PERSONALIZED MEDITATION INSTRUCTION

MEDITATION? REALLY?

Meditation means many things, even if some definitions seem contradictory. We might ‘meditate’ on a decision, which would imply deep thinking. Or, we might let go of thoughts in meditation, which implies a clear state free of mental constructs. And there are just as many reasons why we might do this. Some people are searching for a meditative state, some are seeking a religious experience, some are making a social or fashion statement. To some it’s de-stressing and wellness. And, to many, meditation is something we vaguely believe will help, but find hard to keep up. The idea that meditation can help is very true. But, it would be easier to keep up if it was less vague and more practical. What might make it sustainable is to know not only how to do it, but what it is and why we are actually doing it. Meditation need not be difficult. But, it does require understanding.

 

MEDITATION FROM A WISDOM TRADITION

 

If our meditation is about feeling good, then the moment we don’t feel so good, we are ready to call it a bust. If, on the other hand, our meditation is aimed at developing the wisdom to see our minds, we are actually handed the tools of our liberation.

 

I have experience teaching and guiding meditation in many orientations from wellness companies, to yoga and meditation studios, to meditation centers and, now more and more, with personal one on one instruction. I have guided sessions that lead people on mental excursions through jungles, over cliffs, and across the starlit sky. All of this is interesting and possibly helpful. But, the question of why still arises. Why do you want to be guided into an Hawaiian waterfall or past life living room?  If the answer is as an escape from the pressures of the world, then that is fine. But escape is not necessarily sustainable as an ongoing practice. If our meditation is about feeling good, then the moment we don’t feel so good, we are ready to call it a bust. If, on the other hand, our meditation is aimed at developing the wisdom to see our minds, we are actually handed the tools of our liberation. And, we will be motivated whether or not we feel good. In fact, we might be motivated to look beyond our personal discomfort and really learn something. If meditation, in whatever form it takes, is aimed to gain more wisdom about ourselves and our human existence, then we have a powerful “why” to motivate us. “I have difficulties in my life, and am not in control of my actions”, “I have to face myself and grow up”, “I want to be free of depression.” We can either use meditation to escape from, or turn directly into these afflictive mental states. One is a temporary balm, but the latter leads to a path of greater understanding.

 

There are traditions that are path oriented and promote personal knowing and empowerment over doctrinal acquiescence and academic understanding. We call these wisdom traditions and they have an onus on direct personal experience. Whether they be Buddhist, Native American, Muslim, Christian or otherwise, meditation from a wisdom perspective is a mind training that leads to practical and transcendent wisdom. The point is not to achieve a religious experience or salvation of any sort, but to simply become more sane and balanced in order to discover, develop and deploy our innate wisdom. And, while there are exceptions, Wisdom Traditions are often aligned with established lineages that rely on the daily practice of mind training as a developmental path.

 

The development of wisdom in daily life implies a practical involvement with meditation. The general recommendation would be to develop a daily practice of repeated placement of mental attention on the present moment. We do this in order to train the mind  progressively toward deeper and more stable relaxation and awareness. Many disciplines employ an object of meditation (such as a mantra, the breath, a visual stimulus, or a phrase) to facilitate a return to the present. So, commonly, one would return to the mantra or the breath again and again to stabilize the mind, and allow its awareness to develop more and more deeply into the present.

 

THE POWER OF PRACTICE

 

Sometimes the object of meditation takes on a tutulary function, acting as an agent of protection. Mantra, in particular, is traditionally considered mind protection. The practice of Mantra has its basis in ancient Indian yogic practice as the recitation of magical incantations to ward off evil. However, any tool aiding the mind to return to the present is acting as a protecting agent. Contemporaneously stated, the object of meditation is not protecting us from evil forces so much as our vulnerability to danger when we are not paying attention. The object of meditation protects us by returning us to awareness of present moment. In the present we are most aware and most capable of protecting ourselves. Life happens in the present. When we are not in the present we are entirely vulnerable to advantitions calamity and self-affliction. So, the breath or another object of meditation can be used to protect us, by bringing us back to our seat. Meditation trains the mind to return to the present, which in turn, returns self-agency to our life.

