Shunryu Suzuki said, "If you continue this simple practice every day you will obtain a wonderful power. Before you attain it, it is something wonderful, but after you obtain it, it is nothing special. It is just you yourself..."
Looking back at 3 years of practice, at the seemingly magical transformation it has accomplished in my life, that is what I see. It's just been a process of learning how to be myself. It sounds like it shouldn't be so hard, but we grow up in a society that pushes us toward self-hatred and away from self-respect. With so little acceptance of ourselves, we are blinded to who we are, with the consequence that we often don't develop the unique set of skills required for doing an excellent job of being ourselves.
How to be yourself--better yet, how to be great at being yourself--is the central quest. Terms such as mindfulness or meditation can obscure this main point if they suggest that there is something you need to add to your mind, or something you need to figure out. No! That's the exact problem we already have--thinking we need to become something else; thinking we need to find something out in the world to bring inside and put in our mental trophy case in order to make things right.
Instead, we need to break that habit and stop wasting energy trying to becoming something else. Just the time and energy freed up from that change is enough to transform your life for the better by directing your effort toward a purpose that truly fits you.
So how does that happen?
- It starts with this idea: There is something fundamentally good in our nature that is waiting to be expressed. It doesn't need to be added or changed, just discovered. That thing is compassion.
- Next comes learning to look at yourself, recognizing what is there, and getting comfortable with what you do and don't have. This is where meditation and mindfulness exercises serve a role. This is where compassion can be expressed.
- With self-knowledge, self-acceptance, and experience, your heart will point the way toward a meaningful way to live.
And that's it! Well, that's it for getting started. The second step takes a while.