So much is unseen, even if it’s glaring right before our eyes. What we see in front of us is often a mask over something more truthful that lies beneath. Cosmetic surgery can cover a face growing old with wrinkles. A glaring florescent light distorts the natural sunlight slanting through a window. And then there are the glaring problems that stack up like an endless tower of blocks, ready to crash with one move. We might have suspected the crash will come, but are surprised when it does. Glaring presents a dilemma–we want to shield ourselves from a moment of truth, downfall, or the inevitability of aging. No light can burn away the truth. Although the key word here, glaring, is presented in the daily prompt, let’s look beneath its obvious meaning. We don’t always see ourselves, or our faults, but these often appear glaringly to others. How can we see ourselves clearly? Try this exercise:
Sit comfortably in front of an object of focus, such as a crystal, gem, lit candle, flowers, or a simple, beautiful sculpture. Stare at it one-pointedly, keeping your eye on it even if it blurs or dances before you. Notice how it may change in color, shape, and texture. Whose to say what’s real, the form of the object, or what you, the observer sees? This classic, meditative exercise helps us see past the obvious to deeper tones of consciousness. When we want to get to the essence or heart of something, we must look past the surface.
Last week I wrote that one way of dealing with what we term our flaws is to face them honestly. This may lead to sharing of a secret, whether it’s an old embarrassment, an unfulfilled desire, or something we never told anyone about. Based on one reader’s response, let me clarify. We need not share with anyone but ourselves, or a few trusted confidantes, like a therapist, spouse, partner, or friend. We may want to express our flaws, which can feel like deep disappointments or fears, in the privacy of our journals. The key is to express, as in lift up and out of ourselves. Think of a flaw as an opportunity to rid ourselves of something that no longer serves, like an unflattering high school yearbook photo we don’t really look like anymore. Here’s a contemplative approach to flaw recovery and transformation:
1. You may use this with a complementary approach, such as Focusing, Tapping (for tapping steps, google or go to www.suerasmussen.com), or EFT (emotional freedom technique). Find a half hour or so of quiet time.
2.Sit comfortably, with paper and pen by your side. Take a few slow, deep breaths. Connect to an inner stillness before calling up the particular flaw or issue you want to address. Recover any memory that might be associated with it. Examples might be going back to a moment on stage when you experienced stage fright and forgot your lines, or when you admitted having a crush on someone and were rejected; what were the consequences or decisions of these events?
3.Get a sense or picture of this flaw and its impact, for instance, never going back on stage or applying for a job you don’t think you’ll get. It’s fine even if your memory is vague or fuzzy. Stay with it a few minutes. Write down words that come if you wish, like “I’ll never do that again.” Sometimes writing will bring greater clarity.
4.Be with the flaw in an open, gentle and non-judgmental way. Ask: “How can I be with you today?” Wait for a shift or an answer, then ask “Can I release or transform (name it) now?” Then, play it forward in a potential scene. For instance, all your fear of public speaking may not vanish, but you will give one speech. You don’t have to be effusive, but you can tell one person how you feel about something important. If no scene comes to mind, take a walk or a break and try this another time.
5.Take a few deep breaths to ease any feelings of stress and relax. If you like, repeat a word or mantra, such as “Peace,” “All is well,” “I lovingly accept myself right now,” “I am courageous (free, content, etc.)” Enter the rest of your day with a fresh outlook and open heart.
I read a quote by a Hua Hu Ching (from the teachings of Lao Tzu) that concluded “therefore, agitated effort is not necessary.” It brought to mind the dance between self-effort, striving, our Western venerated industriousness, and graceful allowing, that “spiritual state” that many of us find a challenge to sustain. When do you sit back and entrust yourself to God or the Flow or however you name a Higher, Divine Power, and when do you get off your butt and “network,” “query,” or rev up your social media contacts? There must be a balance, however elusive and changing; tending to it seems the wise choice. My experience is that when I meditate “on” something, even something noble, like balance or equanimity, I don’t notice any specific attainment of it right away.
What I do find, is that when I finally “let go” or stop efforting to “get it,” something peaceful comes in; it can be a graceful, floating feeling. The agenda and effort disappears and I am experiencing “Is-ness,” just being with the true object of meditation, the Self or God. As a wise Israeli rabbi said (loosely transcribed), “You pray to pray. It’s not about getting something. It’s about talking to God.” You meditate to meditate. You talk to your Self. Is-ness is a goal of meditation. Come to it your own way. Here’s one way to jump start your own process:
Meditating on No-thing-ness, or Is-ness: Relax your body in a comfortable posture. Close your eyes. Enter meditation as you usually do, through the breath, a mantra, or some other simple technique. Observe the agendas of the mind and its spiraling thoughts. Gently allow them to come and go. If need be, find the positive kernel or flip side of negative thoughts. Bring your awareness deeper, focusing beyond thoughts to the heart or even the feet. You can do this through the breath or an awareness of sensation, such as feeling the purr of your heartbeat, or the solidity of your feet. Sit until a feeling of “is-ness,” just being without “business” prevails.