 

The true power of meditation is when the mind develops the capacity to recollect the discipline in everyday life. With training, we will remember to return to the present via the proxy of mantra or the breath every time we become distracted ot lost in our scheming, manipulating or daydreaming. In this way, we become less carried away with ourselves, and are able to retain balance and clarity in our lives. Of the various forms of meditation techniques I have studied, I prefer to begin with the breath, because the breath is reliably in the present. And, most importantly the breath is portable. It is always there with you. So, you can easily return to the present via the breath on a subway, in a car, on a date, in an interview or on the john. Mantra, contemplation and recitation can be used surreptitiously, but there is always a separation from the moment and a sense of doing something to correct the moment. The breath is elegantly brilliant as a tool because no one can fault you for breathing. Its fits right in to to the rhythm of living.  And, perhaps most importantly, the breath is an integral part of our somatic experience. The breath is not only happening in the present, it is happening in our body. So, it connects us to the body, and as we shall see offers us a very practical way of calming and soothing the nervous system to enhance mental clarity.

 

 

THE WISDOM TRADITION OF SHAMBHALA

The Wisdom Tradition of Shambhala is a western application of the traditional Tibetan Buddhist approach. The Tibetan Buddhist approach is very much aligned with its Northern Indian antecedents. In other words, like Indian Yoga, Tibetan Buddhist meditation is about synchronizing body, spirit and mind so the practitioner can have access to the present moment free of illusion, delusion or misapprehension. In Shambhala, however, the orientation is on the development of society into a compassionate and enlightened state. Therefore, rather than a spiritual ideal, it is a very practical way of manifesting ancient wisdom for the present time. Shambhala meditation is not sequestered to a cave, or darkened chamber. Instead, meditation is dedicated to the benefit of the planet and its attendant life. It is a very practical approach. Instead of removing the practice from the world, it is engaged in, and empowered by, our world.

 

I believe ancient wisdom once removed of its religious trappings is often based on very human, and as such, immensely practical, concerns. The Meditation from the Wisdom Tradition of Shambhala uses ancient wisdom to inform very present experiences.  At its core, is a belief in the fundamental goodness of humanity. It is a system based on developing the True Confidence which comes from training the mind. Simply said, if we develop belief in ourselves, and learn to trust ourselves, we can be a great benefit to ourselves and our world.  It is a manual, daily and practical approach that is empowering without ego building. In other words, its not flattering, or aligned with any competition. It does not offer any credentials. It is simply a way of connecting ourselves in order to connect to our life altogether. From that synchronicity, we are more in control of our lives. And, taking a warrior’s seat in meditation puts us directly in the center of that circumstance.

 

PERSONAL APPROACH AND SERVICES

My home school is Shambhala and this is the basis for which the other tools in the kit fit. Having a connection to a lineage offers the confidence to build a very customized approach to the student. I have also had extensive – and advanced – training in Vajrayana Buddhism, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Mahayana Buddhist LovingKindness and Compassion Practices, as well as Somatic Experiencing, authentic movement and other therapeutic practices. I have a deep connection to Native American Shamanism and the study of Taoist philosophy and the iChing that informs my understanding of life and practice. It is my belief that ancient wisdom can be interpreted practically to treat modern disconnects, and that meditation is a primary tool for reconnecting to our basic human nature.

 

I am available to offer one time or ongoing support to your mediation practice. We can sculpt an approach that suits your needs and lifestyle. I also have a series of guided meditations that delve into embedded obstacles in our psychological, and somatic experience for those who would like that kind of support. Whatever your needs, feel free to contact me for a free session of basic meditation training. If the clouds part and we continue a deep dive into meditation instruction from there, that is wonderful. My fees for meditation work are donations based on whatever fits your circumstances at the time(s) of our meeting.

 

If we decide to continue with life coaching we can discuss a fee structure.

 

But, should you take the instruction and decide to move on to other support, you will have a basic practice toward a path of self-knowing. In all cases, I am available for phone and textual advice to support your practice, at no charge, as you continue your journey.

 

It is my L I F E W O R K to bring meditation to life. Let me help you find a practice that will remain all your life.

 

joe@josephmauricio.com

347.403.2066

 

A LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS

HERE IS A LINK TO A TALK GIVEN AT SHAMBHALA NEW YORK (followed by a written companion post. )

 

A LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS

I’m writing this from deep winter.  It’s a time of environmental, spiritual and moral darkness. My spirits, like many, seem very low at times. Despite the triumphant chorus of another new year, the nights, although growing shorter, are still very long. This darkness evokes an unease and disquiet in the mind. We tend to blur the images, filtering the trauma of our collective and personal life experience into every life challenge.

