Freedom from the Future

My meditation and mindfulness practice has given me this freedom from the idea that I need some perfect thing in the future to be happy.  I still want to have more impact on the world, I still want to live somewhere beautiful surrounded by people I love, I still want that partner that really gets me… but I no longer let these things distract me from the beauty of today.

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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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How to practice peace (when all seems lost)

What do I believe? Peace is our natural state, and underneath expressions of violence or anger is a deep sense of helplessness. That when we war, we do it against ourselves. That conflict comes out of ignorance and self-hatred, a mistaken understanding that somehow sees life as less magnificent and precious than it is, and greatly underestimates the abundance we are born into. 

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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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Celebrate Everything

Just like in meditation, when we pick a focus – the breath, the earth, sounds, sensations – we start to attune to that focus. We begin to notice more. Our perspective shifts. When I started to actively turn my awareness towards celebration, there was no shortage of content and possibility, of reasons and occasions to partake in some revelry.

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Sadness and Sweetness

My practice has helped me cultivate acceptance. When I give up on the present moment being any different than it is, there is equanimity. I am free to engage fully with what is because I’m not stuck in what I think should be. I’m free to respond with grace, empathy, compassion, spontaneity, and love. And when I fail, acceptance forgives me and invites me to try again.

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Our Life is the Ceremony 

Our dominant culture in the West seems almost devoid of ceremony. If there is a ritual, it would be in unboxing an Amazon package. We gulp our coffee. I sit in Zazen, too often, not in reverence for the eternal position, but as an item to check off on a daily list of them. The connection to the eternal, the collective wisdom of our ancestors, is frayed.

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