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.