 

Sometimes everything seems overwhelming.

 

As psychological trauma is buried within our consciousness, so it is embedded in the body. We literally carry this ancient pain consciousness with us everywhere.  Thus darkness in life seems to provoke ancient fears that threaten to cloud every opportunity. Each time we meet a new possibility, instead of the joy and openness that could lead to success, we might feel deflated and unsure. We all experience this sadness sometime. But, some of us feel it all too often until it seems to be the primary informant of our life. This post is especially for you. I feel for you, as I share this darkness too. However, I’m not going to make it better. Sorry. You see, I have found the secret to allowing the darkness to be a profoundly rewarding experience. I have devoted my life to knowing. To discovery. So, it becomes essential that I make a relationship to this shadow that has forever been there. Otherwise, I will never know it.

 

There is much we can say to try and distance our fear. But, as fear is part of an awake mind experience, aren’t we robbing ourselves of an essential wisdom experience when we try and prop ourselves up artificially?  I can tell you it will all work out. That everything has a reason. That it always works out. But these are words. Words are reasoning based on trite sensibilities we find comforting because we’ve heard them again and again. They are not informed by much of anything other than what we think should be happening. Words may calm the mind, but that balm is short lived if we are not addressing the essential HURT at the heart of our depression. And this hurt is embedded in our somatic experience. From there it influences our psychological and life experiences. It is essential that we begin to see. Which means feel. Words can only calm us down until we get there. But, once we get there? All we can do is open our eyes. And begin to absorb the dark until we begin to feel our way in.

 

Okay, then will we find a light at the end of our tunnel, at least?

 

Well, not so fast. How can we find light at all if we’re fixated on what that light will shine upon?  Then we’re looking for a new job, or the right partner.  Something to make us feel better. But we are no longer seeking the truth. We are no longer seeking know. We are thinking instead of feeling, and we will miss the point entirely. But, if the point of this life is to know what that life is we can no longer run from fear or sadness toward comfort and a reward in some other life. If our intention is to know ourselves, we would do best to decode the mysteries in this life.  We can see into the darkness by beginning, after so many years of running away, to look right into shadows.

 

The only way to find a light in the darkness is to open our eyes. If all we see is darkness, then we can simply just stay with that. Through meditation, we can develop the patience to let the mind settle and our mind’s eyes adjust. That means looking into our darkness with all the compassion, patience and strength we can muster. If we have experienced this darkness in one form or another all our known life, then perhaps it’s now time to see into it. Maybe it’s time we get to know this ancient friend. And, if we begin to see anything new about ourselves, or our experience, in the midst of this darkness, then there must be light.

 

That’s right. Maybe it’s opposite of our usual materialistic approach where we have something we’ve imagined in mind and bend the rules until we see it. This is waiting until we begin to understand something. And -possibly that understanding begins the basis for the way out of danger. It’s the seeing itself that brings light.  There is no proof of light until that light shines on an object. It can be posited that until there were objects to be seen, there was no light to see them.  In our case, if we are looking to see something we’ve heard about, we will likely only find darkness, or at best, shadows against the cave wall. But, should we decide to drop any project and simply turn from the cave our eyes will develop the strength to see.

 

Sakyong Mipham breaks the path of meditation into three components: Stability, Clarity and Strength. Stability of mind requires great patience. Patience is our ability to simply wait for the truth to arise. It is dependent on stabilization of mind. An uneasy mind is inherently unstable and will be impatient, looking for the easiest way out of discomfort. This uneasy mind lacks stability, has no patience and cannot see clearly. But, the surest way out of discomfort, is to simply relax there until things settle.  So, stability is developed through the gentle repetition of bringing the mind back to the breathing body again and again. Through this repetition, we gain a familiarity that allows confidence. It feels comfortable settling the mind.  Perhaps darkness itself becomes a balm of sorts. We have developed the patience to simply sit in the dark alone looking for nothing but what we will see. Then through that relaxation, the mind’s eyes open and become adjusted to the darkness.

 

The stability of mind  is dependent on the patience to NOT LOOK. We simply employ the meditation practice to relax into seeing. Boycotting the easy answers we return again and again to ourselves just here, just now, just so in the true present. The True Present is time beyond hours and calendars that is not affected by wanting, or needing or trying.  In the ‘True Present’ time is stable because the mind is stable. From this stability of time, free of looking away, the mind ‘s natural clarity will dawn.

