“Meditation is about seeing clearly the body that we have, the mind that we have, the domestic situation that we have, the job that we have, and the people who are in our lives. It’s about seeing how we react to all these things. It’s seeing our emotions and thoughts just as they are right now, in this very moment, in this very room, on this very seat. It’s about not trying to make them go away, not trying to become better than we are, but just seeing clearly with precision and gentleness.”
~ Pema Chödrön
As I read this quote the other morning, I was struck by how dichotomous my meditative practice, and its purpose, is from every other aspect in my life – and I suddenly became aware of another vitally important part that meditative practice and mindfulness have for me and my well-being.
As Pema Chödrön stated, meditation is about awareness of what is Now; what Is; just Is; Now. But in most aspects of my life, I’m focused on the future – meeting goals, reaching destinations, striving toward visions; therefore, The Now is filled with important tasks and assignments, stepping-stones on the various journeys I travel. My intentional foundational chosen focus of compassionate action, mindfulness, empathetic interactions, and meditative practice have become increasingly essential for me as my awareness grows – awareness of my own strengths and weaknesses as well as the effect I have on others around me, coupled by a desire to be a better person in every aspect of my life. So today’s post is the expression of my struggle with the ways I operate most effectively in daily life and the effects I have on those around me – and the benefits of incorporating a meditative practice, with mindfulness and compassionate action, into my daily life outside of the meditation event itself.
I’m an energetic person, highly motivated by a desire to be the change, and thereby create the change, I wish to see in the world. My mind is a constantly churning engine of ideas and thoughts, recognizing problems and creating solutions, then mapping out their possibilities and potential shortcomings. While I tend to have multiple projects going on simultaneously, they’re each a spoke on a wheel with a common goal in the center, each one necessary and a balanced component of the end result. I see things as big puzzle pieces that fit together in intricate ways, and I create several pieces at once while I’m envisioning the final picture, framed and hung on the wall. My excitement and energy are fed by this process, and without the struggle, I get bored and can even lose my focus.
Unfortunately (for me), not everyone responds positively to this type of environment. Change is difficult for most, especially change-within change-on top of change-amid change. While I can see clearly the final product, at the same time as the individual pieces are being created at various stages, others may not see anything at all but chaos and instability. I ask quite a lot of people in my life, both at work and at home. And I would imagine the most difficult thing I ask for is trust – trust in me, trust in my process, trust in my abilities and trust in my vision.
There’s definitely other ways to reach the same goal. For instance, one might be more careful, methodical, slow and steady; fully completing step 1, including gathering data from putting step 1 into practice for a while, before beginning step 2; researching every avenue and eventuality for possible obstacles and cliffs; deciding the best course based on careful analysis and thoughtful contemplation; discussing every movement forward with others in the field and weighing all the options; and finding the calmest moment to step forward, when as many other issues or projects have been completed as possible. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this method and many reasons why it’s highly effective. However, my preferred method is also correct and highly effective – they each have their pros and cons.
One is the rabbit and the other is the hare. The rabbit isn’t necessarily singularly focused on beating the hare, nor ruled by ego. The rabbit can be looking for and aware of the obstacles and cliffs, researching avenues and taking the first steps, starting projects while another is underway, at the same time as carefully analysing data and getting the project train started on the tracks. Yes, it’s completely true that the rabbit method is practically guaranteed to be disastrous in the wrong hands; however, in the right hands, the rabbit can achieve even better results than the hare – achieving the goal quicker by eliminating unnecessary or over-contemplation, and by using resources and time much more effectively.
So, I suppose I’m selling my case, justifying my madness and the chaos I seem to create. I suppose I’m also creating my own suffering through my attachment to my method and unwillingness to be the hare. And I freely admit that I do suffer as a result of being the rabbit. I suffer when I have to deal with the results of the effects I have on the hare.
