Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Week 16 - Room for Joy

"Suffering is not a virtue. Joy is not a sin." ~Paulo Coelho

Those in my household are getting more and more comfortable with my meditation practice and my forays into the "soul cave" as my room is now dubbed. Though it is a little complicated. My husband, Terry, knows that if he comes into the kitchen and can't find me but sees the timer on the microwave ticking down, I'm sitting. He respectfully waits until the timer beeps and I emerge to check in with me.

Our dog, Trooper, on the other hand, doesn't have this handy-dandy notifier of where I am and what I'm doing. Usually, she'll trot right into the room, park her butt and stare at me. How do I know this since my eyes are closed? I've peeked...and there she sits, perhaps in meditation as much as I, boring holes through me.

I can out sit her, I think to my clever self as I brace for the ensuing competition. (A very soothing meditation technique, I assure you.)

But this seldom works. Why? Because she's already got one up on me. The way her toenails click-click-click on the wood floor on her approach mocks me for doing something as frivolous as meditating when I should obviously be tending to my manicurial duties. Or her stomach growls a plaintive reminder that it's far beyond time for breakfast and accuses me of wasting time. Or if all else fails, she'll bodily pant and dance, whining and crying, begging me within an inch of her life -- and mine -- for my attention. Just because she can.

And then I break my meditation and yell at her to go lay down, just because I can.

It makes me crazy, and I let it. I have enough trouble getting my mind to quiet down in the best of situations than to contend with Trooper's shenanigans on a regular basis. I'll admit that early on I loftily imagined we would come to some understanding where she would see what I was up to and quietly retreat to the other room until I was done. Not so much. Instead, she digs her heels in -- as do I.

I've often wondered if I'm failing somehow by responding to her at all...but how do I not? Maybe my will just isn't strong enough yet. Is this part of the process? The part where we have to learn to filter out the distractions and let ourselves get itchy and have a leg fall asleep and have the house burn down around us and keep on sitting? Do we really have to suffer in silence to be good at this sort of thing?

Last Saturday morning I came downstairs before Terry and Trooper got out of bed to get my meditation in while the house was still peaceful enough to not deal with much distraction. About halfway through my time, Trooper came bounding down the stairs with Terry close behind to let her outside. When he let her in she charged through the living room and into the "soul cave", planted her front paws on the cushion right in front of me and stuck her nose in my face as close as she could without touching me. I held my ground, but this time out of amusement rather than frustration and force. Without batting an eyelid, I very slowly pursed my lips, which Trooper quickly met with a huge SLURP before running off. The smile on my face lasted the rest of the meditation.

Maybe suffering isn't the virtue it's cracked up to be, here to teach us all of the valuable lessons we're told that it is -- the hard way. Maybe force is just always met by force. What I've been learning these months is that developing a softness that allows us to yield doesn't make us weak, but makes us stronger than we could ever imagine. It allows for the unknown -- for the possibility of finding our truth in some fascinating, exciting, unexpected place.

Maybe there is room for joy after all...//

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Week 15 - Befriending the Divine

"When we meditate, we center ourselves and listen to that still small voice within. We are tapping into the silence of being. It is in the golden silence of our own selves that the divine is found." ~James Van Praagh

As I move into the second "trimester" of this meditation project, I realize -- as I imagine pregnancy must be -- I have found my rhythm. I'm settling into the newness, the changes, and am comfortable with the shifts and movements of my life. Upon waking and right before I go to bed each day I sit for at least fifteen minutes...sometimes more but not less if I can help it, and I usually can. It's familiar enough to me now that, gratefully, I don't fight it. I appreciate the time to settle in with my breath, to distill the dreams of the night and the experiences of the day. There is time and space for gratitude, for peace and for stillness. Time to let go, to be with what is -- whatever it may be -- and to not need to know.

Know what? Anything.

Generally, I'd say I like broad sweeping statements of finality and to use words like "always" and "never". I guess it has the power to makes me feel safe, secure. As if I know what I'm talking about. As if I'm in control. Of course this is normal -- life is inherently uncertain, and it's human to want to fight and push and pull to make things appear as concrete as we can, even if just to make ourselves feel better.

But life is transient. Things change.

So I've been wondering...isn't it easier somehow to learn to be with this fleeting nature of things, finding ways to appreciate what we have when we have it rather than entertaining this desire for permanence and control that we, as a society, have accepted as normal? In all the meditation literature I've read they talk about becoming unattached as the means of being with what is impermanent. But that seems so esoteric to me...unattainable. I'm likely oversimplifying things, but it also brings to mind images of people who are cold, unfeeling or otherwise disengaged. I'm in this because I want to live more -- feel more -- not less.

At the very least then, perhaps if we learn how to befriend that which is permanent and eternal -- our own divinity, our own breath, our own inner silence which is the life force energy that inhabits all of Nature...us included -- perhaps this will satisfy the need we have to feel some semblance of control over our lives, no matter what comes our way. Perhaps befriending the divine will allow us to trust that yes, change will come, AND we will respond by adapting as needed without having to have our finger on the pulse of every how or when or why.

The longer this project goes on, the more I settle into my process, as I learn to filter out the external distractions and honor what works for me, I realize I know less and less. And less. Normally, this wouldn't sit well...at all. The big surprise is that I'm finding it's OK -- I don't need to know everything (gasp!).

