Meditation – The Things You Don’t See

Have you ever struggled trying to open a jar?
The lid; so untwistable, so uncooperative.
Your hands; so pink, so blistered.
Your thoughts; so belittling, so confused.
You’ve relentlessly tried twisting it open – summoning every ounce of strength you can muster each time. You’ve even used tools; a dish towel to claim a better grip, a (now bent) spoon to try and loosen the edges. You begin to think it’s impossible; the jar will never open, its contents will never see the light of day. You begrudgingly begin to reconsider peanut butter on your bagel.
But you then recall that you’ve been here before. It was a different jar (cornichons, if you remember correctly). You eventually took dominion over it. You know success is possible. So, you keep trying with the peanut butter. You don’t give up. You will not be defeated. But before another twist attempt, you put the jar down on the kitchen counter. You relax your muscles. You rub your fingers and wrists. You dry your sweaty hands off. And then you pick the jar up again – confidently, as if your frenzied fluster never happened. You give the lid a short, anticlockwise twist and it easefully slides open with a complaisant pop! Easy. (Spreading its chunky contents will be harder).

You briefly wonder what just happened. That last twist; it must have been more efficient, more dextrous. You must have put more muscle into it. Your wrist must have incarnated the exact movement – the exact attitude – required in the art of jar opening. You might think that. And you might be a little right. But you’re mostly wrong. For what you didn’t see is that every single twist prior to that one weakened the seal of the lid. What you think was the most important moment – the opening – was not in fact the most important moment. The most important moments are often the ones that are not visible from the outside.

Let’s put the jar analogy to one side. Can you recognise anything in your daily life that has become easier? Maybe you feel more space around something that used to be tight. Maybe certain comments don’t bring up as many negative feelings as they used to. In retrospect, do you think that change just happened? It didn’t. Change is gradual. It is the result of a long development of conditions. Some changes are only possible because of the months (or years) of prior practice where we haven’t necessarily seen all the changes happening.  

So, I’ll end with this: whatever you are now striving towards, bring a quality of gentle persistence to your practice.
Even if it seems like nothing is happening.
Even if the lid seems impossibly tight.
Your breakthrough moment will come.   

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