Me Me Me

It rains for me. IMG_1773I love a bleak muted sky and the way dead leaves cling to patient trees. I love that some raindrops slant sharp and some fall soft. I love when the weather matches my mood. The birds concur. For all these long winter months, there have been no bird sounds other than the caw of a crow. But today, finally, there are trills and warbles, chirps and cheeps. The birds call to each other and they call to me.

Meditation may encourage empathy and strike up an awareness for others but mostly it creates a cascade of connections that ultimately connect me to everything around me. So, when it rains, it rains for me.

An Inconvenient Enlightenment

Most every day, there's a new study to show how meditation lowers blood pressure and decreases anxiety, not to mention the intangible benefits of increased happiness and greater compassion. This Harvard study says "meditation literally rebuilds the brain's grey matter in just eight weeks."

Yay meditation! But there's another side to meditation you're not likely to read about in a study. A prolonged  practice brings increased awareness about yourself and others. I don't know how to say this, but with increased awareness comes increased awareness. Sometimes reality is not all that. Sometimes clarity is uncomfortable. Twenty minutes of stillness once or twice a day changes the way you process the world and when the truth of your brain and your heart converge, what follows may be awkward and inconvenient.

No one ever said enlightenment would be easy.

Meditation Run

The last time I went for a  run was a couple of decades before the swoosh was invented.  For me, running was always a solitary and silent activity. I never listened to music or ran with a buddy. But that was a long time ago and my running routine dissolved around the time I started to do group exercise classes and work out in a gym.  Then last week, I was inspired to go out and run. I had nervous energy and it was a blue sky day, so I laced up my shoes and left my phone in the house. I clipped along (a very slow clip) for just one-half mile with an intermittent walk/run walk/run. Thoughts drifted in, then drifted right on out. My head cleared. My anxiety dissipated. Unknown The next day was drizzly. No matter.  Something pulled at me and outside I went.  I ran for a mile and once again, my head was able to clear. I remembered something about why I used to like to go for a run. With some focus, my mind and my body will partner up, unified by my breath.

Sitting in stillness is powerful. But moving with a calm and tranquil mind can also get the job done.

 

 

If Hamlet meditated

Plagued by anxiety and  his father's ghost (not to mention his creepy uncle), the Prince of Denmark pondered the most famous mantra of all time: To be or not to be. That was and always will be the question. Hamlet did not meditate and his anxiety  has entertained for centuries. Anxiety ratchets up drama. See for yourself.

To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep; No more; and by a sleep to say we end The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep; To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub; For in that sleep of death what dreams may come When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, Must give us pause: there’s the respect That makes calamity of so long life; For who would bear the whips and scorns of time, The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely, The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay, The insolence of office and the spurns That patient merit of the unworthy takes, When he himself might his quietus make With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear, To grunt and sweat under a weary life, But that the dread of something after death, The undiscover’d country from whose bourn No traveller returns, puzzles the will And makes us rather bear those ills we have Than fly to others that we know not of? Thus conscience does make cowards of us all; And thus the native hue of resolution Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought, And enterprises of great pith and moment With this regard their currents turn awry, And lose the name of action.–Soft you now! The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons

 

Point of it

Usually, the question is:

  • How has meditation changed your life?

It's hard to answer because I don't have a clear recollection of me before I meditated. I used to get anxious. I still get anxious. I used to worry a lot. I still worry a lot. But sometimes I tell myself there's nothing I can do about this particular worry and sometimes I listen and put the worry away.

I like this question better even though no one ever asks:

  • How has your meditation changed the world?

The world is a better place. War. Famine. Hunger. Disease. Sex slavery. Illiteracy.  It's all still there. But, I've noticed  small things and have had small conversations. I've taught a couple people to meditate. I've listened to words said by people who are saying something they think no one can hear. I notice connections and honor those connections. I observe questions more than answers. There are connections between strangers and non-strangers, things I was not privy to before. And I've said things to people I would not have had the courage to say before I learned to meditate.

