This past year, I started a consistent sitting meditation practice, rather than solely active meditation. In previous years I sat as well, but this year it finally stuck and started making sense. Maybe it’s being in my thirties, maybe I finally tamed my monkey mind enough that it can sit still for more than a moment. Either way, I am grateful for it.
On my way to a friend’s birthday celebrations this weekend, I listened to part of a Pema Chodron talk regarding meditation. She states that often in the spiritual community it’s the painful or challenging things that lead you to meditation and the path. So these become viewed as blessings in disguise. Whereas many people who are not faced with pain of some sort, do not tend to seek on their own. They plod along on without considering alternatives.
I can apply this concept to almost all the “tragedies” of my life from deaths of loved ones to breakups, conflicts and loss… They all seem to be terrible and painful in the moment of occurrence, but they lead to moments of rededication to my vision and purpose. I have said for years that when you have a broken heart it’s just knocking out walls for expansion. I see now how that can apply to much more than heartache. If you stay out of fear, victim, righteousness, or a need for approval, you can take these events of life, examine your perspectives and beliefs, both where they work and where they don’t.
This self-exploration and awareness is, in my mind, the only real game in town. I am not talking about self-improvement. Alan Watts was fond of saying, “How can you improve yourself if you are the one who is doing the improving? You can not pull yourself up by your own bootstraps… go ahead give it a try! It can’t be done!”
Improving yourself is bunk, a myth designed to sell a swindle. Convince someone they are broken and you can sell them fixes forever. I contend that everyone is perfect. That each person at core is good and perfect and has everything they need to create the world they want. We just get in our shit and let our fears and perceptions of separateness sabotage our potential. What we can do instead is improve our integrity with our true selves.
Lets take my recent relationship completion, for example. I miss my former partner, of course. I spent a year and change with her shifting my perspective from “me” to “we.” I appreciate a great many things about her and our time together. And I have not stopped loving anyone once I began to care for them, only shifted its manifestation. I am not so present at this point as to be able to let go instantaneously. And yet, I am also glad it is over. I had for sometime thought that it was unlikely to persist, that we were not meeting eye-to-eye, communicating how we needed to and working together to support each other as fully as we could. However, I wasn’t certain that there was no road forward together and I was committed to going as far in my life as was possible with her. So which one is true, the missing or the relief? It doesn’t have to be one or the other.
In undergrad, my professor, author and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel was fond of saying “The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference.” He admonished us to always “think higher and feel deeper” and to search ever deeper for truth. In my life, I have always looked for the place where the differences disappear. If we look for differences we can forget how we are the same, rather than appreciate the perspective and spice that those differences in view provide. It is for me a spiritual practice that goes beyond dogma. I believe that if there is a god it is a continuity that persists through all things. To that end, I look to remove my perceptions of separateness. In Buddhism, this would be the annihilation of the ego. In the Abrahamic faiths, it is the fight with the devil, the beguiler. In Hinduism, it is that dharma-bound quest for moksha. These moments of suffering become beautiful, because they give you a direct insight into where you see your separateness, where you see scarcity and lack. And upon seeing, you get the opportunity to surrender and breathe into that space.
As you pull away from a perceived moment of flux, the cords of attachment stretch and snap, and you feel the pain. However, these ties are not love, they are attachment. Love is not the same. Where those spaces were filled you can follow and see where your sense of scarcity dwells. See the places that you get to nourish and cherish.
Look to see where you grieve the mist of a dream vanishing at dawn. Look to see what those desires were, what you thought you didn’t have already. Once you do, you can find a freedom to love while letting go and to surrender into the process of living. It’s not a a release from feeling, or “negative emotions.” It is a freedom from binding and the opportunity to choose to live and act in integrity with your heart.