Shadows at Bay

Last week I was taking photos on my new i-phone at several beach sites on Shelter Island, Long Island. Sky and water were blue and clear and the near-deserted beaches sparkled with sunlight. The rock-strewn sand’s earthy hues provided nature’s palette at its best, along with surprisingly long “human” shadows of the photographer. Later, I pondered over these shadows–they were there but not really “real.” But then again, what is real and what isn’t? Are shadows figments of our imagination or tricks of the eye, and if so, what about all our thoughts and perceptions about “reality?”

Which goes to show where a simple walk on the beach can lead. Eventually I  redirected my figuring out brain to wonder at the delightful elements I encountered. Catching myself from the pull to describe, I could gently rest, free and uncluttered, in the embrace of nature. See if you can be, just for a few moments, in the free expanse of pure, conscious awareness.

Eyes open or closed, inhale and exhale deeply until you feel a shift in your energy or a slowing down of thoughts. You may wish to listen to your heartbeat or breath, or silently repeat the mantra “so ham,” breathing in “so,” and out “ham (‘hum’).” As you glide into being, let go of doing. Observe your thoughts without becoming overly interested in or attached to them. Guide yourself back to mantra, breath, or watching your thoughts as desired. 

When Resistance Wears You Down

Long ago I heard that over time meditation wears away all resistance. Soon enough, I’d be free of resistance and its corrosive effects on spiritual progress, I thought. Unfortunately, I’ve discovered over time a greater capacity for resistance to resistance, or new and stronger justifications for my resistance. Like mind’s thoughts, resistance didn’t fade away into an enlightened, sustainable field of nothingness. Blame it on DNA or ego’s identification and infatuation with story.  

Resistance shows up loudly in quiet places like meditation. We can’t escape it. Inquiring what it is or what it wants may be more useful than asking why it’s here. The answers are not so complex.  If you were to write down your resistances, they might be like mine: I don’t like change, it’s too hard, I’m lazy, I’m afraid, I don’t take chances, it’s because of my upbringing, etc. But all these “reasons” or “excuses” are created by the mind and take us to an old, familiar place rather than to the transcendent promise of a new story. 

So what are we to do? Feel the presence of resistance as a physical sensation, such as a tightening in the throat or clench in the jaw. And then just when you’ve had enough, let resistance go. Dissolve its stranglehold and robust persistence. You might have to create counter resistance. Don’t want to job search? Call someone you’ve resisted calling. Housecleaning instead of finishing a deadline? Don’t. Get out of the house or try this contemplation and put resistance in its proper place:

1.Breathe in and out deeply with eyes closed for 6 or 7 rounds. Observe thoughts that come and take you away from experiencing the perfection of the moment.

2.Give your thoughts some space to tell their stories of fear, anger, distress, worry, etc. Clue: They often contain a “should” or “didn’t.” Accept them without judgment. However, once thoughts shape shift into a familiar story of doom or failure, release them. Tell them they aren’t real or welcome in this moment.

3. Counter these thoughts with better ones. Be as concrete or abstract as you like. For example, replace “I have writer’s block” with “I am writing two sentences now.”

“My family always picks on me” with “I choose to protect myself from criticism.”

4. Release any thoughts at all by looking inward and above at the vast space of limitless sky, what mystics and sages call “ein sof,” infinity, or higher consciousness.

5. Allow the space of higher consciousness to exist alongside resistance and its never-ending supply of thoughts and admonishments.

Don’t resist resistance. 

Recommended reading: “Hidden Treasure: Uncovering the Truth in Your Life Story” by Gangaji; “Radical Acceptance” by Tara Broch.