And some of these things have changed  things, that may have changed some other things I don't even know about. Dominoes. imagesIt takes just a little push to tip the first one over and then you step back and watch the next one tip over that  sets off the next and the next and the next. And then maybe the world changes just a little bit. And when I think about that, it makes me a little happy.

para-re-dox

Here's what Emmy said: Once you begin to accept the lack of control we have over so much of our lives, you can begin to relax. The tighter you try to hang on to the illusion of control, the more anxiety. Here's what I said: Well said. A paradox. (there's nothing I love more than a paradox)

Here's what Carol said: It is not a paradox that when you give up on the idea of control you have less anxiety. Once you accept the fact you have no control, you have less stress. It is logical.

Yes. As usual, Carol is right. This is logical, but still, it seems to me a paradox is in there somewhere. I try to explain to Carol where the paradox lies.

Here's what I said (actually the edited version of what I said known as what I wished I would have said):  If I had the superpower to win friends and influence people (apologies, Dale Carnegie), then I would have more control over the people around me and get things to go my way and if things were to go my way, I would have less anxiety. There is a power surge when you convince someone to do something your way or on the rare occasion you can change someone's mind(in reality, this has never happened). But, it's much more useful to to accept the hugeness that is the universe outside your dominion. It's a paradox  that when you accept how little control you have, you end up with more control.

Right?Unknown-1

 

Resistance

If you tell me you're deciding whether or not to divorce your husband, or you're struggling with your newly teenaged daughter, or you're looking for your best friend's murderer, chances are I'll tell you to try meditation. It's a bit like chicken soup (it might not help, but it won't hurt) and I do not mean to insult the power of chicken soup (more on that later). Unknown And even though I believe so strongly in the power of meditation and its ability to resolve issues that never even occurred to you, when it's time for me to sit down and meditate, I resist. It always seems more important to start the project I'm behind the eight ball on now rather than twenty minutes from now after I'm done meditating. Or I need to take the dog for a walk. Or I should really make that phone call I've been putting off for weeks. I know I need to meditate and I know I need to meditate on a daily basis. I know I am a more efficient and productive person when I meditate. I know I am less consumed with anxiety. I know. I know. I know. But it still is difficult to sit down and stop.

The easiest place for me to fit some meditation time into my schedule is when I find a half-hour or forty-five minute break in between commitments. I figure I can't get anything much else accomplished in that time anyway and I sandwich in a meditation session. It's only a pretense of productivity, but it works. The problem with this is that I don't find this break in my schedule on a daily basis. If I were the person I wished I were, I would meditate every day at the same time. Sigh. Even after all this meditation, I'm still me.

My Favorite Paradox

I know it's spring because there are worms sticking out from under the snow. photoBut, this past Sunday, the weather held on and Emmy and I got to go for our walk in the Metropark as we do every Sunday when the weather and our schedules cooperate. Emmy also meditates and she learned her technique the same way as I did - through a weekly visit to our friend Lee where she would sit in Lee's living room and have a conversation about the way to fit meditation into one's life and the challenges and rewards that come from trying to stick with a meditation practice. Emmy and I talked about the ways our lives have changed since we started to meditate regularly. How it's hard to describe and even harder to remember in what ways we were different. There is a paradox inherent in meditation and Emmy described it in a wonderful way. Once you begin to accept the lack of control we have over so much of our lives, you can begin to relax. The tighter you try to hang on to the illusion of control, the more anxiety.  

Random Reflection

It’s been over two years since I first started to meditate on a regular basis and I’ve been trying to remember what my life was like before. In some ways, it’s like trying to remember the pain of a headache once the headache has been vanquished. Pain can put you in the present moment like nothing else, but once the pain is gone, it's also gone from your memory. The biggest difference to my life post-meditation is my receptivity to the random.  I used to think that if something happened and it was a random thing to happen, it must be insignificant. I don’t think that way anymore. If I read something that resonates with me, I pay attention. If I meet someone that I had just heard about a couple of days ago, I pay attention. And if a random act leads me somewhere I did not expect to go, I go.

Still, I do not believe that everything happens for a reason. That old platitude provokes. Stupid things happen. Unfair things happen. But if the stupid and the unfair lead me someplace, it doesn't mean I should not go. I might not  endow a stupid unfair thing with more significance than it deserves, but I might not ignore it either.

Unknown