It’s easy to think of a spiritual life as trying to escape who we are, or as being something that we can only aspire to in the future. But a true sense of spirituality comes from looking deeply into our present-moment experience and seeing more truly than we currently do.
When we sit to meditate we don’t try to escape who we are, rather we learn to be comfortable with who we are and what is arising within us. All too often we look at our experience and don’t like what we see. We have aversion for what’s there, dislike and even hate it, and crave to be or to experience something else.
Living deeply, in the context of meditation, means unlearning our habits of craving, aversion, and delusion: habits which prevent us from acknowledging our experience fully.
In practical terms, this means opening up to whatever happens to be present in any give moment. We call this acceptance, or in Buddhist terms, equanimity (upekkha).
Fear arises, and we fully acknowledge and experience it. Anger arises, and we don’t indulge it, but neither do we push it away. Instead, we notice it; take an interest in it; even have compassion for the suffering that accompanies it like a shadow. Craving arises, and we appreciate its qualities of aliveness and its tender beauty, until it fades back into the void from where it came.
Ultimately, we learn to appreciate in meditation, by means of this process of mindfully observing phenomena, that all experiences whatsoever are impermanent. All experiences pass; both the painful ones and the pleasant ones. And in time we can come to see not only that they are transient, but that they are not, never were, and never can be a part of us in any real sense. They’re simply experiences that arise and pass. This is a truth, “beyond ourselves,” that we can only realize by living life more fully, not at some distant time or place when conditions will be perfect for living spiritually, but right here, right now, in this very moment.