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Archive for the ‘Meditation/Spirituality’ Category

So, like a bad penny…I keep turning up.  Thank God, I say.

I haven’t written here in a while.  Three years, in fact.  Not really sure why I’m here now, but something called me to it.  I’ve learned to listen when that happens.  And then to act.  Because life usually takes a turn for the better when I do both.  That’s key:  listening and acting.

Listening requires something most of us don’t make enough time for:  Silence.  Quiet.  Calm.  And by that I mean solitudinal listening.  Yes, alone.  Just you.  Maybe the cat.  But essentially you, solo.  Okay, you say you will try it and so you sit on the floor on a pillow, and wait.  For what, you are not entirely sure.  You close your eyes.  And notice that inside your eyelids your eyes are blinking like mad.  That’s annoying.  Then the thoughts charge forth:  you’ve got an itch; your knee is aching; you’ve got emails to reply to; what’s for supper?; why am I doing this again?

It’s impossible to listen when you’ve got music playing in the background, or the TV on, or your phone at hand with all its bells and alarms turned up high so you don’t miss those all-important notifications of yet another “like” on social media.  And there are plenty of other excuses you can make for why this won’t work.

Listening can seem daunting at first, and annoying.  I mean, all those ruminating thoughts that you weren’t even aware of begin cascading down at warp speed, and your brain suddenly baulks and says “Nope, this is too crazy. I’ll never be able to do this”.  Ah-hem…that’s the ego, trying to make you think you can’t do it when in fact it’s the ego, feeling threatened.  So you get up and check for iMessages on your phone.  You gave it a whole 30 seconds.  Well, there’s a win for the ego.  You didn’t know you were so easy to manipulate, did you?

So go back and try it again.  To make it easier on yourself and so you are not mentally counting the seconds, set your oven timer or your phone’s alarm for one minute, sit down, close your eyes, take three deep breaths, and just let those ruminating thoughts do whatever they want.  They are just thoughts, and they come and go.  There will always be another one, believe me.  They come and go precisely because we are not aware of them.  But there is a fine line between being aware of and dwelling on something.  Be aware of thoughts; be aware that they spew forth, come and go, and they often are repetitive.  They want your attention.  So notice them, and let them move ahead to make way for the next one.  Just do not dwell on them.  Dwelling on thoughts turns them into stories in our heads, and the stories begin to include feelings; feelings manifest in our bodies physiologically where they act on our inner systems and do weird things like make our blood pressure rise, cause our hearts to pound, put knots in our stomachs.  Wake us up at 3:00 a.m.  And then we feel stuck with them.  How do we get rid of them?  Most often we don’t, because we weren’t even aware we’d been caught up in them.  See how insidious this is?  This is not the work of your Soul.  This is pure ego.  You can read all about the ego from great sources such as Eckhart Tolle, so I will just say here:  the ego is not your friend.  Well, not a good friend at any rate.  We all have an ego, and we all need one; it’s not bad per se; it just lives from a place of fear and so distorts our perceptions based on its fears.  It’s a trickster!

The voice of your Soul is never that of fear or negativity, and will never cause you distress.  It is the voice of love and its purpose is to guide you toward the fullness of joy…joy which has been there all along.  I’ve learned a little about this over these past few years.  Thank God.

The voice of your Soul is God, the indwelling Spirit.  People who don’t align with a religious practice call it ‘spirit’, ‘the universe’, ‘higher consciousness’, etc.  God speaks through our Souls.  Thankfully, like that penny, the Soul’s voice keeps turning up.  I know you’ve heard yours, knocking from the inside trying to get your attention.  I know you’ve quashed it.  I know you’ve pushed it aside.  It takes perseverance to do that!  I know…I was really good at it.  So why not use that same perseverance to listen?  What might your Soul want to say to you? Why not take one minute and sit quietly? And tomorrow, take two minutes.  Any gap created among all those ruminating (mostly useless, I’m sorry to say) thoughts can be enough for your Soul to make itself heard.  We need only listen.  The voice of Soul, or God, is most often heard as a whisper; it is not loud or vexatious or judgemental.  And when you hear it, you won’t forget it.

I should say:  Joy is not the same as happiness.  Happiness is dependent upon external factors and is (usually) short-lived, until the next happy event, while joy is inside us and long-standing.  Joy can even be experienced during times of strife, while happiness is out of there like a shot!  The beauty of joy is that it has nothing at all to do with the ego, does not require searching for or runnng after, does not result from a goal attained, and does not depend on what other people think about us.  The added benefit of getting in touch with our joy is that the more you are in touch, the less the ego can assert itself…such a relief!  Joy is innate, inherent in all of us…a gift from God.  It enables us to feel gratitude for even the smallest pieces of our lives, and it gives us strength during times of distress and turmoil.

I’ve changed the name of my blog to reflect the furtherance of my life’s path since I last posted an entry here in 2014.  During mindfulness meditation a few years ago, God reached me through a gap in my thoughts.  I listened.  I acted.  I returned to church and now attend a local parish administered by the Franciscans, a loving, compassionate, and community-oriented Catholic holy order.

