Imagine for a moment that you are standing at the edge of a lake. You want to get to the other side of the lake because you hear that on the other side of the lake is paradise. You could swim across the lake but that would take a really long time and you're not the strongest swimmer and then you'd be too tired to enjoy paradise once you got there. Plan B? You'll need a boat. There are many varieties of boats. Big ones, small ones, motor boats and sail boats, even yachts. So you choose your boat and you're off to paradise.
Once you arrive on the other side of the lake you need to get out of the boat. But you don't. For a little while you sit in the boat and simply look at paradise from a distance. Seems silly doesn't it? Why wouldn't you get out of the boat? Why wouldn't you want to stay in paradise forever?
A metaphor that's used often is comparing our mind to a lake. When the lake is calm you can see clearly to the bottom but when the lake is disturbed you can't see anything. When the mind is calm we can see things clearly but when the mind is disturbed the mind becomes muddy and our thinking is not clear.
So to continue with the story.....
Here you are in your current stressed out state of mind. In order to reach paradise you have to cross the lake, or transcend the mind. The boat? It's your meditation technique. Let's talk for a minute about meditation techniques. I can tell you from personal experience that on this path to enlightenment there are more techniques than there are people on this planet. They come in all shapes and sizes. There is a technique that's just right for you. Find one and stick to it. Don't try crossing the lake by jumping from boat to boat or you'll just be traveling the length of the lake but never reach the other side.
Once you've selected your boat you strap on your seat belt because it's going to be a bumpy ride. Yes, that's right, I said it. It's going to be a bumpy ride to paradise. I don't think anyone ever told me that when I started meditating. (well, maybe they did and I was so focused on getting there that I didn't pay attention)
There will be moments on the journey that the sun will be shining and the birds chirping and you'll be smiling enjoying the ride. But then, when you least expect it, there will be rough waters. Maybe some old resentments come up, you remember some past hurt that you thought you'd gotten over..... who knows what's been buried at the bottom of this lake we call the mind? That's when you need to tighten the seat belt.
The only way to paradise is to cross the lake. You can't go around it, you can't jump over it. You must cross it. But not to worry, as long as you have a good strong boat and a seat belt you'll make it. It may be a long journey, actually, I can assure you it will be a long journey. Sometimes it'll feel like the journey will go on forever but as long as you keep moving forward you'll be moving in the right direction.
Once you finally get to the other side of the lake you can see paradise but you hesitate. Why would you hesitate you might ask? It's paradise. Who doesn't want to be there? Well the journey has been long and you've grown quite fond of your boat and you don't want to leave it. See this is what our mind does. It gets attached. We're attached so we sit in the boat. Paradise is right there in front of us but we're sitting in the boat.
The moral of the story? A good strong boat is important. We need a strong daily sadhana but don't forget that it's simply a vehicle to transcend the mind/thoughts. The real meditation happens when we get out of the boat - in those moments between the thoughts and the mantra. If we never let go - it's like we're sitting in the boat only looking at paradise. It's time to get out of the boat. It's time to let go.