Monday, October 12, 2009

The Pot and the Practice

Title scare you?
Relax, it’s just a pot of chili. Not a pot of something…illegal….

Let me tell ya, there’s nothing quite like a rich, thick, steaming, bowl of home made chili on a cold autumn’s day. Chili and sliced apples for dessert afterwards that is. And of course you can make a good vegetarian pot of chili if you’ve got a mind to, and have had enough dead animals on your plate. Or in your bowl, as is the case. But as long as I live with a carnivore, I’ll be eating meat, I guess.

I think it might actually be illegal in Texas to be a vegetarian. But I digress.

The key to making a good pot of chili comes with using the best ingredients, such as onions, freshly ground chili powder, real chili’s, lean meat, tomatoes, garlic and so on. But what really makes it good, is to let the first batch set overnight in the fridge, and then, around 10:30 or so in the morning, toss in a few more chili’s or powder, and let it simmer for about an hour and a half before serving.

The trouble with making a good rich, thick, steaming bowl of home made chili is in the care one must take to make sure the pot doesn’t boil over. Also the batch must be stirred otherwise the heavier ingredients collect on the bottom of the pot and scorches. And left unattended, there is the danger of fire.

And then you have a disaster. Not something you’d like to savor, especially not on a cold October day.

The same can be said about one’s daily practice. It’s always best to get the finest ingredients you can muster to make and savor your practice. You need, moderate preparation time, time to sit and time to let it cool down a bit before sampling, and hopefully without distraction.

And there always seems to be a distraction. At least for me. It never fails (as I blogged earlier) that the dogs want out just as I’m about to sit. Or the phone rings, and someone wants either to chat, kvetch, sell me something, or ask for a healing. (healings I do, all others must wait.)
or the IM light’s up or someone knocks on the door, wanting to sell something, to visit, to kvetch, for a healing, and odd infinitum.

And then there are internal distractions. Discomfort at sitting, needing to scratch an appendage (or other regions) Clothes are too tight, too loose, or aren’t hanging properly.

And then there’s the mind, with all its boiling, jumbling flotsam rising to the surface, making it difficult, if not impossible to concentrate.

Just as you wouldn’t want to leave a simmering pot unattended on the stove, you certainly don’t want to leave your practice unattended. But often we do. We let things get into the way, when it would be easier still to turn off the telephone, not answer the door, turn off the IM and sit still and practice.

And again, there’s those pesky thoughts.

One thought arises from the simmering mass of minutiae….you’re hungry, for instance. It’s best to let the thought go, let it settle back down into the kettle of your mind where it can simmer properly, but it doesn’t. You get out a proverbial spoon, taste the mental brew, then leave the practice to sneak a snack rather than risk starvation.

And because of that, the practice is spoiled. The mind overheated and the Dharma scorched in the bottom of the spiritual kettle and you’re left with a mess.

So it’s much better, at least I think so, to stay with the pot of our spiritual practice. To let everything simmer down to perfection, and then, afterwards, deal with the demands this life challenges us with. After all, most meditation practices are, on the average, about thirty minutes. Wouldn’t it be best to keep the world out for half an hour, to steal away some time for yourself, for the benefit of all beings, than to let life’s woes pound down the door, spoiling the taste of perfected spiritual practice?

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