very mode of our thinking, we can remake ourselves completely.
Then we become master artists. It is no small thing to compose a sonata or write a perceptive novel; we are indebted to the great composers and writers who have given us beauty and insight into human nature. But I am most moved by the beauty of the perfectly crafted life, where every bit of selfishness has been carved away and what is thought, felt, said, and done are brought into harmony.
It takes time and sustained effort to fashion such a life. That is the challenge of it (meditation)- and that is why it (meditation) can appeal so deeply to people with a skeptical streak, who simply cannot take seriously the claims for instant transformation put forth today. They know you cannot reverse long-standing attitudes and habits by signing up for an "enlightenment weekend," any more than you can sit down at a piano and play Beethoven or Chopin after learning to locate middle C.
For most of us, conditioning habits of thinking, feeling, and acting- flows through our days like a powerful river. Understandably, we usually lie back and float downstream. When a river of anger rises, for example, it is so easy, so apparently satisfying, to let it carry us along. Just try swimming against it! Your teeth will chatter, your breathing will become labored, your legs will grow weak. But the spiritual life requires that we do just that: reverse our conditioning and swim upstream, like salmon returning home.
In India, when the monsoons come, the clouds gush torrents of rain for days, causing the rivers to flood and swell. Many of the boys of my village were strong swimmers and daring too. We tested ourselves by leaping into the churning waters and trying to swim straight across to the far shore. It might take an hour or more to fight one's way across, and even then only a few heroes made it to the precise spot; most of us ended up hundreds of yards below. But everyone loved the challenge.
You may be saying, "I am not sure I can do this." Everyone can do this. It is in our nature; it is what we were born for. By virtue of being human, all of us have the capacity to choose, to change, to grow.
Excerpt from ‘Meditation’ by Eknath Easwaran
SEED QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: How do you relate to the notion that we were born to challenge our conditioning? Can you share a personal story of a time you reversed your conditioning and swam upstream? What helps you find joy in challenging your conditioning?
We were born to realize we are not static. Where we started does not need to be where we end up. Adversity can be a motivator to something greater than we dreamed possible. I've lived this my entire life. Born into a family consumed by depression, a father with multiple suicide attempts, a brother who turned to alcohol and drugs to cope and was addicted by age 15 and a mother overwhelmed in anxiety. I, turned to theatre as a way to try on different roles and it opened in my mind a way to live very differently in the world. A way to realize in my every day life I also had a choice to write a new story. I've swum up stream ever since with the tool of Storytelling and being the author of my own story to guide me. And now I choose to share that gift with others, reminding us all: we are the author of our own story and can reinvent and change our character, as well as begin a new chapter at any time. <3 In February I will begin to share an online beginner course in this and am so excited to share what has worked so well for me! <3[Hide Full Comment]
We do and can challenge our conditioning and affect what we become. Conditioning influences us, it doesn’t determine us. Each of us has the capacity to choose and grow and remake ourselves significantly, but not completely. We can change within human limits. We can’t do whatever we want or choose — we can only do what we can do, which is a great deal. Trusting myself including to swim upstream helps me find joy and satisfaction in challenging my conditioning.
" By virtue of being human, all of us have the capacity to choose, to change, to grow." Eknath Easwaran's closing statement deeply resonates with me. I love it. It is very encouraging and promising. We all have been conditioned to think, believe, feel and act according to the beliefs and ideas of good intentional people who raise us. The down side of such conditioning is that it limits our capacity to be free to find our own path that can expand and deepen our consciousness and original creativity. The good news is that we have innate capacity to change and reverse our conditioning.
In order to create a new path and go upstream we need to have courage and conviction for change and transformation. It does not happen quickly and easily. It requires sustained effort, time. patience and practice. It requires dedication and devotion. In Hindu spiritual tradition, we call it sadhana and one who practices it is called sadhak. It is a self-chosen path. It is usually a path less traveled. although everyone is capable of walking on this uphill path. It is a path of liberating oneself from the conditioned bound self.
I have been walking on this path for quite some long time. I was blessed to have parents who set an example of living spiritually and encouraging and supporting me to follow my path. And that is the path and practice of meditation.It was not that easy for me to walk consistently on my path. I had friends who were not walking on this path. There were temptations that will distract me from my path. I fell down and stood up again and continued my journey. Daily practice of meditation has always helped me to sustain and move on. Doing meditation with like minded and like hearted people has been very helpful to me to stay the course. I feel at home no matter where I am. Meditation is homecoming, creating deep feeling of contentment, joyfulness and peacefulness.
May we pave and walk on our own path that connects us with others and which brings joyful fulfillment in us!
Jagdish P Dave