May 28, 2008
Our latest podcast episode is about trust in life and trust in oneself. It’s about a very fundamental kind of trust. It doesn’t have to do with trusting people or things, but with a basic sense that everything is all right just as it is in each moment. Most importantly, it has to do with the sense that we are alright, just as we are. This trust allows us to relax into the flow of life and living, rather than resisting what is happening.
We can learn this kind of trust in meditation as we learn to relax into whatever comes up in our experience. You may notice that at times you resist what is happening. You may feel your mind shouldn’t be filled with thoughts, and a resistance comes up. Or you might try to push out a particular emotion. You may also find there are times when you try to be a certain way. Often people feel that since they are meditating, they should feel peaceful. There can be an attempt to try to feel peaceful. A kind of struggle comes up, a struggle with ourselves and with life. This struggle comes from a lack of trust.
Everything that we experience is an expression of the natural flow of life. The energy of life flows as thoughts, emotions, sensations in the body, sounds around us. As we meditate, we can learn to let that flow happen without interference. We can develop a basic sense of trust in life as we learn to trust what happens within ourselves.
May 19, 2008
I just received an email from a woman who said: ”Most importantly, your guidance also helped me recognize that I already knew how to meditate, but that I just thought of it as ‘being still’ or ‘paying attention.’ ” Eureka — that’s it! When we experience a meditative state during meditation, we tend to think it’s something special that happens only in meditation. In fact, it’s something we all experience from time to time outside of meditation, but don’t notice. We could actually think of it as the mind’s “natural state”. It’s a very simple form of awareness, uncomplicated by the mind’s habits of judging and comparing. It’s a state that’s there when we are neither resisting or trying to change what is naturally coming up in our experience. It’s a state of “simply being”.
Much of the time, we are “simply being” but don’t make note of that, because the mind isn’t in the mode of standing apart and observing our experience at that time. Sometimes, however, we’ll notice a dramatic shift into the simply-being-mode. As I mentioned in the previous post, meditation often happens spontaneously when something we see or hear or touch jars us out of the preoccupation with the past and future. The sight of a hummingbird at my feeder always does it for me. What does it for you?
May 15, 2008
While I was recording my latest podcast episode, I found my attention drawn to a fountain outside my window. A fairly large fountain, it’s water shoots several feet straight up. It captivated me with its grace and beauty and as I was talking, I found myself being drawn into a meditative state. That experience got spontaneously incorporated into what I was talking about and became an example of two ways of meditating — one is “contemplation” and the other is what I’ll call, for want of a better word, “diving”.
Had I wanted to stop recording, I could have used the experience of watching the fountain in a number of ways to meditate. If I were to use it for contemplation, I would have found meaning in the way the water moved, the shapes the water takes, the whole phenomenon of the existence of the fountain. I could have thought about how the fountain was a reflection of life or how it mirrored my emotions and inner world. I could have found all sorts of meanings in the patterns of the water. Contemplation involves the exploration of meaning. Traditional contemplative practices might start with a brief reading followed by time spent exploring the meaning.
The other type of meditation, the one which I was drawn into, doesn’t involve meaning. Rather than thinking about the fountain and what it might symbolize and mean, I was simply watching the movement and patterns of the water. In such a meditation, meaning is left behind. The object of attention is viewed without meaning. Meaning keeps the mind actively engaged and when we let go of meaning, the mind can “detach” and go within. This allows for a deeply restful and rejuvenating experience.
Meditation always involves a shift in attention. When we meditate, we use our attention in specific ways to achieve specific effects. In this case the focus of attention was the fountain, and I could have used that focus in a number of different ways. Another effect of watching the fountain, or anything in nature, in this way is that you take in the qualities of what you see. Everything we see, hear, touch, taste or smell has an effect. It’s as if our nervous system is a complex tuning fork that resonates in different ways depending on where we put our attention. Allowing in the impressions of the patterns of nature realigns us with our own life force. As I remember the experience with the fountain now, I can feel the energy and vitality of life as it is expressed in flowing water.
Spontaneous meditations happen all of the time. Usually we’re in too much of a rush to take advantage of these moments. The next time you step outside and the sound of a bird, sight of a flower or light of the moon captivates you, pause for a bit to drink in the experience. Notice those times during the day when your attention naturally shifts in a way that is nourishing and brings peace. It could be something as simple as a smile from a co-worker or an image on the web. Take advantage of those shifts by slowing down a bit and giving yourself time to sink into them.