Sunday, April 28, 2013

Meditation: Don't take it personally

I swept the deck this morning. By afternoon it was covered over again with pollen. I didn’t take it personally. Our mind works in a similar clear-then-covered-over-again way. We need not take this personally either.

Practicing mindfulness can help us respond to each other and to life situations in a way that feels clear, even when our mind seems anything but. This is because mindfulness is not about finding a fixed state of clear mind; it’s about responding clearly to ever-changing states of mind. (Think Stepford Wives to get a glimpse of what living in a fixed state of mind might look like...scary).

By mindful response I don’t mean deciding not to complain, faking anything, or sucking it up when we’re in pain. Those responses are fueled by suppression (and are also annoying as all get out). I’m talking about a way of responding that is fueled by the clarity that is present even in tough times.
Palmyra Inn, Wakefield, VA: Built 1745. Still needs sweeping today.
I don’t want to make this way of responding sound easy. It’s often not easy. But it can be made easier by an intentional, regular meditation practice. Each time that we get still and quiet, we practice being with ourselves in a very ordinary way. This ordinariness is a key component of the clarity that is always there, with or without us.

Through regular practice we become keenly aware that the practice of mindfulness is personal—that it involves working with our unique situations—but that we need not take the practice personally. The practice is just the practice. Sweeping the deck is just sweeping the deck. And even though we know that the pollen will appear again and again, we continue to get out the broom and sweep.

The Hippo, by Steven Hickman

The hippo floats in swamp serene,
some emerged, but most unseen.

Seeing all and only blinking,
Who knows what this beast is thinking.

Gliding, and of judgment clear,
Letting go and being here.

Seeing all, both guilt and glory,
Only noting. But that’s MY story.

I sit here hippo-like and breathe,
While inside I storm and seethe.

Would that I were half equanimous
As that placid hippopotamus.