Ever since I started visiting a Buddhist monastery in my city, mainly to meditate, I have had to endure numerous jokes about my “Chi.” That wasn’t the tough part.
I remember the first ever time I went there, keeping my eyes closed even for ten seconds seemed to be like an achievement that I knew I absolutely couldn’t accomplish. The patient (of course) monk lead the session with these following simple steps:
“Sit comfortably and keep your eyes closed”
“Put away all thought of the past and the present and focus only on your breath”.
Ahhh. He lost me right about there. It was amazing, really, my capability to sit and stir something I was cooking till it got to how I wanted it to look; to sit through ages of TV commercials during my favorite movie; to stare constantly at my monitor while waiting for that all-important work e-mail. But this? I couldn’t focus on even ten continuous breaths. Somewhere, it made me feel like a failure—that I couldn’t do something as simple as concentrate on my own breathing.
For six months, week after week I tried to overcome this abnormality of mine. Then one day, another wise monk said something while addressing the whole gathering, almost as if we were speaking exclusively to me. He said, “Don’t get frustrated if you can’t maintain concentration for too long. Be thankful for the short spell you got right. And the next time, try to outdo that.” Of course, the gratitude I felt in knowing that I can turn my screw-ups into something cool was so strong that I couldn’t focus on the rest of it, anyway.
But this taught me an important lesson—about myself and about goals.
Some of us are designed to have a big goal in mind, and work towards that. Some of us are designed to have small goals. And feed off the confidence that successfully completing those goals brings. Now I know which one I am, and what to do about it.
And the inner peace joke, well, Master Shifu said it for me:“Anything is possible when you have inner peace.” Well, that’s exactly it. The small goals bring me my inner peace, and my inner peace makes everything else possible.