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.
I think then: this freedom is better. Freedom from freedom. Freedom from myself, freedom from the dizziness of a million choices. Parenting is very clarifying. I know my job: keep Eden and Sarah alive. There’s only one thing to do and it is not about me.
As someone who was born into Christianity but raised in a vehemently anti-religious household I thought, “What do I know about devotion?” Then when I turned to the internet for a little research and found mostly the words of preachers, I got scared. “Oh god” (can I even say that???), I am in very uncomfortable territory. How can I make peace with this word, that for me and probably many others, had such religious baggage?
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.
This is exactly how it is supposed to be, always was. All the forces of the universe, the same ones hammering stars into stars into stars, every chemical collision and thought pattern has made it come true, and there’s nowhere else to be, no other place worth trusting except this one. What matters most is not what was lost or what might have been, but what I’m losing wishing the story in front of me away.
By Kevin Lacroix
When what we usually consider to be ourselves (our self-referential thinking) is rendered ‘insignificant’, we taste a brief moment of just being. Not just in nature, but as Nature. The distinction between us and nature collapses. Maybe this transcendent experience frees us to merge with the beauty that floods our sensory awareness. To be reunited with the larger, indivisible nature seems to bring a sense of relief.
Often in life I’ve been too ADD to meditate in the usual seated way – too jumpy, too agitated, too busy-brained. When this happens, I’ve learned to turn to these sorts of active absorption practices. This is a path of concentration, but not the Buddhist kind, or not exactly. More the athlete’s or the artist’s kind. Its external form may look like going for a run, or drawing on a canvas, or even moving the vacuum around the house.
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.