The beautifully poetic Psalms resonate deeply with me, and this quotation in particular:

Thou dost show me the path of life;

in thy presence there is fullness of joy;

in thy right hand are pleasures for evermore.

Psalm 16:11

Fullness of joy indeed.

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Resistance is futile, according to the Borg in Star Trek.  Sounds like intimidation, to me.  Or, knowing the principles of the Star Trek crew, in their case likely a challenge they’d be happy to meet!

Resistance implies a struggle.  Should I/shouldn’t I?  Do I want to, or not?  Push/pull.  Will I win, or will I lose?  The little child on the playground, bullied for their allowance or lunch money, quickly learned that resistance was futile unless they were prepared to be hurt.  Sometimes we love to give in and stop resisting, like with temptation – that first bite of a piece of decadent chocolate cake tastes almost sinfully good.  But often, after we’ve given in we feel guilty.  So we endured a mental battle with ourselves, and for what?  Giving in was only momentarily rewarding, and now we are left with a new mental battle as we attempt to deal with our guilt.  Or maybe it’s not guilt; maybe it’s just regret.  Or disappointment in ourselves.  None of which is a positive feeling, though.

I think that more often than not, all we need to do is just pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and try, try again.  The more we do that, the greater our chances of success.  And that’s the thing…I think we become too focused on whether we’ve succeeded (immediately, of course!) or failed.  Just because we didn’t do something 100% the first time, or even the fiftieth time we tried, doesn’t mean we failed, nor does it mean we are a failure.  I think the failure is in giving up completely.  The in-between attempts, well, that’s just learning!

We also resist good things.  We resist going to bed at a reasonable hour that would give us seven or eight hours’ sleep.  We resist the call of the alarm clock that tells us it’s time for our morning workout, convincing ourselves that an extra half hour of sleep is really what we need and we’ll make up the workout after work or in the evening.  How often do we follow-through on that?  Not often.  And aside from the disappointment in ourselves at, once again, not following-through on our promises to ourselves, now we’re also not enjoying that extra half hour of sleep because there is a mental battle going on in our head, interfering with that sleep we told ourselves we needed!  If we’re lucky enough to go back to sleep, though, there is bound to be regret when we do get up, over not having gone for the workout.  Or it will surface throughout the day, like when we find ourselves irritated for no apparent reason.  On reflection later, we’re saying “right, well, if I had just gotten up when the alarm went off and did the workout, this could have been avoided.”  But then we do it again, and again, and…

I’m interested in why I resist doing things I have told myself I want to do, like meditate.  I have meditated, so I know I am capable of doing it, I know how to do it, and I enjoy it.  So why hasn’t it become a daily practice?  Intellectually, I get that it doesn’t require much of my time…in the course of 24 hours, less 8 if I get the required sleep I need, and say 8 hours for my job, and 2 or 3 for daily travel, errands, meals, and 1 for exercise, 1 for pleasure like reading, that still gives me over 1 hour each day unaccounted for.  Meditation only takes ten or twenty minutes.  It’s certainly do-able.  But I somehow “forget” about it.  But with some things, like meditation, my spirit or soul keeps bringing it back to me.  I first meditated probably more than twenty years ago, and between then and now I’ve taken it up and put it back down a number of times.  I’ve taken classes, I’ve done a variety of meditations, and yet it hasn’t become a regular practice.  But something within me still wants me to do it, or else why would it keep presenting itself?

This is when I believe resistance IS futile.  Futile means “incapable of producing any useful result; pointless”.  My resisting meditating IS futile, because it does absolutely no good.  The desire or thought or wish, keeps coming back to me.  I’m not, therefore, giving in to it; rather I am hearing its message.  It’s a sign, and I haven’t been paying attention to it.  I’m going to honour that tug, and be open to it.  It’s not meant to be a struggle.  Meditation can only produce good or useful results.  Not that practitioners focus on the results, of course!  That would be making meditation a means to an end, which it is not.  It’s also not a goal to be reached, so there is no striving involved.  It just is.  I don’t actually have to DO anything…just show up.  Meditation will teach me what I need to know about it.  Each session is unique.  Having faith in the process really takes the weight off me for having to “do it right”, for instance.  Yes, there are some basic precepts, but it’s not like dancing where a foot placed incorrectly can lead to disaster.  There is no right or wrong way to sit, there is no right or wrong bench, cushion, pillow, or chair.  There is no right or wrong chant, if one chooses to chant.

It’s about tuning in, calming down, going quiet, being still.  It’s a relief!  It’s such a relief to do that…  Yet that is not to say it’s “relaxing”…it can be, but for the most part it’s not.  It’s a way of hearing one’s spirit speak, getting in touch with one’s heart.  Resistance to that?  On the contrary, I’m grateful for the persistence of my spirit to continue to knock on my door, and equally grateful for my having responded to it and now having established the intention of making meditation a daily practice.

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