Tuesday, June 16, 2020

My Witness

Perhaps it's my contemplative nature combined with the fact that I keep journals filled with notes and thoughts that come to me and demand some sort of voice, that I often find a sentence here or there completely resonates with the feelings I hold inside me at this moment.

So, this morning I noted on Facebook an advertisement for a woman running some sort of course. She wrote, 'We all need a sacred witness in life...'. I think that too, at the same time as I am notably private. She went on to write about 'the spirit within you' that directs you in decision making. It will vary from person to person but I think we can all get in touch with that spirit at certain moments.

And then, I happened to open a journal of mine on a page where some years ago I must have been listening to Richard Flanagan, one of our best fiction authors. I had made a note of his observation that as people we congregate within the structure of 'family'; that although we nurture, protect and love, it doesn't necessarily satisfy; that what satisfies can be unquantifiable. Maybe, he suggested, it is how something makes you feel...

Yesterday, I listened to a recording of a talk by Rick Hanson, who I admire very much; a lovely guide for meditators and an incredibly intelligent and caring psychologist. He was talking about the fact that perhaps a good question to ask about an interaction with another person is 'Do you feel bigger/open/supported, or pushed down, needing to prove yourself more?' Ultimately, he said 'they will do what they do'. Very true.

Somewhere in the discussion he mentioned feeling that some interactions were 'tender and sweet'. A bell went off in my head. Did I experience the transactions with my mother as 'tender and sweet', now or ever? I think at times she has tried to be that person, in her own way. I think she feels more than she can express.

Sometimes, I visit with her and I come away feeling, not necessarily uplifted, but not unhinged by the visit. That's a very good visit. Mostly, I come away feeling deep internal distress that I simply cannot put into words. I don't experience anything tender or sweet about those exchanges, most particularly when I go towards her body to say goodbye and she puts her arms behind her back. I am left to peck her on the cheek. Lately, that's felt like a dagger going through my heart.

I think every human does need a witness to their lives. It could be a priest, or a parent, or a friend that knows you just as you are, and accepts you just as you are. It could be someone new as well; perhaps a mentor for someone overcoming an addiction. Maybe it is only half the time a 'family' member. We have the ability to create our own family, or become fiction writers, or keep a journal, or write poetry. Whatever allows us to express what lies dormant in our soul is right. Thus, I continue to write here, in  my tiny corner of the Internet. Thank you for being my Witness.

Friday, June 12, 2020

No-one saves us but ourselves

In a guided meditation it might be suggested to you that when resting in a quiet and calm space, whatever thoughts, feelings or sensations might be floating along in your mind, it's okay.

If you think of yourself as like a container, or a vessel - an empty container or perhaps an uninhabited vessel - whatever comes and whatever goes doesn't have the power, or the opportunity to disturb that sanctum.

The vessel may notice the thoughts, sensations and feelings passing through, but it doesn't change or alter the container or vessel. Do the flowers change the vase?

The container sees no reason or purpose in latching onto what is passing through and nor does it feel compelled to repel a thought, a feeling or sensation. Since the container itself is perfectly fine, being the witness of all, any and every occurrence - so called 'wanted' or 'unwanted' events - it experiences  default ok-ness.

For most people, I am going to guess that this sort of idea isn't taken on immediately. (I am already imagining someone suggesting a vase might break...) As I experienced a tumble of thoughts during meditation, at times I had to get up and move away from my meditation. Certain thoughts derailed me; certain experiences had me feel my breath was urgently out of control. These things usually take time.

It is said that if you want to achieve anything good, it takes practice. So it is with a spiritual practice. If you want to be more warm-hearted, for example, it would be helpful to actually sit and generate kind thoughts until it becomes more natural. I don't think this is particularly different from feeling you aren't a natural cook and yet after several attempts you do manage to cook an edible and even delicious cake.

The thought of a quiet and calm space which one inhabits, and the thought of living in an open-hearted way resonates for me even in a political context. One might have feelings of contempt for a political leader at the same time as one can be open-hearted towards all human beings, even at the same time as one votes to oppose a leader, or as one might be dismayed at a political result.

Once you take this idea into the core of yourself it goes well beyond a useful thought in meditation. It becomes a way to live. Hard and fast expectations, judgments, even disappointment in people can pass through your mind as observations without needing to feel that they have in some way derailed you, impaled you or set you off course. You have, you see, removed the opportunity for that to happen. A thought is a thought is a thought is a thought.  In five minutes you will have a different thought; even an opposing thought.

When you sit quietly and still, observing what is there in the mind without judgment or labels, whatever is observed can be seen as the 'what is' of the present moment. The need to disassociate, to ignore, to freak out, is unnecessary. You've established yourself as a strong, indestructible vessel of peace and consequently whatever the mind conjures is withstood. With curiosity about the thoughts, feelings and sensations of the mind and body these observations are observed much as one might observe and examine a rare species in a museum. Isn't that all quite fascinating!

The Buddha had it worked out a long time ago. 'No-one saves us but ourselves.'

To be clear, this individual stance in no way suggests inaction. In a state of clarity of mind and conviction, there comes a time, usually a collective time, when change is sought; demanded. This is a troubling time for this world and yet a time that offers great promise. I choose to believe that we are up to the task.