A Contemplation on Meditation (in the Shambhala Tradition) and How it Can Help You to Open Up to Your Life
The mind can be our greatest ally or our worst enemy.
The habitual mind is always telling us how things are. And, it is always dividing our experience into opposing categories. For instance: good vs. bad; easy vs. hard; happy vs. sad; for us or against us. It tells us what we need–or what we need to get rid of–in order to be happy. It compares our ideal experience to our current experience (often unfavorably). It wishes to re-create ideal circumstances and thinks it knows how to do that.
But fighting reality in this way is what causes suffering. We can feel that tension between what IS, and what we want to be, in the resistance of our body. We can also feel that tension in the gripping of our thoughts, and in the reactions of our emotions.
There is another way to relate to our mind, and to our life–and meditation teaches that. Instead of FIGHTING reality–and always trying to sculpt it, or wrestle it, or seduce into what we want, or even avoid it entirely–we can learn to dance with it.
So, what does that mean, and how does that look?
It looks like curiousity, inquisitiveness. It looks like trusting that, even if we don’t have a step by step manual through life, we will be okay. It looks like showing up and asking questions–getting to know ourselves, and the people around us. Getting a feel for the environment.
Not assuming that we already know what is important, or how things should play out, or what others want.
It looks like living with an open heart, with accepting ourselves, including all of our flaws. It looks like taking a deeeeeep breath and exhaling years worth of tension. And it looks like stepping up and engaging, even though we don’t know how things will go. We just know that it is time.
This is our life. We are here to live it, one day at a time. We are not here to be perfect. So, let’s ditch the perfection plan.
Now–about meditation. How can it support us in showing up for our lives, one day at a time?
In meditation, we are practicing coming home to our lives–which means coming home, first and foremost, to ourselves. How can we show up for our lives if we don’t know how to show up for ourselves?
So, when we sit down to meditate, we are declaring that we are worthy of our own time. We are worthy of being here, right now. And we accept ourselves as we are, warts and all. We accept our bad breath, our crazy mind, our wild emotions, our tense body, our unrealistic expectations. We accept all of it.
And then we drop the agenda. We just ARE, with ourselves. There is a profound relaxation in just being, without agenda. The knots in our mind and body, and in our emotional field, begin to loosen.
We have nothing to prove. No one is judging how well we do. There is no one to compare ourselves to. We are simply being there, for and with ourselves. That’s all.
Most of the time, we don’t believe that. We are conditioned to believe that we must do better, that we aren’t prepared enough or good enough. We are wound too tight, and our minds run away. Or–We are conditioned to not show up for ourselves. We believe that, in spacing out, in being fuzzy, we are being kind to ourselves. And so we just drift.
And that’s okay. Most of the practice of meditation is noticing how difficulty it seems to be, to just be HERE. We can acknowledge that, and slow down, or perk up, and relax. We are learning how to be with ourselves. Because, we forgot.
The side benefit of coming home to ourselves, is that we are also coming home to the world.
We are committed to showing up authentically, in the moment, and to seeing how we can serve.
So, what does this look like?
In meditation practice, we keep our eyes open. We don’t retract or block out the world. We let it be right there, with us. We practice breathing, with our eyes open, and we feel our bodies as we breathe. In this way, we learn that we can be stable in the present moment, even with the environment being right there, touching us.
We also keep our hearts open. And this is why we sit with our hands flat on our thighs, because it promotes a royal posture of confidence, while keeping the chest (and heart) vulnerable and open.
We are not trying to block out the world. We are not trying to be different than we are. And we are not trying to force our will on others. We accept that our emotions are ours, our judgments are ours, and our minds have their own unique preoccupations.
We are training ourselves to remain solid, and upright, and relaxed, and open. We are training ourselves to be present, for ourselves AND for the world.
Moving beyond meditation–
So, in our everyday lives, we have a choice:
We can do what we’ve always done, or we can try something new.
Familiarity feels safe. Predictability can be boring OR comforting. When we encounter familiar situations or people in our lives, we have the option to be curious. We can inquire into their experience. We can notice how we react. We can look for clues as to how to proceed. We can see how boredom, or our assumptions that something is known, causes us to shut down. We can touch that dullness within us, and we can choose to open back up.
When we encounter a new situation, or a situation that is in flux, we can learn to relax. We can pause, and catch our breathe, and touch the panic (or excitement) inside of ourselves. We can then allow an authentic, in the moment response to arise. What is this new situation asking of you? And how might you dance with it?
Learning to be comfortable with being uncomfortable is a practice.
It requires slowing down.
Learning to be present to a lazy mind is a practice.
We are deciding that our lives are worth our attention.
Some additional supports (for your back pocket):
Beauty is a wonderful support for openness. It helps you to appreciate the richness of the world and of your life. How might you create or experience beauty?
Fascination is another wonderful skill to cultivate. Isn’t the world endlessly interesting? What might you learn today?
Most important is love and appreciation. Any way that you can come into closer contact with yourself, your loved ones and your world is helpful. You are worthy of love and attention.
Follow up questions:
How do you experience a fresh start? In your life? In meditation?
What has been starting up for you? What are you releasing?