No Joy = No Do. Let Joy Be Your Guide.
How are you doing with your hopes/goal to meditate more in 2018?
If you’re like me, there's a good chance you've already found your plans get pushed aside as “Life” shows up with its own agenda. Didn’t Life hear my sincere desire to meditate regularly? Didn’t it get the memo that I was going to wake up early and get those twenty minutes “on the cushion” first thing? Who gave my body permission to get the flu? I’m supposed to be meditating!
In the past I thought and felt, in fact I actually believed, that the problem, if I wasn’t meditating regularly, was my lack of discipline, and my lack of commitment. I’d heard that to be a “good,” “successful” meditator, I was supposed to meditate for twenty minutes twice a day no matter how ill or tired I was. No matter how ill or tired my kids were. No matter what unnatural disasters were playing out in my home. Who gave the dishwasher permission to overflow? Who let their dog shit right under the car door? Who told my daughter this was a good time to have her heart broken? I’m supposed to be meditating but instead I’m mopping up suds, cleaning up shit and wiping away tears!
Insert guilt, failure, frustration, struggle.
Its taken years but I now know there is another way. Here’s what I’ve learned.
Once we enter this Path called Meditation, whether our goal is to simply sleep better and reduce stress or to experience enlightenment, we can count on Life to be a commited partner on the path towards our goal.
And here’s the GOOD NEWS: Life’s vision of how to get us to our goal is far wiser and kinder, more efficient and more effective, than our limited awareness can plan. It all goes much more smoothly if we learn to trust Life and Life’s timing.
Now that's a big topic, but for now here are two thoughts to contemplate:
- What we see as obstacles Life sees as opportunities for us to gain awareness so we can become more balanced.
Here’s a true example.
My husband likes to leave his newspaper and books in a semi-circle of piles on the floor around his recliner. I have given him stools, tables, cubbies to put them on instead, but he likes the floor.
For years I was irritated and looked for ways to change his behavior to accommodate my needs. I saw his behavior as an obstacle to achieving my sense of order and desire for lack of clutter—not to mention I had to deal with the difficulty of cleaning around it.
Nothing was working to ease my irritation. So I chose to look at this as a message about something out of balance in my soul rather than an obstacle to my happiness. Long story short, I recognized my desire to control “things” was an impediment to relationships. I had to balance my fears so that I could feel comfortable with, and be happy for, my husband getting to have his space the way he likes it. After all, it’s his home too.
Letting a perceived obstacle become an insight into an imbalance in my soul allowed me to re-balance. Balancing my soul has brought me much more happiness and freedom than having a tidy living room, and brought my husband and I much closer.
- What we see as distractions Life sees as: The Point.
Here’s another true example from ten years ago.
My son, a high school senior, is leaving early for school and knocks on my bedroom door while I’m meditating. I can choose to view this as a distraction or as the point.
If I see it as a distraction, I may experience some level of frustration. “Why can’t I just get 15 minutes to meditate without being interrupted!”
If I see it as the point, I invite him in with a smile and a “no problem.” I use the opportunity to practice kindness and be helpful. If I complete the interaction and feel a kind smile in my heart because he feels heard and his needs have been met, then I have achieved in two minutes what I was planning to meditate for twenty minutes to gain.
This is called bringing my meditation into my life—using my meditation as my life. It is recognizing that meditation happens both on and off the cushion.
On a more subtle level, it is also recognizing that we are not in control of life’s agenda. Our job is to use what meditation is teaching us to adapt and to adjust to what is showing up in our lives. Our real lives. Not the lives we think we should have but the life we are actually having.
THIS. The distractions, the illness, the fatigue, the fears, the overwhelm, the sorrow, the joy, the frustration, the anger, the dishes, the traffic, the rain, the sun, the food, the sex, the bills, the debt, the kids, the spouse, the siblings, the parents, the job, the boss, the broken toilet, the broken heart… This
IS. Not was. Not will be. Not yesterday or tomorrow. But right here, right where you are, what you are experiencing—right now! This is
YOUR. Not your sister’s, your mother’s, your brother’s, your father’s, your children’s, your teacher’s, your neighbor’s, your best friend’s, your boss’s, your favorite musician, your favorite athlete, not that person you compare your life to… But you in all your unique, individual one-of-a-kind, imperfect, there’s nobody else like you and if you aren’t you then who will live your authentic
LIFE! Not fantasy, dream, expectation, agenda. Not how it should be, or want it to be, or was told it should be, or dreamed it would be. But Life as it really is. Reality. Truth.
Don’t run from it. Embrace it.
No more “shoulds.”
No more if I’ve missed a day of sitting in meditation then I’ve blown it. Just sit the next day. Or, when the rhythm is really lost go to a group meditation, read some inspiration, watch a meditation on You Tube… gently bring yourself back.
