Riding the roads on the Island of Mull, the destination of my most recent holiday, was a bit of a roller coaster, steep inclines and declines, like life at times I guess. My friend and I hired electric bicycles to help with the upward slopes. It’s the first time I used such a bicycle, it was a lot of fun. At the beginning of the journey, on the first slope, I found myself confused, the slope still required muscular effort. I had thought that the electrical aspect of the bicycle would remove any strain from my untrained leg muscles. I called out to my friend, ” I don’t think my bike is working”. He continued cycling…
After some time, I realised that there was a way to boost the power of the electrical battery, and that this would help with the slope, however it didn’t eliminate difficulty entirely. I began to wax philosophical, contemplating the possibility of working with the difficulty, building resilience, stamina and my capacity to endure. It was after the event however, that I realised that my experience had parallels to my experience of living mindfully.
In my practice and study of meditation over the years, I have gone through great periods of disillusionment. When things have become difficult I have felt that something is going wrong with my practice. That I wasn’t practicing correctly, and that my pain or difficulty was an indication that something was wrong with my practice, with me. Implicit within this, is the belief that somehow meditating, mindfulness includes not experiencing difficulty any more, or more to the point experiencing difficulty without difficulty. Many of us come to the practice with the hope, whether consciously or not, that the practice will make our lives better, and it does, that the practice will reduce our suffering, and it will, but not entirely. Mindfulness is not a magic pill, or a magic bike, that will take away the stresses and strains of life; old age, illness, loss and death, facts of life that no practice will eliminate. It is important to recognise this, otherwise the inevitable disillusionment that the path of practice involves can derail us and we lose out on the benefits that living mindfully CAN offer.
Just as the electric bicycle could support me on the ups and downs of my journey, so mindfulness can support me in the ups and downs of life. Mindfulness is not a panacea… Sometimes disillusionment can be valuable, it wakes us up to where we are not seeing clearly.