faith to be free
Meditation is actually an act of faith— of faith in your spirit, in your own potential. Faith is the basis
of meditation. Not faith in something outside you
a metaphysical buddha, or an unattainable ideal, or someone else's words. The faith is in yourself, in your own 'buddha-nature'.
When you begin to meditate, you might feel separate from your faith, which is more like a belief. You might think it is a good idea to meditate without being sure why. At this stage, you; faith is somewhat intellectual, you have to convince yourself. But persevere with that initial calling; you will see for yourself that meditation really works, not only in developing calm and clarity, but also in dissolving your grasping and negative reactions and allowing yourself to let go.
As part of my daily duties during one three month retreat, I had to clean the communal bathroom. Every day I would go to the bathroom and find another nun there, washing herself. It was no use explaining to her that it would be easier for me I if she washed at another time; she insisted that she had to wash there and then before a certain ceremony — no other time would do. This went on for more than two weeks: I would forget all about her till our moment of contact in the bathroom, and then I would become angry and resentful on seeing her there. One day, I opened the door; she was there, I was there and everything was fine.
I saw then one of the effects of meditation. It dissolves the mind's subconscious hold on negative emotions and circumstances until suddenly the grasping is released. Then you can respond to life with ease and lightness. You realize that you can be free. Faith is no longer a matter of intellectual belief but grows organically with your experience.
Faith is the bedrock of practice. When you encounter difficulty and your vision is clouded, faith keeps you going.
I once spent a month in a chalet in Switzerland. Every morning, I would open the window and look out at thick white fog. The chalet overlooked a lake just below the fog-line; I had only to walk uphill for two minutes for the fog to clear and the sky to be blue. In the light, the sun was obvious; it was warm, it illuminated everything. In the fog, I could not see a thing — but I knew the sun was real and nearby.
This is faith. It inspires you to know that awakening is close, to trust in the potential of awakening when the clouds finally dissolve.