“A single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”
― Henry David Thoreau
(credit for finding this quote goes to Tara Brach)
So, how do we train our selves to make a deep mental path?
Isaac Stern, the great composer and conductor (I think) said that music (or maybe even life) happens between “the notes,” to quote Yo-yo Ma in his interview with Krista Tippett this morning in their podcast.
They were talking about music.
In yoga, we talk about transitions – between the postures.
And in life, well we talk about change.
Change is where life takes place, in many ways.
For me, I have been working on keeping my focus on myself – and watching myself – in the midst of my change – my minds shift from one topic to the other and when it comes awake from a mental trance.
In this meditation, we explore this concept. I hope you enjoy.
In today’s meditation, I approach the topic of being stuck in a trance – perseverating on some thought that upsets, captivates, distracts us.
Can you think of that last text, email, interaction which left your mind spinning for a bit – maybe even days? You might even be in the midst of it now. Or maybe you have a health concern. Some pain that triggers fear and concerns in your mind. Maybe it is in the body of a loved one and you find yourself thinking the worst of the worst. I have certainly been there.
When you are in the midst of a trance like that – it is hard to see ourselves in it for sure.
Well, how do we snap ourselves out of that trance? How do we return our selves to here?
Tara Brach – my guru – reminds us “we are not our thoughts, we are not our thoughts.” Easier said than done.
How do we get perspective that we are on the edge of something great or on the edge of getting thru or out of something terrible?
Well, what if I asked you to right now place your hand on your Lap. Go ahead, place your right hand on your right lap. Can you feel your pants on your right palm?
The feeling of overwhelming, whether it is ruminating thoughts, the feeling of anxiety or panic or a general whirl of the so many things one must do, is real and it is personal.
When I first heard Tara Brach talk about the clearing in the woods, that safe, comfortable place where I could experience refuge for myself, I found that concept tremendous. Richard Rohr talks about the lifeboat, the boat between the island (ie the one aspect of our world) and the mainland (ie other aspects of the world we are a part of) in a similar fashion.
Both concepts provide solace, and they also provide a place from where one can have perspective and cultivate awareness.
In this meditation, I use the clearing as a place to explore the body and the comfort it feels in the clearing and then I use the clearing to explore the periphery where chaos and overwhelm live.
Step one: what does the comfort feel like.
Can we feel our bodies in the physical space of the clearing? Can we imagine it?
It becomes clear that at the periphery of the clearing, which I define as strong, safe and comfortable, I find the details of chaos. And at the edge of chaos, I again find my clearing. But in exploring the edges or peripheries of both, I discover that overwhelm has its edge and it not everywhere. That discovery may be helpful because it means that the overwhelm and chaos does not saturate our whole selves.
Once we feel – physically explore the edge of the place in our bodies – where overwhelm ends, then maybe we feel that we have again entered our own personal clearing.
‘Namaste,’ I see the goodness in you. I see the goodness in me.
I have often said that as the mind, goes the body.
This meditation is designed to turn up the volume on goodness in our thoughts, and in how we see others. When we see others as good, we can also see the goodness in ourselves. Seeing the goodness is an active practice that overwhelms the negative thoughts and leads our mind and body into positiveness.
Whether you are a beginning meditator or have sat for 300 plus sits, the goal of 10 minutes is going to be different for everyone and may even be different every single day. In one way, that is the point. In sum, every moment we are “change”. Can we see ourselves changing under our own eyes and marvel at what we see?
To continue where we left, envision the best version of your self. Starting there. We are using our breath as a bridge between here – our physical reality – and there – the image, the feeling of our best version – to connect us.
One of the greatest antidote to fear is your inner self. How well you know and can rely on yourself is a direct correlation to how quickly you recover when startled, stay calm over ice and “put fear on the shelf.”
This meditation is a practice of self-exploration.
Let me know how it goes for you and let’s discuss how this might work towards a clearer vision of self.