 

Clarity is when we contact and understand what is actually there.  And while there are many extreme life circumstances that might cut through our discursive mind into direct contact with life – such as a car accident, an orgasm, hang gliding or childbirth –  a more sustainable and retrievable proposition would to develop clarity by stabilizing the mind. In this way, the clouds of confusion instead of being ripped apart, will just gently part.This sustainable clarity of mind is dependent on the context of stabilization. A stabilized mind is clear. A clear mind is strong enough to transform any difficulty into further understanding. Then whatever we feel we have the strength to stay openly present. In this way, fear can be used as a tool to keep us sharp and awake. We have developed the strength to allow the mind to open without being hijacked. We have the strength to remain open and see.

 

The Strength we develop from confidence in our clarity, becomes a tool to develop further strength of mind in life, love, work, darkness and light. Meditative repetition develops familiarity that breeds confidence, and that confidence gives us the strength to be able to withstand the pangs of fear in order to remain patient, stable and open.

 

The iChing states that when we perceive a light within, we will find the light to light our way from danger.  And it counsels us to “be like water” and continue flowing through all the deep places, filling up all the deadzones, seeing things from the point of view of the lowest element. Water. That nonetheless is always moving and will reach safety and clarity at some point.  So, as a practical concern, my advice is that all of this becomes easier if we have adopted a primary view of our life’s path. I urge my clients to find a self-statement that can set their journey on course whether or not they can see through the fog, storms or dark of night. What is your navigating principle? This is where rock hits bone. This is where we stop making up feel good tales and start to employ actual navigation of our path. So, my self statement – which is refined in time through daily meditation – is to gain clarity about myself in order to be help guide others to clarity. In this context, surviving darkness is not only assured, its essential. We must go through this because it’s ours to go through. So, rather than trying to help others by making them feel good about feeling bad, it becomes our purpose to give them the tools to better understand their darkness and find own their way out.

 

That light is born of darkness. And, it will guide you into great strength and understanding.

 

BE YOUR BEST NON-SELF

I wish you the best in this new year. Truly. Whether I know you or not. Whether I like you or not. Whoever you are, my best to you. The idea that happiness is a zero sum equation and that mine is dependent upon someone else’s lack, is a great fallacy. There is happiness enough for all.  And food, and clothing and money. Enough for everyone. Except that when we lack confidence, fear keeps us from enjoying our world. We feel we must take, segregate and manipulate to secure our position. We try and collect power, which is doubled when it comes at the expense of others. Then everyone is taking, scheming and, in plain fact, losing.  And this makes us very weak, indeed.

When we perceive our position to be weak, we become dangerous and the world becomes a dangerous place. There are many strategies to cope with our fear. Any that promise to remove the danger are selling us a bad bill of goods. Those easy ways out actually make us more vulnerable. We give ourselves away again and again, and this erodes our confidence over time.  There are many strategies for handing over the reigns of our self agency. Some of us seek a kind of provisional confidence in things that represent strength or safety. We become large with the largess of their vision. We lose ourselves jumping on bandwagons strewn with banners reading “make me great again”,”make me safe again”, “make me comfortable”, “help me find certainty in an uncertain world.”  But, how often do those wagons end up leading the blind to indentured servitude?   This might be a ‘yang’ approach to eroding our confidence. On the other hand, we might become very small. We might couch this as religious, holy even. We might adopt a false humility that is actually a defensive position.  While true confidence engenders humility and a willingness to be patient and kind with our world, there is danger in exaggerating humility into a self denigrating lack of ownership of our life. This abdication of our self-agency ultimately serves no one.  You might call this the ‘yin’ approach to lacking confidence.

 

In either the passive or assertive approach, we are giving ourselves away. Whether we are fighting, bowing or just getting high, all of a sudden we awaken to find we’re no longer in Kansas.  And Oz, it seems, is a place far from our imagining. In the movie, the wizard ended up changing all the characters lives by giving them nothing at all, but avatars of their own basic goodness.  “Where I come from we have folks that grow up strong in the fields, having been nurtured by their families and societies. We call them humans. And they have a basic goodness as their birthright.” As for Dorothy, she seemed to lack nothing but the ability to get back home. Her instruction? When you find yourself astray, simply feel your ruby slippers on the firm yellow brick earth and you’re home. In a practical sense, home is the present, free of projections. Home is our body. Home is our beautiful ruby shoes on the rich golden earth.