Rest assured that something good will come from your moments of idle “is-ness.”
We throw around a lot of words in meditation practice, one being silence, which is wordless. What exactly is silence? Is it merely absence of noise, or something deeper and richer? I consider myself lucky to have even two minutes of silence a day, when my mind isn’t chattering or commenting or especially judging itself for being so unsilent. The other day I had an experience of silence as a shape, not as “the space between the breaths” or that moment of almost sleep-like blank-mindedness. Rather, I was sitting drinking tea at my multi-use dining table, working on the computer, and I noticed that my thoughts had shifted to the present moment of “is-ness.” The tea was being tea in its cocoa brown cup. The computer’s whirring start up noises had stopped. My thoughts had suspended themselves. Between all the objects in the room were shapes of silence I could feel and touch. I felt exquisitely part of an extra-ordinary reality. I closed my eyes to savor the feeling. This was true silence, not just a moment in meditation, but in the essence of the very material objects in my range of vision.
I wondered if I should turn off the radio playing in a back room; or, if I should ambitiously go out and duplicate this experience in a noisy cafe. Part of me had a hard time hanging out in this silence for more than two minutes. Though the sublime silence filled the air and surrounded all the shapes in the room, my mind couldn’t sustain its presence. It craved sounds of distraction and human activity. I took a few good yogic breaths, but it was too late. The moment had passed. I did become more aware of silence and its shapes over the days to follow. Sometimes the “silent” experiment caught me by surprise, after a thunderstorm when the air was thick with heavenly, heavy silence, on the M79 crosstown bus, in a chilly air-conditioned library, before the start of a movie.
Sometimes having an “aha” experience may not last, but remembrance of an experience uplifts us and shapes our “in-look” and outlook for the better. Contemplate silence for yourself. There’s nothing much to do. It may help to close your eyes and open your ears. Listen deeply. Become absorbed in the “is-ness” of the world of objects and non-objects. See what takes shape.
Whine to Five, Please Join Me…
Nov. 24, 2010
I wonder if another blog is what cyberspace needs now, and if so, what can I contribute that is of unique value and not another excuse for readers to avoid doing something more useful…like work, or cleaning their bathtubs.
So perhaps the answer is, Whine to Five. Everybody is whining these days, and for good reason. But if we could curtail our whining to five minute segments, perhaps we could learn to move on quicker in a more positive direction and send out “better vibes.”
Let me validate my credentials. I am one of you, an experienced whiner, wallowing at times way past five minutes. I like a good whine. But overuse does not increase joy, fellowship, or abundance in the world, stop wars, crush political idiocy, or erase the national debt.
I am writing this blog as an invitation for you to join me and go public with your whine.
Affirmations in the absence of acknowledging that which causes us misery in the first place are only partially effective. Targeted whining can help us see to the root of our woes and nip it in the bud–before it spreads and colors our vision like a toxic plasma.
A disciplined approach to whining could be an effective stress reliever and allow us to transform our experience of all that is unfairly happening to us (or “the world”). If we need to get the whine out of the way, let’s do it, purposefully, therapeutically!
Right now you might be asking for a concrete example of how this works. I can think of two (they were observed from casual conversation, so please take no offense if this sounds like you):
Do NOT whine about the long flight delays, weather, and difficulties packing that occurred on your last vacation to such places as Italy, Southeast Asia, Israel, the Rockies, or Turkey. At least you had the time and money to go on a vacation. Be grateful for that. So, whine for your allotted time and then THANK the Lord of the Skies for your safe transport, and your lucky stars for having the wealth and privilege to travel. If you didn’t like the weather, no one forced you to go to India or Petra in August.
Another common whine involves NYC real estate. Do NOT go on and on about how you can’t really afford to “buy” a co-op in a better neighborhood unless the asking price goes “down” to $600,000, or how you have to decide between a vacation house or a new kitchen. Be grateful that such choices are available, and that you don’t live in a walk up with no view (I’m not complaining, just a tad whiny) or a two room apt. with your family, dog, cat, and a leaky ceiling. And we can all be grateful that we don’t live in Darfur, Afghanistan, or a tent in Haiti.
Happy Thanksgiving. Let’s be truly grateful that we’re here today and we didn’t get screwed like the Natives.
I’d love to hear from you with a creative whine that has legs to transform itself into gratitude. Share your minor whine, with a side of wisdom, please.
coming soon…”Before you kvetch, say it right!”