The most important element is Joy.
No Joy = No Do.
If I’m struggling. If I’m not feeling good enough. If I’m feeling guilty or like a failure, then Joy has been squashed and meditation has become a burden. A chore.
And that is soooooooo not the point!
Be gentle with yourself. You get to live your real life. You get to take time to learn how to integrate meditation into the different phases and stages of your life. Sometimes most of your meditation will be in real time off the cushion. Sometimes it will be on the cushion.
Do what brings you Joy. Period.
Meditation is a state. Meditation is a process. Learn to trust YOUR process. Not mine, not the Dali Lama’s, not Tara Brach’s.
- If you are meditating and someone knocks on the door with a question welcome them in with a loving smile and answer their need.
- If you are getting ready to meditate and you hear the garbage truck coming up the street and you realize you forgot to put the overflowing bins out the night before, go put the bins out with a laugh and a smile.
- If you are getting ready to meditate and your partner wants to have sex, make sex your meditation by staying mindfully present in your body.
- If your alarm goes off but you were up extra late, give yourself a few more minutes of sleep and then sit for just one relaxing joyful meditative breath.
The key to enjoying the path and overcoming the guilt, frustration, feelings of failure and struggle, is Joy.
Take the long-view. This is a lifetime commitment. A lifestyle. Every obstacle becomes an insight that helps you balance your soul. Every distraction becomes the Point.
Let Joy be your guide and you will find your way!
Holding My Center
A TRUE STORY
Let me start by confessing: I am a Keith Urban fan. Not a cray-cray fan but I admire his recovery from drugs, really like his music, and he seems like a really nice guy. A few months ago, I found out he was coming to Houston to headline the final day of the Houston Rodeo. After some inner quibbling I bought my husband and I two really really good, pricey seats to the show.
Fast forward to Saturday March 19, the day before the Rodeo and Keith Urban! Bill and I were having one of those real thorough "sort through all the papers and toss it, shred it, or file it" kind of clearing-things-out days. We had pretty well finished and were talking about the rodeo and as I looked at the bare counter top I asked, "Where are the Keith Urban tickets?”
Here’s where the holding my center practice began.
He said, “Where did you put them?”
I said, “You had them last.”
He said, “You had them.”
Recognize where this pattern is going? I wanted to blame, defend, attack… but even as I noticed those thoughts and feelings passing through and noticed the impulse to act on them, I pulled myself back to center — it felt like I was pulling something really really heavy. But I pulled back from all those old patterns and calmly said, “Hmmm…”
He said with a touch of accusation, “I just took out the trash. I hope you didn’t toss them in the trash.” I felt a really strong impulse to fire back, “Sh#t! Why did you take out the trash!” but I brought my mind back to the moment and didn’t feed the accusation (after all he was frustrated too) by simply asking, “Was there anything written on the envelope?” He said, “No, it was plain.”
Much as I wanted it to not be true, it was possible that in the zeal of clearing and sorting I could have tossed a plain envelope in the trash. Feelings of dread and fear came rushing for me even as I wanted to accuse, “Why didn’t you label the envelope!” But I could see them coming and I forced my mind back into the present moment with the thought, “You know, you bought the tickets you should have labeled the envelope. It’s not his fault.” It felt like I was trying to root my feet in the sand as an outgoing wave rushed past my legs trying to pull me back into the ocean of blame and frustration.
I calmly said, “Hmmm…”
Now, I wasn’t all calm inside. But each time I came back to center I felt a core of calmness deep inside all that other stuff. You know the stuff I mean: the impulse to yell, blame, attack, get angry, get defensive… the old familiar patterns. But it wasn’t the fiery hot impulse of years ago. I could see the thoughts and stay at the edges of those familiar feelings. There was space, there was distance. My meditation practice has trained me to observe and return to center, that core of calm.
As we leafed through three bags of paper recycling, I kept bringing my mind back from accusations and attacks directed towards my husband. Back from the shame that I might have tossed those precious expensive tickets. Back to the task at hand, find the tickets. I breathed through the familiar impulse to let off steam by yelling about how much money they cost.
As we rifled again and again through the stacks of paper we’d sorted into files and piles, as we went through the recycling piece by piece for the third time, I consciously held to my center even as the alluring pattern of blame and anger cried out for attention. And from that center, I could give my attention to the the very real sadness I was feeling.
I said, “I’m so sad.”
My husband said, “I’m sad too.”
Something magical was happening. I was holding center and things were shifting. My husband wasn’t feeling attacked or blamed so he was no longer on the defensive. We were experiencing sadness. No blame. No anger.