 

Now this doesn’t mean home is free of danger. It just happens to be the ONLY place you can work with danger. Life is simply safer if you’re there as an active participant. And a willingness to be there builds true confidence.

 

Yet, there are many ways in which we erode our confidence by denying ourselves in the garden. Many times we believed we needed something greater than ourselves to make it okay. This is addiction. Its is self-doubt. And in meditation circles it is based on theism. Theism is deeply ingrained in our society whether or not a god is involved. We can lose ourselves to our job, to our country, to our addictions, to anything that we determine is better than we are, or becomes more important than we are. Any time we decide something else is preferable to what our life is, or who we are, we are giving ourselves away. We will end up disappointed, and without hope. Once abandoned by our gods, when we find our idols have clay feet, we lash out and destroy them. And from their ashes will rise another idol for us to swoon over. This game continues on and on and gets no one anything but more servitude. And over time this erodes confidence. We can only shut ourselves out for so long before we will give up altogether.

 

The alternative to giving ourselves away is learning to develop true confidence. We do this when we build the fortitude to stay with discomfort and fear without checking out. We develop the strength to be alone with ourselves and our feelings for no reward except regaining OUR life. Sakyong Mipham talks about True Confidence. Unlike conventional confidence, which is dependent on external circumstances, True Confidence is a belief in yourself so deep and so naturally endowed no one can take it away. Only you can relinquish ownership of your heart. And, you will only do that when you are fooled into buying dross disguised as gold. Then, thinking there is an easy way out, we join the Pepsi generation and begin to follow someone else’s plan. The alternative is to stay the course by coming back to the breath over and over again, in order build the True Confidence to win our life back. This is the great power of meditation. It allows us to develop a strength that can never be weakened, as long as we believe in ourselves and our own goodness.  Believing in ourselves is the point. Whatever happens, it is our life. We can either participate, or capitulate. In truth, we will do both. We will rise to occasions as we can, and otherwise crawl under covers of one sort or another. However, the more we choose to stand in the fire of our own experience, the stronger and more independent we become.

 

So, with all this talk of confidence and self regard, what about this Buddhist business of egolessness?  Ugh! There’s that theism again. Our acculturated tendency toward extremes gives us a very impractical ‘all or nothing’ approach to our path.  Buddhism encourages the middle way free of extremes. It’s a very practical approach to traveling the meditation path. It’s not all or nothing. In fact, it’s everything. But, because it’s not limited to one thing, it’s often interpreted as nothing, or empty. However, the middle way speaks to all experience as having individual qualities of equal value. The practice is not to attach our identification to any of it. The less ownership we have in life, the more life we actually own. In this regard, the terms egolessness and nonself don’t imply self-denigration, abnegation or ignorance. They simply mean that we are much more than we think.

 

In our conventional (and less awake than could be) mind we hide ensconced in a discursive mental swarm that keeps us separated from the fresh possibilities of life. Our self confidence is based on what we can acquire and our self identity is largely based on what we perceive we lack. And all of it forged on reactions to other people’s input. We are reacting to our world in a way that will make that world feel safe for us. Ego structures work provisionally. They help grease the interface with the society it was created to serve. But, we are so much more than that.  The self is a small subset of the possibilities of who and what we are developed as a reference to navigate the storms of life.  Yet, to believe we are the self is to believe the sailor is the lifevest. Pema Chodron likes to say that some of us are only comfortable in a life vest over a wetsuit over thermal underwear. We are well protected from our life. Maybe a diving bell. But somewhere in there is a vulnerable flesh and blood entity that is subject to changing every moment. This is the being that needs to be brought out and given confidence.

 

Each time we flinch and contract ourselves into the panic and tension (that all too often feels comfortable to us), we squeeze ourselves into a small reactive entity. We hide in our wetsuit. But, we can’t stay there. That tension will kill us. Make no mistake. Squeezing ourselves into defensive postures will constrict us, and shut off our life force. We can only shut down so many times, before something in there gets the message. But, there is an alternative. Letting go. The practice of meditation is entirely forgiving. We can always come back. We can let go. We can simply feel our feet on the ground, and there we are.  Any system based in compassion and understanding would never deny the self. It might point beyond, but the only way beyond ego is to be confident enough to be able to let its gripping go. Ego structures gain power in our PHYSICAL GRIPPING. The antidote is simply to let go. Letting go does not mean getting rid of. It does not mean making an enemy of. Letting go means simply opening the grip and allowing the panic to subside and reveal the ground swell of fear beneath. Being frightened, and allowing yourself to be frightened without resorting to extraordinary external measures, is exactly what builds true confidence. We didn’t need a mommy, a boyfriend, a God or a president to pull us through. We were willing to sit there and feel our feelings without a bandaid. That is strength.