The hare becomes agitated and even angry with the changes swirling around and the instability that change creates anyway, coupled with the inability to see how the pieces fall together. The hare handles projects most effectively by fully completing one step and putting it into practice long enough to gather corroborative evidence of efficacy before the next step can be examined, explored, discussed, evaluated, contemplated, mapped and then finally taken. But that makes it extremely difficult for me to even begin explaining my vision, let alone ensuring the stability of the wheel with its various spokes. The resulting frustration on both sides easily leads to anger and resentment, the sense of being ignored or not taken seriously, and most especially, feeling a lack of trust and respect in each other’s abilities and experience. And so both the rabbit and the hare suffer.
I’ve been experiencing this suffering lately, even as I’ve found an inner strength and a purpose. It’s interesting how things happen and life progresses. A few months ago, I had been plagued by turmoil over instability and lack of control over certain aspects of my life. Just as I was at my lowest point, and about to take a divergent path, incredible events began to happen, people I value and respect shared their own faith in my abilities and strengths, and rather quickly, I became aware of my own value. I remembered that I start within and work outward from there. As if a light was turned on my brain, I saw exactly what I needed to do and the ways I could make a difference in not only my own perception of my environment, but also for others experiencing the same things about the issues.
My fire and passion were reignited and the ways in which I needed to act in order to realize my goal, my vision, became crystal clear. As soon as awareness hit me, I began to implement changes and solve problems – my energy and motivation shot through the roof! It’s been a truly glorious time! But as I’ve been rising to meet the challenges and creatively exploring new avenues; as I’ve been recognizing that I can do whatever I put my mind to doing, being my own boss and forging ahead on this adventure, the hare has been experiencing turmoil and instability with each step I’ve taken. My positive outlook created negativity for the hare. And the hare fought back against it all.
In this case, I know I’m taking the right action for the goals I want to reach in the timeframe I am given. I won’t be deterred any longer or undermined in any manner. I allowed too much time to pass and too many obstacles to rise. Once the mind is clear and the fog has lifted, the path is vivid and I’m ready to run! However, I still have to navigate and handle the effects I have created and the suffering that is as much my fault as it is the hare’s.
And that’s the frame by which I read the opening quote. And as a result of this teaching, the clarity of the mind is only matched by the clarity of the soul!
Each morning, I set an intention of being mindful and compassionate in my thoughts, words and actions. Very tough intention, once my feet pass over the threshold of my home. But the intention is pure and the consequences are positive. So each day, I struggle and often I fail. Oh how we tend to make things so much harder for ourselves than we need to!
Pema Chödrön’s quote is reminding me that the purpose of meditative practice is simply awareness. I meditate and I feel what it is to be human, to be female, to be whatever it is that I am.. in that moment, in that environment, under that set of circumstances, with whatever is The Now. Being aware, experiencing awareness, isn’t about being better than I was or handling situations more effectively – it’s just being aware. At this moment, I am tired. I am hungry. I am anxious. I am calm. I am cold. I am hot. I am worried. I am happy. I am excited. I am depressed … It’s not about the why or the how – just about being aware of the moment.
So why should I spend any time practicing awareness of the moment without delving into background and root causes and solutions and so forth? Isn’t that a waste of time? Perhaps. It just is. And I’m not being flippant. Being aware of simply being, allows everything to fall away. Everything is extra and nothing is actual. Start by asking yourself, “who am I?” Who are you, really? Are you the thoughts in your head, the emotions you feel, the words you speak, the actions you take, the dreams you have, the work you do? If you lose all those things, are you still you? If you stop having thoughts at all for, say, 10 minutes, and you feel no emotions and you speak no words and you take no actions and you dream nothing and do no work, for 10 full minutes, are you still you? Are you your experiences? What if you lose your memory – are you still you? You see?
So I get caught up in the actions and reactions, the methods and the results, the rabbit and hare. But in the moment, in this moment, I am tired. I am hungry. I am warm. I am breathing. Or I’m none of the above. And when I remember that, I can appreciate that the hare is also none of the above or all of the above. The goal is important and it’s not. For a moment. And I can smile in spite of suffering. We will suffer. We are suffering. And we’re not.
I suppose what I’m saying is that we’re all here for such a short time. We’ve been granted the rarest of gifts in being alive and in this human form. We have amazing potential and can move those mountains. So take a moment here and there to just be. Just breathe. And this too shall pass.
~ namaste ~