Friday, February 11, 2011

Week 18 - Being Witnessed

Sometimes I see myself fine, sometimes I need a witness.
~Dar Williams, from the song My Friends

A funny thing happened to me this week. A friend at work came up to me one morning and said, "Are you doing something new? You look look happier."

"Really?" I asked.

But I didn't really need his acknowledgement at that point, though it was good to hear it. I didn't need him to confirm it because every fiber of my being resonated with what he said. It wasn't just that I believed him. It was that I felt in my body that what he said, the change he was recognizing in me, was true. What surprised me was that someone else could see it. And that I hadn't yet put words to it myself.

Sometimes we do indeed need a witness. I've been feeling things shift over time, especially in the last few weeks, and I know I've posted a bit about it. But it's hard to put a quality of being into words as it morphs into something new, something I'm not used to. The best way I can describe it is that I'm fighting within myself less and things around me are simply less of a struggle.

What things? Daily things, for one. Running errands, keeping up the house, going to work, staying motivated, getting things done...not much of a problem, even in the midst of a very long, particularly brutal Minnesota winter. I've found myself humming, singing, whistling throughout the day. While not completely unheard of, it's not overly common for me either. I find I'm worrying less about what people think, about what I can't get done in a day. I guess I'm taking myself lighter. I'm taking others lighter. Perhaps I'm just taking life lighter.

For the nearly 20 years since I graduated college, I have either been in school or taking workshops or working towards certifications or reading non-fiction books that more often than not fall into the self-help genre. I have long accepted that I'm a perpetual student and have an absolute passion for learning new things. It's how I'm wired. However, I hadn't recognized until recently what was truly driving this desire. In thinking about how I'm viewing life these days I recalled a time not too long ago when I told another friend that I had a firm belief that if I wasn't constantly bettering myself, I was wasting my life. My friend was shocked -- I know this only by the look she gave of utter disbelief. I never said anything and the conversation continued in some benign way, but that look registered.

Maybe I've been riding myself a bit too hard?

That look was a gift...the gift of being witnessed. Not because it's so important what others think, but because it gave me some perspective. She didn't have to say anything -- it was the look that opened a willingness in me to listen within to my own wisdom. Take it easy, honey! Unconsciously, perhaps that's what meditating is helping me do...take it easy. I'm still a voracious reader and an eager student but these past few months I'm more apt to be reading a novel than some tome, and happily -- not guiltily -- doing so. Whatever I am diving into, I'm doing so because I want to, not out of some deep-seated fear that to not do it, I'm somehow wasting my life.

So am I happier? Who's to say what "happiness" really is, anyway?

Whatever shift is happening is taking place without any effort on my part beyond showing up to sit consistently. Maybe that's the magic of a regular meditation practice, the alchemy. If we are willing to show up the work is done in us and not through us trying to make it happen. I've given up wondering what I'm getting out of it, worrying if I'm doing it right, hoping I'll have some amazing experience of expanded awareness. And somehow without that efforting, something is happening. Something I can't quite name and sometimes need a witness to reflect back to me.

Interestingly, it doesn't mean that my meditations are necessarily any easier or yielding any mindblowing insights. My mind is still wild and I continue to guide it day after day, moment after moment, back to the breath while I sit. I continue to wonder at times whether I actually pushed "Start" on the timer because oh-my-god-these-fifteen-minutes-are-dragging-on-forever! Life still doles out whatever it doles out and I still have to deal with it. The difference, it seems, is in how I'm taking things lighter. By surrendering control more. By fighting circumstances less.

Part of me wishes I could say it was a conscious trying rather than some natural evolution -- that I was making these changes happen, that they were measurable and repeatable. Because that would make it easier for all of us, wouldn't it? We wouldn't have to learn to sit, breathe, listen within, be patient, commit to consistency, embrace the mystery of what we don't understand. Instead, we could continue to force our timetable and our expectations on this life we're living. Bend it and twist it into what we think it should be rather than making space for it to unfold, revealing what it already is.

I don't know about you, but I've tried the forcing part. I'll be the first to admit I'm not sure how this unfolding part will turn out, but so far so good. I guess I'd say I'm pretty happy about that. I'll keep meditating and let you know how it goes...//

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