 

And if that sounds bleak, let me say that letting go of pleasure also opens to the true bliss beneath surface experience.  We learn to be alone with our feelings. This allows us to feel more fully. We have the confidence to open; open beyond our pain, and open beyond pleasure, open past the clinging to the surfaces of life to the raw human experience that is actually our life.  And, its okay if no one else knows, as long as we know. As long as we are willing to know more and more about what we are actually doing. Just us. And from that standpoint, we can naturally help others. Bleak? Well, maybe empty. Empty of all the stuff we encumber life with. But if we look into that emptiness, beyond our controlled presuppositions, life is full of possibility. Conversely, if we give in to our fear and reduce our mind to gripping and panic we become dangerous to ourselves and others. Yet, as all humans have basic goodness, if they have confidence in themselves, then if they can breathe, their actions will also be good. We will naturally help the world if we feel strong enough to do so. There is much energy devoted to making humanity feel unloved and unwanted, to keep us weak and at each other’s throats. But this is not the natural state of our being. And it is not the state we required to live in. The taxes are too high in that state. The natural state is a state of openness and grace for which the only tax is our own attention and confidence.

 

So, building confidence in yourself and your ability to deal with your pain, emotions and energy helps you to be your best non-self.  And then, you might discover all the yous out there waiting for you.

 

 

CHANGING INTO OURSELVES

Its that time of year, again. Once again, the beginning. Beginning lists of new beginnings. This year will be different, of course. We will change. All of us want to change. Change change change. But, have we ever looked at what we’re changing?

 

Seeing what we want to change would seem a necessary first step. Otherwise, any change, or program, or new beginning will be based on the same old self distrust. And, as my buddy Mike says, ‘when you get on the wrong train – every stop is the wrong stop.’ Once we head down that path every resolution we make will be met with the great resistance of someone untrusted and untrustworthy. What if this year we do things differently?  Maybe we can change the way we look at change. And the first thing we could change is our approach to our self-development. Rather than a fix-it plan, self development could be seen as a journey from self-consciousness to self awareness. The premise being we are worthy. We are worth discovering. Rather than getting on the wrong train running AWAY from ourselves, why not just stop, turn back to ourselves and begin to make a practical and functional relationship with the one who matters most.

 

Yes, Virginia. It really IS all about you.

 

But, maybe you’re tired of you. Maybe you’ve really given up. That is so sad. That’s letting go of the deepest part of you in favor of what everyone else thinks you SHOULD be. Perhaps you are embarrassed by that part of you that is frail, scared, dresses badly and just doesn’t get it. But what if the parts we’re hiding are the most precious parts of our being? What if that’s the very part of us longing to be discovered, heard, seen and developed.  Giving up what could be in favor of what should be is a poor trade. And what could be is only possible if we are willing to accept – and even learn to love – what is.  So, why not do it differently this time? Give yourself that chance this year. Trade self consciousness for self-awareness.

 

While there are many ways to become self aware, this post deals with mindful awareness meditation. Perhaps the foremost power of meditation is its ability to help us see who we are. Settling down and listening in are necessary precursors to knowing what we have to work with in the first place. When we meditate we’re just sitting there, aren’t we?  With ourselves?  We’re not doing anything else, so why not spend that time getting to know ourselves? Paying attention and learning to become familiar with the working basis. Familiarity develops strength in time.  The way to that kind of strength is to be willing to pay attention to ourselves as if we were important enough to warrant that, as though we cared enough about ourselves to actually pay attention and listen. And to develop the discipline to look beyond the stories we weave into the frail and beautiful truth beneath. Really knowing ourselves can only happen if we learn to pay attention without getting lost. When we’re lost in our narratives we become as fish swimming through water it never recognizes. Hence, fish that never understand their own basically good fishyness. They are IN themselves, but as they cannot SEE themselves, they never really come to KNOW themselves. The same can be said of most of us. Because we are IN ourselves, we never KNOW ourselves and so there is a sad patina of unease and distrust shading our every experience. Therefore, it becomes essential that we stop and listen into our experience. In order to do that imagine you are someone you love. How would you approach them? How would you make them feel at ease with themselves? You would listen without judgement and great patience. You would expect nothing and instead move gently toward a pure connection. But, if you want to guide that person, and find out what’s really beneath the talk, then we have to look deeper than the cognitive narratives in which we are lost.

