Day 243 - What is This?
I meditate daily. I have for years...decades really. But it has only been the last five years that it has become a daily practice for me. And I do not think it is a coincident that I have grown so much in the past five. Meditation is the practice of coming to know your own mind. Being able to watch it. Observe it. It is amazing that I can kind of be in a sleepy mental mood until I sit on the cushion...then it is like my mind is some sort of rubberband that someone just snapped alert and it is on! My mind used to start with all the reasons that I didn’t have time to meditate and honestly this thought more than anything else, is what kept me from having a daily meditation practice. I would listen to my head and I believed all it spouted. So my thoughts became my reality and I did not have time to meditate, solely because my head told me so.
But I realized that the information my head was providing me was not really true. I mean seriously, over my entire life I couldn’t ever spare 20 minutes or 10 minutes a day? But that is what my head told me...repeatedly.
Then one day I just sat down anyway. I decided that I would just sit there for as long as my head could stand; I would just sit there and let it protest and yell and scream and cry and distract and generally be incredibly difficult. But no matter what my mind threw at me, I would not rise until the gong sounded. It was a painful 10 minutes, I am not going to lie. But I did it. And this was the day that I really learned that my head will stop at nothing to get me to believe anything it thinks.
It was right here that I realized that most of what my head comes up with is bullshit. I have to kind of manage it like a kid manages their Halloween candy after a week, a lot of digging before you find anything you are really interested in...
So I began to go sit with myself daily to watch the show. I considered bringing popcorn but decided that I would instead just bring myself, solo. I would just show up and watch the Erin show in my mind for a few minutes everyday. It was fascinating! Spoiler alert - it is cray to the azy up in there!
I would start off with a chant then be quiet and count to 10 and watch my breath. I wouldn’t make it to 2 before my head had me somewhere deep in my past or living some grandiosity in the future. So I would have to lope out to either locale and rope myself back in and return to the present moment where I am just sitting on a cushion in my garden and I would begin again to count to 10.
In the beginning, I never made it past 3. Today, even still, I wander off a lot but it no longer frustrates me, in fact, I have come to expect it. It is more of a “oops, there I went again...ok, now you are back, let’s begin again shall we?” And so I do...every day.
What I have found in the intervening years is that my mind when stilled does throw up all sorts of excuses and reasons and they are often very insistent and clever. But no matter how urgent the thought may be, there is nothing in my life more important than me dedicating that time every day to sit with myself. I have come to ask myself this same question to everything my head projects:
What is this?
Whenever something comes up...I ask myself, “what is this?”
Then I do my best to just sit still and watch my mind go...like an unfurled flag in a high wind storm, it flaps and flutters and flails about...every. single. time! The urge to stay with any one of those flaps, flutters or flails is pretty dire sometimes but I have learned that if I can just keep letting it go, I land in some pretty amazing places with insight as the gift of riding the flagging mind.
I emerge sometimes from my cushion drained but more often I rise. Rise in spirit and in intention. I am there, in my life, living it and have just tapped into the land of heart and spirit if only for a few moments every day.
I have learned to just sit with it. Whatever it is. Good, bad, indifferent. It all comes and it all goes and I don’t have to get all riled up about any of it. They are just thoughts and none of them are really true and none of them are really false. They all just have the same qualities, the only real differences is the direction they are heading and their stickiness. Some thoughts are very, very sticky...and you probably guessed, it is usually the thoughts that do not paint me in a very good light.
I have learned though that regardless of how seductive the story, they are in the end, just thoughts.
So I have learned to ask myself “what is this?” Over and over and over again. I keep asking and my mind keeps going. Usually on some ridiculous thought pattern where I am saving the world or totally fucking it up, but in between my delusions of grandeur and ratbastardism, there exists a place where truth resides. A place where I find access to something that had remained hidden, it is a new thought about something or someone that allows for a perspective or paradigm shift. Sometimes I just start crying for no apparent reason. But I know that deep down inside me, there is always a reason. Some place within me where grief survived despite my intended commitment to banish all negative emotions forever. Today I just let the tears fall and ask myself, “what is this?”
For me, this question allows for a deeper dive into the recesses of my mind. It helps me see that there is always more there, more raw material for me to work with...
I have come to absolutely need and love my time with myself in this place and manner every day. It is where I find my center. It is where I recognize the divine within my soul. It is where I come to see that they are all only thoughts like small puppies clamoring for my attention and the ultimate goal of me taking it home. Today, my thoughts are really just interesting in how they take shape and how much they try to compel me into action. I am suspect of them all today regardless of whether or not I like them or hate them. They are all just right there, all the time forever.
I remain grateful for my cushion time, for my time where I get to see what this is...and even more grateful that there is a lot of space around my thoughts today and that meditation has given me the opportunity to think, really think first and act later. Meditation practice has shown me that when I give myself this quiet routine, I have more patience, love and tolerance for myself which in turn allows me to have more with you.
It is time now to begin that process, so I wish you a good day and encourage you to take just a moment today, even just one minute to sit quietly with your thoughts and watch them go. Touch them like feathers to a bubble...it is really something to behold.