So how do we heal from lifelong habits forged in times we can hardly remember? What can we realistically expect when it comes to healing and addressing the deep traumas and challenges of our lives? And how does this healing relate to the larger social and intergenerational trauma all around us? Because none of this happens in isolation. My struggles have emerged out of my own unique circumstances of nature and nurture, but also from the cumulative trauma of the families that made my parents, and theirs, and so on, as well as the societies that informed all of them. Including this one. There’s so much healing needed, individually and collectively, as a species and as a planet, it can be hard to even know where to start.
In times of crisis and overwhelm, intentionally paying attention to the small pockets of pleasure or peace in our experience can be immensely sustaining. The practice of appreciation, our CEC theme for October, begins with giving yourself permission to seek out and experience goodness, and then noticing what gifts, however small or subtle, are within your reach at any given time.
Fittingly, we start this year at CEC exploring concentration. Concentration blooms in these conditions of energized commitment. While our resolve is still strong, we’ll practice the discipline of starting, again and again, to notice the present moment. Dedication to this practice illuminates a great gift of concentration: that we have a choice in what we pay attention to. And that our minds can get freer when we exercise that choice.
It doesn’t take much time on the cushion to figure out that there is nothing passive about meditation. Knowing the present moment, and ourselves, is full of effort. It’s hard work to recognize and acknowledge the realities we’re faced with, to see them clearly and sit with the discomfort they bring. But this clear-eyed acceptance is the groundwork for meaningful change. Its opposite is denial; that’s what keeps us stuck.
I sat. I learned some stuff. How to turn towards those feelings I’d been pushing away, that my emotions were only an aspect of a larger experience, and that nothing, even the hardest feels, lasted forever. These new ways of noticing gave me space where once there was none. It went on like this for years, incremental bits of breathing room that kept me alive. Then something strange happened.