Make slowness your trade, show patience.
Shams of Tabriz
I clean my kitchen stove in mindfulness. I see that there is a spot that requires more attention, I keep rubbing the sponge in circles on that spot, with focus and lightness at the same time. I am in the moment, I know what I’m doing -I AM what I’m doing. You see, cleaning is my meditation. And life can be a meditation if you want. I learned that from Eckhart Tolle. And this is so important. Preparation is a warm-up, meditation is a warm-up.
The products that I use, the sponge, the soap, I shopped for them. I made a decision to go and buy them at some point. That is preparation. And so is meditating on a cushion, and so is learning something during our spiritual journey. Everything that is behind me is a preparation for this Now, where I can make use of it. And then Now becomes part of the preparation for the next Now.
When I meditate on a cushion I am being prepared for when I go back to the normal active life. That’s when I can summon the assistance of all that I have gained during that preparation. When I go to a workshop or retreat, looking for some peace, that is preparation for when I go back to life where I can activate all that studying that I have done. That’s the whole point. Meditation on a cushion, workshops, retreats, are not the end point. They are just the beginning of a process I must continue to work on and preparation allows me to maximize my potential -if I choose to see it that way.
Everything is there to help you grow
In our daily life we clean all the time; whether it is what is outside of us, or ourselves -which by the way is part of the same impulse. Some spots require special attention and care. The art of preparation is understanding that everything that is in my life has a purpose and a function. The sponge has a function, the cleaning products have a function. Knowing they are there is useful. I can always go and get them when I need them. Cleaning is to be done regularly and in some cases all the time. But I can also decide to let the tools sit there and complain that the house is dirty. That is my choice.
When I struggle, I know now that it’s preparation. I go through my ups and downs all the time -and life is a wheel. But the concept of preparation is the one spot of light that is always there for me. Sometimes it’s so tiny, I can’t see what I’m being prepared for. But I know that in big terms everything happens to further my growth anyway. And the more it hurts, the more I suffer, the more I need to pay attention to something. Sometimes I don’t really know what, but I just become alert and that does it for me. I know preparation. I’ve done it all my life, you see. I know that now.
I can also take it as a metaphor and let it shed light on other actions I take in all areas of my life. If I look a bit further, I can see that the ability that I have to go to a supermarket, and the use of all my faculties, were acquired thanks to my education. I can read, I can speak, I can count. All of that enables me to do my shopping and to buy all the products I need to do my cleaning. I have also learned to clean. And now I do it my way. It’s always my way. And it’s supposed to be my way, ultimately. It doesn’t matter what I have been taught, in the end I make it my way, I make it my handwriting.
Life is preparation
Life is about learning and creating my own handwriting. First I am given a guide, a model to emulate in order to learn the foundation. But in time, as I acquire the skill and no longer need to focus on the mechanics of it all, I can let go and be creative. That’s when my handwriting starts to take shape.
And so I can go back to everything that has prepared me for this process. And I see that I was able to learn to speak and read because of my upbringing. And then I see that I was born into a place, family, mother and father, and that all these circumstances have given me a lot more than I credit them for. There I see more clearly all the hues of my idiosyncrasy. And all the hues of my preparation.
So finality -results- are part of the illusion that we must learn to transcend. We need to adjust our perspective, because those are temporary. What matters is how much we grow in the experience and the person we become. And this can become something we instigate, instead of letting it happen to us. We can all appreciate how what used to take much time, now requires less. Maybe what required a lot of effort now requires less too. We understand that, for the little things of life: why not see it for life on a bigger scale? If we take all that we experience as meditation, then it can become compounded preparation. It’s all a circle that feeds itself: that is growth.
As a college student, I knew I had a few years of preparation. During the first year I did not expect to receive my degree. As a working adult, however, it gets more and more blurred as we are overwhelmed by the responsibilities of the scripted life: work, spouse, kids, political family, political affiliations, ideas that I espouse or reject, etc. Now it’s hard to see anything, right? But we are always in preparation for the next moment.
During the tea ceremony, preparation of all the utensils -or Junbi- has a specific order before one can actually start to learn how to prepare tea. That’s how I have learned to choose to live life. At any given time I know I have prepared to make tea. And so now is a moment where I can learn to channel consciously all the preparation I’ve worked on all my life. Now can be the sum of all my experiences if I want to. Now can be so powerful in that way. It’s not a static now, it’s not a place to suffer the burden of life. Now can become the perfect ally to call upon all that we are, which is richer as we go along. Nothing is ever wasted, nothing has been in vain, if we know to open up to our best friends: Experience, Baggage, Toiling. But there’s a vulnerability that we need to allow for, a surrender to that muse. That soft yielding will become the contact point with the divine, the place in which our prayers call for help where we are helpless. Even then, we can feel the force of our preparation -especially then.
Most of us are always whining about something. Listening to ourselves, it would seem that we have a terrible life, that all that we receive are blows. We fail to see not only all the material goods that we have, but all the preparation that we have done for ourselves so far. Because we want a result. We pursue a graspable outcome. But the future is always veneered in layers of conditioned thinking and expectations. And when we get there, there’s always something else that we don’t have.
Understanding preparation helps make sense of our struggles
My mother has 8 children and she only focuses on the one who hasn’t called or didn’t visit or whatever it is she expects. She is never happy, never satisfied, never content. There is always something missing. And so life becomes a snowball of non-encounters. It is one fabricated drama after another. And yet, in the blink of an eye, if only she could see all that I see, and that I try to remind her of: that her kids visit all the time, whether it’s one or the other; that they call her; that she has a social life and friends. But all she sees is what she thinks she doesn’t have. If she understood the concept of preparation, instead of drowning in what she perceives as a curse, she would know to evolve and improve her relationships -not least her relationship with life. Instead the expected results never seem come. In reality they do, but by then she has already fabricated another set of expected results.
Whatever struggle I have, I know it’s preparation. I may not see what exactly, and it doesn’t bother me anymore to not see it: I just know it’s preparation. And I must say, because I have become my own observer and never fail to watch myself, I see the magic, I see the symphony, I see the perfection of all that is around me and in me. And again: what I see around me reflects what is in me. And I have joy in my life because of that understanding.
When Tony Robbins interviewed Nelson Mandela, he asked him about suffering.
Mandela said to him: “What is suffering?”
Tony said: “How about 27 years in jail?”
Mandela replied: “It wasn’t suffering. It was preparation.”
Mandela realized that his time in prison had been preparation. Life taken as a meditation is preparation for the real tests which come in the daily challenges of our lives, when dealing with people and circumstances.
Everything in the Universe is moving with intent. How much of that intent do you want to be yours? That is what the art of understanding preparation is about.