At a time when taking action is so important — marching in the streets, moving funds to grassroots organizations, or mobilizing during an election — what role does sitting in stillness or core contemplative ideas like “acceptance” have to play?
As long as we hold onto our old selves, there is no space for a new one to be born. And this is what it’s all about, letting go and making the space for something more authentic. Instead of exploring and adopting characteristics from the outside world, an existential crisis is an opportunity to explore our inner world.
We triangulate our sense of self, balancing internal self-perception together with our perception of how others regard us. What I am is informed by the network of relationships with everybody else (including the self-looping relationship from myself to myself). This has profound implications for ethics, spiritual practice, and politics.
There is something in us that wants us to be well, and pulls us towards ever greater notions of what wholeness means.
Why would we want to be whole in the first place? Easy. So we can throw a party that includes every single person, no matter who they are, no matter what they look like. We heal because it leads to the most fun.
In this challenging month I realized that the nature outdoors is a part of our own true nature. Even though I felt at times as though I was separated from it, each time I returned to my cushion I was connecting to that true nature, and tuning into the flow of the universe. The more I sat, the more I took joy in our little walks around the block, or jumping in the smallest puddle on our driveway.
Coming back into our bodies is the medicine. That of course is the real direction of meditation, when it’s working the way it’s supposed to. We notice what’s really going on, notice the habit pattern that wants to take over, notice our urgency or our anxiety, our frozen-ness or our outrage. We notice and we float – for just a moment – above this behavior that wants so badly to repeat itself, to stay unconscious, to stay automatic.
And then, as time resumes, we exercise our dignity and our freedom by deliberately choosing whether we want to keep that particular response going. Not a glamorous practice, but a necessary one.
Where’s the rest? Real rest – deep rest – is there in every moment.
It is at times of challenge, like the viruses tumbling through our blood, that we find out how capable we are. Hoarding things for ourselves will make us sick. Sharing the best of what we have makes us well, even in the face of illness. That is what will turn this around.
By Oliver Rabba
Mindfulness meditation practices can offer us a way to pause, breathe and momentarily step back from our problems. This is often exactly what’s needed to get the “creative juices” flowing and allow new, unseen solutions to come forward. A window may appear where there was once only a wall.
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.