I guess things really do change...and it's not all bad.//

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Week 14 - Listening Anew

"The book of your heart is where your answers reside. Learn to be still and to listen inside." ~excerpt from my book The Book of the Heart

The end of this fall and beginning of winter have been particularly frigid and snowy -- even by Minnesota standards. Because of that, we haven't gotten out to walk the dog, or consequently ourselves, often enough for our liking. More than ten years ago when Trooper was a pup -- and my husband and I were more "puppish" -- we would brave any weather, tromping through the woods regardless of snow storms or sub-zero temperatures. We still love our jaunts but are considerably more "sensible" these days when deciding under what conditions we're willing to brave the elements.

Which leaves me in a predicament. I'm not one who desires to own exercise equipment and yet I am keenly aware that I need to be doing something if not out walking and hiking for three months out of the year. Yoga had been my foundation until I hurt my back last spring and while I'm mostly healed, I'm frankly a bit sheepish to jump back in as readily as I'd like. It makes me deeply uncomfortable not to have that physical outlet, so much so that I was overcome in November with the itch to fix it...which is what we typically do, right? Unhappy? Make it better. As the famous Nike marketing campaign says, Just Do It. So, instead of settling in with my new meditation practice and allowing myself to sit in the discomfort to see what insights came, I did as I've done more times than I'd like to admit -- I went and joined "the club".

One morning this past week, I woke up knowing in my bones that I needed to cancel the membership. I think it was Einstein who said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. Insane as charged. I had been to the club about five times over the past two months, which is admirable considering it took me a whole three-and-a-half minutes on the elliptical machine on my first visit to remember how much I detest that kind of contrived exercise. I would rather do nothing than walk on a treadmill. I love being active, but not like that. It works for lots of people...it doesn't work for me.

And I realized that that was the point: Just because it's there, doesn't mean we have to do it...where "it" can represent just about anything. We are allowed to love what we love and need to do our best to honor that. Which often means taking the time to go within and to listen, to remember, and to do what works for us.

This week, I sense that something has shifted. It seems that as my mind becomes more still, I'm not only able to listen better, I'm able to hear more. As I pulled into the driveway this afternoon I knew in my heart that it was a beautiful day for a walk in the woods.

"It's too cold," cried the booming know-it-all in my head. It dawned on me that this had become my automatic reaction given our current stretch of weather.

What I had let myself forget was that every day is a new day, every moment its own opportunity for newness, which has absolutely nothing to do with the past or the future. Seize the moment. The present moment. Isn't this what the meditation project is all about? Becoming more present, listening more closely, connecting more fully to my heart and living according to what works for me? Ah, yes, of course. Now I remember!

As it was, this afternoon was beautiful. I loaded Trooper into the car for our trip to the woods and found my heart was filled with gratitude...not as much for the optimal weather (temps in the twenties, flurries with no wind), as for the fact that I could listen deeply enough and respond to that tiny voice that suggested a walk. The small voice that is ordinarily overpowered by the booming ego voice who knows all and tells all with no apology.

The voice of our intuition doesn't fight to be heard. Our job, if we want to hear it, is to remember how to listen. This, I'm finding, is the benefit of the meditation that more than three months ago I could only hope to access. It's certainly not been without its challenges...but it is definitely worth it.

I'm happy to say I'm listening anew. And am back in the woods where I belong...//

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Weeks 12 & 13 - Back in the Swing

"It seems the gift of being present is actually wanting to take care of myself on all levels..." ~excerpt from my journal

What a wild adventure these past two weeks have been! By the time my usual day to post last week had come and gone without so much as two seconds to rub together, I made the sanity-saving choice to take a break from a week of writing this blog. Another reminder that this isn't about perfection, after all. My meditations had still been done daily but not tended to with the single-minded focus they deserved. It was clear that what I needed was to rest, regroup, take time to dive deeply and with patience, wait for myself to resurface.

I often think that Life is a ride on a pendulum. At times we're required to move far outside of ourselves and at others, we're required to move inward. The holidays for many of us are one extreme of the ride where we find ourselves so far outside of our comfort zone that we can hardly wait for the moment to arrive so we can crawl back in. I had signs -- and hopes -- that I wouldn't get that frazzled this year, what with regular meditation and all. In hindsight, I do realize that it helped a lot -- but instead of not arriving in frazzle-ville at all, it just took me much longer than usual to get there. Rome was not built in a day.

What I noticed as well is that when the opportunity arrived for me to move inward, I didn't need to go so far in...or at least not for as long. Was continuing all the while with my meditations, regardless of how short they might have been, keeping me on an even enough keel that I rebounded faster than I would have normally? Perhaps even the smallest amount of effort allowed for the pendulum ride of my life to become a little more equalized, a little more balanced, a little less extreme. Or at least for the extremes to be a little less lengthy.

Developing this new kind of relationship with presence, one in which I recognize its impact and can see its value and its place, is just inviting me to go deeper. To realize that every moment matters -- even the chaotic, completely-out-of-my-comfort-zone moments. Knowing now that whatever I have to give is enough -- provided that I'm being honest with myself about what's available -- frees me up to want to give more. As I reflected in my journal, it does seem that the gift of presence is in the wanting to take care of myself as much as I can, in whatever ways I can. We can go through the motions -- which is what I kept fearing I was doing during the wildness -- but perhaps it is the wanting to keep on that sustains us on our ride until less turbulent times arrive.

And so I approach the new year with a renewed energy and passion for the project, fully trusting that through this journey of discovery I am venturing ever closer to a familiarity with my heart that already has affected my life beyond measure.

What passion do you bring to your 2011?//