Islands of Misfit Selves

There are times when it feels isolating and crazy making to be alone, to be myself, but there are also times where it feels grounding, stable, and secure. There are times where it feels suffocating and horrifying to be connected to everything around me, but there are also times where it feels awe-inspiring and reassuring. There are times where either experience can feel both good and bad, perfect and unbearable, at exactly the same time. The experience of reality always seems to exceed our conceptions of it. The world overflows us.

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The Pursuit of Pleasure

A meditative practice invites us to get intimate with the self, with our desires (attachments) and our aversions. Any transformation starts with awareness. My meditation practice highlighted what I was chasing, and what I was avoiding. From that awareness, actions to make changes ensued. And they weren’t small ones. I changed my job and the whole industry I worked in. I forewent being in a relationship with someone else to exploring a relationship (intentionally so) with myself. My circle of friends began to change. I changed my diet. I changed my relationship with alcohol and caffeine. My time on the cushion illuminated where I was attaching value to pleasure, and where that pursuit was still coming up short. Contrary to being on a path to contentment and fulfillment, my relentless pursuit of pleasure was in fact what was preventing me from finding it at all.

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Embodying Trees

As I sat in a small group of fellow meditators, I began to imagine each point of the posture as a feature of a tree: the base of my posture, my crossed legs, was the earth; my rooted tailbone was the roots of the tree; my balanced centre the trunk; my open heart the branches; and my crown the crown of the tree, lifted and tilted slightly forward, like a leaf on its petiole. It didn’t map perfectly, of course, but it worked for me, enabling me to feel grounded in my body, grounded in the earth. I imagined the mycelial network that connects each tree to its neighbour through the teeming earth connecting me to my fellow meditators, invisible threads providing what each of us needed in that moment, like mycelia move nutrients through the soil. I felt a kind of joy that I hadn’t felt in years, a sense of belonging to the earth, of being part of nature. I won’t claim the joy has persisted, exactly, but it opened a door for me that has stayed open, just a crack, even if I’m usually stuck on the other side.

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The Evolving Mind

Well, I think the big picture is that the mind is evolving. In response to the pressures of the time, the unique stresses and the faster pace of living, the increased volume of information that we need to take in … the human nervous system is changing.There seems to be more ADHD than ever, and more autistic people, and more people with sensory sensitivities, and on and on. 
Mental health authorities often pathologize this increase, but another way to think of it is as nature’s creative response to the challenges we face. If you think about the gifts of neurodiversity, there’s more sensitivity, more emotional and spiritual nuance, more creativity, more capacity to pivot quickly, more systems intelligence. Maybe we’re one expression of how the mind and body are addressing the world’s problems.

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Lessons in the Future from 1906

The more we try to control the future by pinning it down using our well-worn concepts, the more blindsided we will be as the future keeps manifesting the new into reality. In contrast, when we enter into the future with our imaginations, rather than trying to predict it or bend it to our will, we seek a balance between channeling that which wants to be born into the world and using our agency to actively shape this new creation towards the good.

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