In the calm and sad and space our centering had created, he said, “Did you check the stack for Hank?” We had put a stack of mail and papers aside for our son. This time, instead of just leafing through the stack, I picked it up. In the process of separating each envelope and piece of paper I dislodged an envelope that had been stuck to the ones above it. It was thin, plain, and felt very very empty. I opened it anyways. Two tickets to see Keith Urban at the Rodeo.
We were happy and relieved. The show was on!
But even better than that, was experiencing how holding center had turned a potential sh#t show filled with old patterns of anger, frustration, accusations and blame, into a space where we could simply solve the problem at hand. Together.
When Thoughts Disturb the Mind
Meditation is a practice, that trains us to become aware of the thoughts and emotions arising in the mind. Once aware of a thought, we release it, and recognize, we are not our thoughts.
Yes, you read that correctly: YOU ARE NOT YOUR THOUGHTS!
I know, I know. It sure seems like we are. It seems like we are these thoughts, these emotions, because we listen to them, we act on them, we perseverate on them... we BELIEVE them.
But, one of the foundational principles in meditation is: we are neither our thoughts nor our emotions. Yes. We have thoughts. We have emotions. But they are not us and we are not them. They are, "MINDSTUFF".
In Yoga, there is actually a technical term for this, “MINDSTUFF”. It is the Sanskrit word, Chitta, which is defined as the contents of the mind, or the thoughts and emotions the mind feeds on. Since most of us in the West are not familiar with Sanskrit, we use the word, “THOUGHTS,” instead of Chitta.
So, tuck this into the back of your mind: in the world of meditation, the term “THOUGHTS” actually means ALL THE CONTENTS OF THE MIND - and that includes both thoughts and emotions. You have thoughts but you are not those thoughts! You don’t have to act on, listen to, or believe your thoughts. Thoughts are just thoughts.
Be warned though, they are incredibly subtle, stealthy, and clever. Thoughts sneak in undetected, then gently and stealthily, lure our mind away from our meditation technique. Next thing we know the ringtone for our timer is playing and we realize our time on the cushion was spent absorbed in thoughts like:
- Making a to-do list of all the things we’ve put off for months.
- Justifying why we are right and the other person is at fault.
- Re-playing an argument and saying all the things we wish we had said.
- Being pissed off over someone not doing something our way.
- Feeling jealous of the lives our neighbors seem to have.
As meditators, its important to remember this is normal. The mind is just doing what minds do. Our meditation practice is a PROCESS of training our “Self” to become aware so we can:
- Recognize a thought for what it is.
- Learn how to let it go so we can,
- Become the "Master of our Mind".
When sitting in meditation we let go of a thought by simply bringing our attention back to the technique we are practicing.
When going about our day, we can let go of thoughts by using Mindfulness to put all of our attention on the task we are engaged in. Whether it's driving the car, washing the dishes, brushing our teeth, or having an argument; when we engage all our senses and stay in the body, we short circuit thoughts spooling up, gaining momentum and building strength.
Why does this work?
Because the mind cannot fully concentrate on two things at once. It has to partially let go of one thought to pay attention to another. By focusing our attention in the body, we keep the thoughts we don't want from gaining momentum. In that moment, we become the Master of our Mind.
Summer Solstice ~ The Promise Fulfilled.
Remember how deep and dark the winter's introspective, reflective, "swallow us up in the darkness" ambiance can feel? Both literally and symbolically? Do you remember the promise we talked about at the Winter Solstice? The promise given by the Law of Utu Dharma? It's a message of Hope that states:
You can only go so far into the darkness before you return to the light.
Cue, Here Comes the Sun, by the Beatles because, IT’S HERE!
The sun, literally and symbolically, has returned bringing its blazing, male, vital, outgoing, physical world, yang, LIGHT to FULFILL the promise of Hope we clung to during the Winter Solstice.
It’s hard to remember, when the darkness is overwhelming and inescapable, that it won’t last forever. It’s hard not to give in to despair when there is no light on the horizon. But, the light always returns.
Light, in all it’s long, lingering, summery outdoor warmth and glory. Early morning breakfasts on the patio. Hot, brilliant noons. Dinner sizzling on the BBQ. Late night walks or conversations even as the suns rays dawdle on the western horizon...
Drink it in with your eyes, your ears, you nose, your skin, your mouth. Breathe it in deep, slow. Imprint every moment of it in your memory. The warmth, the light, the promise fulfilled.
Yes, go ahead and do your 108 sun salutations - I’ll be doing three.
Yes, be grateful and joyous and celebrate.
Yes, check in with your intentions and goals for 2015 and see how you’re doing.
BUT MOST IMPORTANT:
Imprint the memory of the promise being fulfilled so deep in your bones that Hope becomes part of your DNA.
To everything there is a season, a cycle. The darkness comes and the light always returns. Impermanence. There is comfort in knowing this.
The wise know this and do not despair. Know this my friends, and, like the wise, you will live with a contented mind and an unruffled spirit.