 

So, once we are settled enough to be able to listen, ironically, the next step is to INTERRUPT ourselves. This is because we are likely listening to the discursive, superficial, habitual mind and we have so much deeper to go. So the meditative tool is an arbitrary gap we consciously insert into the thinking process. By interrupting the patterns that lul us into fish-lost-in-water-it-never-knows syndrome, meditation separates the repetitive patterning of mind from the space beyond.  That space masquerades as emptiness to an ordinary mind seeking to control situations. This is why that mind remains small – it reduces itself to a subset of a subset of possibilities it has seen before and can attempt to control. In contrast, the mind of meditation sees space as the field of possibility. This allows a greater context from which we can begin see the whole person. Through loving acceptance of ourselves we gain awareness of our patterns. By interrupting their flow and returning back to ourselves in the present, we eventually see beyond those patterns to the possibilities ahead. But armed with confidence born of awareness, we can venture toward the unknown firmly implanted in the earth of the present moment.  So, when meditating we endeavor to stay connected to ourselves via the breath. We stay grounded in ourselves relaxing progressively into truer and truer experience. We try and relax the mind so as to connect to its most natural experience. When we lose contact by forgetting where we are, and abandoning our somatic connection and present experience through the power of familiarity, we simply remember. And then, employing the discipline, we STOP.

 

And then returning to the breathing body we are back to our earth. It’s an amazing process.  We have gotten lost, found ourselves, remembered what meditation is and come back to our breath – all in a heartbeat. Amazing. This moment in meditation, almost too brief to mention, is when we are touching a part of the great synchronicity of enlightenment itself. Only then, it’s gone. But that’s okay. We can’t hold on to any experience longer than the experience lasts. If we do, we’ll end up with a dead thing in our grip, or a haunting association that bares no relevance to actual circumstances. Whatever our experience, the way to know ourselves is to see, feel, taste and touch what is actually happening, as it is happening. Then as soon as the mind begins to judge, manipulate, hold on, we manually let the muscles of the head relax, redirect our attention to what is actually happening in the body, and reconnect to the breath.  IN this way, we come back home to our complete experience, not just an imagined interpretation. Then resting with the breath, allow the mind to relax until we become distracted, and once lost will then become magically next jerked into awareness.

 

Each moment we connect to our breath, we are connecting to the present.  Paying attention to ourselves in this way, we are following – and developing – meditative discipline.  This allows greater and greater moments of what I call “wordless synchronicity”. This sense of being in the present without narration.  This is discovering who we are NOW. And familiarity with that brings the confidence to return here to the center of our life.And that, can only lead to loving ourselves. It inevitable. We love that which we understand and can have a working relationship. As we learn to see a bigger – and more interactive – picture of ourselves we become more comfortable with us. And, you can see that is is all about you after all. Until we see the “working basis” as Lord Gampopa described our body, spirit, mind, qualities and actions, we cannot know how or whom to change. And until we have learned to love that being, we have no hope of its transformation.

 

Please, please, please choose active interest and engagement in your life. If you do, the discipline of meditation will give you the strength to sit and face yourself at home and return to balance and presence in life. Then instead of changing some entity that we don’t even know in some direction we’re unsure of, we can simply relax and allow the changes to happen as they inevitably will. Yes, everything changes, correct? So, why would we need to make any change happen any more than we would make water be wet? We simply need to stop ignoring the process, and through familiarity with the subject, become strong enough to let it happen.

 

How do we do that?

 

Well, you might just sit down, relax and think about it. Then when you get bored, instead of getting up, get down further into yourself.  Connect to your breathing and its body. Find what feels like you and let yourself go. And if we get lost? Simply remember. Then we’re back. And eventually, without being specifically aware, come to know ourselves. And because of that, change beyond ourselves into the next perfect moment.

 

So, this new year why not turn resolutions into a revolution. Instead of turning away, turn toward yourself and find a partnership you can develop the rest of your life.