THE LIGHT ALWAYS RETURNS.
Greeting the world with a great I AM!
In the world of mystics it is said the zodiacal sign of Aries, which heralds the beginning of spring, is like a baby bursting forth with a huge smile on its face, shouting to the world a grand, expectant,
"HERE I AM"
How would you greet that baby? With a delighted smile. With a sobering, "Who do you think you are?" Or would you want it to shut up and go away?
Mystics, Philosophers and Scientists, say the Microcosm is a mirror of the Macrocosm, you know this as:
As above so below. As within so without.
In the land of mysticism, we would see this baby as a symbol representing you, as a part of life, taking form in the Microcosm. Your reaction to the baby is a mirror of your response to Life in all its glory, the Macrocosm.
Are you greeting Life with delight? Uncomfortable with it's Grandness? Resisting it away?
What often happens on this earth plane, is our little, I am's, easily forget they are part of a greater I AM. They get distracted, unhappy, and bound-up in day-to-day dramas. They can get depressed, anxious, nihilistic and start wearing T-shirts that say, "Life sucks... then you die."
But it doesn't have to be that way. There are teachers and teachings all around reminding us of the Great Goodness in Life. When we enter the rich, abundant, land of meditation, we gain access to the teachings that lead us to an experience of the Great I AM. We begin to see it truly lies within us.
Let's meditate and learn how to experience the immense Goodness of Life.
Let's meditate and help our little I am's experience the limitless Joy and Equanimity present in Life so we'll be drawn to t-shirts that say "Life is Good!"
Let's meditate so we will greet that wonderful baby, the microcosmic symbol of the Great I AM, with delight and awe.
It was for this that I came.
What if the Easter Story, the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection is really a brilliant mystical teaching about why we are here? A Story about how to use this physical plane to transform what Robert Thurman calls, “The inner seed of our spiritual genetic code.”
I know, I know... that tweaked my brain a bit too. Let me see if I can help you wrap your head around that concept: our spiritual genetic code. And in the process, allow me to steer clear of whether or not the event really happened. As with all good teaching stories, we don’t want to let facts get in the way of revealing a deeper truth about the purpose of our lives.
Our Spiritual Genetic Code — What does that mean?
If we accept the Law of Conservation of Energy which says that energy cannot be created or destroyed but only changes form; then, when we die, we do not become nothing. Something cannot become nothing. It can transform and become something else but it doesn’t just disappear.
It’s easy to grasp that our bodies transform into compost then continue on as food and fuel for other life. Extend that principle to consciousness. Even though we can’t see it or touch it, our patterns of thought and awareness are what continue as our own personal spiritual genetic code even after the body dies.
So the next question becomes: What is my spiritual genetic coding?
They say the way to find out is simple:
Look around. Look at your life, your thoughts, your reactions. Are you happy? Worried? Critical? Accepting? Fearful? Kind? Thoughtful? Generous? Compassionate? Judgmental? Are you focused on clothes, houses, cars, money, status, or being the perfect _____ ?
This is your current coding—mirrored by your life.
If we want to know what our future is going to be, whether in this life or another, we don't need to see a psychic or an astrologer. We need only look at the patterns of thought that are alive within us today. This is our spiritual genetic code, the seed of our future creations.
Now back to Jesus and Easter and the Resurrection
The Easter Story tells us that Jesus resurrected as an embodied being full of light, love and radiance. His words and deeds throughout his life, and especially his final words, created a genetic coding on his soul that embodied forgiveness, love, and compassion.
As he was dying on the cross, there were no words of anger or blame. No accusations or call for revenge. Instead, the story goes, he said, “ Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”
The climax to a story of Death and Resurrection with forgiveness as the ultimate power to alter spiritual DNA and allow us to be reborn in radiance, love and light. It wouldn’t sell in Hollywood but it does to me.
And it doesn’t end there. According to Aramaic scholars, his very last words were, “It was for this that I came.” To show us the powerful alchemy of those seven words, “It was for this that I came.” What happened next?
Did Jesus resurrect with a spreadsheet tallying the balance in his bank accounts, the value of his car collection, the list of titles and degrees he’d earned, or a lengthy list of his kids accomplishments or the to-do’s he hadn’t gotten to?
No. The story ends with his resurrection into a being of light so radiant he was at first unrecognizable. But he wasn’t anyone else. He didn’t merge into nothingness. He was still Jesus.
It was for this that I came.
The story shows us how to use this earth life to evolve our spiritual genetic code—our spiritual DNA—from anger to compassion, hatred to forgiveness, judgment to love.
The story gives us an affirmation to help us persevere when that genetic repatterning to kindness, compassion, generosity and wisdom gets so uncomfortable and hard…
It was for this that I came.