to think or not to think

After posing questions to the meditation session participants, inviting them to reflect on those questions, and then sharing in a silent group meditation practice, a participant asked,

“You give us lots to think about during the reflection time and then are we      supposed to stop the thinking during meditation?  I’m so confused about  when I should be thinking or not thinking.”

Great observation.

To think or not to think.  Is that the question?

There’s nothing wrong with thinking or not thinking.

The key is to have enough influence over your own mind so that your mind is not compulsively running the show 24/7 and dragging you along helpless for the frenetic ride.

 

Whatever you are doing, do it.

When you’re thinking, think.

When you’re meditating, notice the thoughts, notice the desire to think then train the mind to come back to the breath or the body while letting the thoughts go. 

porch solitude

 

I remember a time when I first started meditating, many moons ago, I was absolutely thrilled for some quiet time to sit and think during meditation. I had created no space in my daily life to think.

Clearly missing the point of meditation. But this view of meditation-as-permission-to-think viewpoint made training my mind to settle even more challenging .  I was filling the stillness and space with thinking.  Intentionally yet unaware...story of my life!  

 

But once I introduced intentional times of non-doing and constructive rest into my life and gave myself permission to indulge in as much relaxed-body and mind thinking time as I could handle.  This allowed the training my merry-go-round mind in my mediation practice easier. Not easy. Just easier.

To think or not to think is not the question.

Being aware of thinking and choosing when to do it and when not to do it is the practice.  It is your practice.  It is my practice.  Still.  Always.

It’s a question of who is ultimately in charge. You?  Or your mind?

 

look then look away

Frankie’s Fixation

My sister’s dog is a Dorkie. A Dorkie is a cross between the Dachshund and the Yorkshire Terrier not a dog who is slow-witted or socially inept although this dog does have some interesting quirks.

Frankie the Dorkie

During our recent family gathering, Frankie the Dorkie would sit beside the refrigerator with his glance fixed firmly on a bright green frog-like fridge magnet. Despite the constant, buzzing activity and social antics of the dozen or so adults, children and four other dogs all around him, Frankie’s gaze remained steady.

But then looking was no longer enough for him. He would then begin to whimper with only the occasional glance away from his beloved magnet to see if anyone would come and lower the magnet on the fridge so he could get a closer look.  When the whimpering didn’t work, he tried barking.

For some reason, we were all quite amused at this fixation and would lower the magnet to see what would happen next. Frankie would get visibly excited as the magnet made its way down to where he could reach it. He would sniff it and then he’d take it gently in his mouth and run away.

Laughing, we’d retrieve the magnet and put it back on the fridge to only start the sitting, staring and whimpering process all over again.

The humour wore off much sooner than Frankie’s steely resolve and we finally hid the magnet on top of the fridge. Frankie was not to be deterred and he just kept staring at the top of the fridge where he thought the magnet was.

Days later now, an email from my mother, who is babysitting Frankie for the week, explained that he is still obsessed with the magnet even though it is no longer even on top of the fridge. To prove that to Frankie, she put him on top of the fridge to show him that there was nothing up there.

It was no use. He is a dog obsessed. Holding on to something that is not his and never will be. Waiting impatiently and expectantly for something even with clear evidence that it may not even exist anymore.

It may be easy to write off Frankie as a canine oddity but those of us who walk on two feet instead of four still struggle with fixations and obsessions.

 

“It has to happen exactly this way or it’s not right”

“I need more…. time, money, friends, support, hope… then everything will be fine”

“He hurt me and I will never be able to forgive him. Ever.”

 

Resolve, Resolutions and Acceptance
In this season of goal setting, can we all find space to accept all of it?

All aspects of ourselves and our lives. Get up on top of the fridge and see that we may be fixated on an empty space and then accept that. The fixation and the empty space.

Then look away and accept that, too.

To what do you cling?  Can you accept the clinging?  Can you accept the letting go?

Be well, be happy and be at peace this coming year.

Compassion starts at home.

 

 

life is not messy

Life is straightforward; a continuous cycle of beginnings and endings.

That’s it.   It’s not messy.  It’s not neat.  It’s not complicated or controllable.  It just is.

We’re fond of saying “life is messy” when we forget that.

We show that we have forgotten it when we concretely label the ups and downs of life as good and bad, when we react to situations with disbelief that something like this could happen to us, when we are frequently overcome by heavy emotions that are weighted down with distorted thoughts or even when we are running high on ecstatic thoughts at finding “it”, the answer to our problem.

porch solitude

In any moment when life seems particularly messy, pause, breathe and dig deep to find out what your underlying expectation or unspoken belief is for that particular moment. Then challenge it, exhale it and remember that the cycle is beyond good and bad.

It is just what it is.

If you don’t become the ocean, you’ll be seasick every day.

Leonard Cohen

nowhere to go. nothing to do. no one to be.

It’s hard to believe that it was four years ago now when I crossed a line. It was the day I removed my shoes and socks and stepped my bare feet over the border of my comfort zone and joined a community yoga class. Once there, I was continually stretching and stretched in more ways than one.

Before that fateful day, the only knowledge I’d had about yoga had come from the books and videos I’d borrowed from the public library. Confused hours were spent on the carpeted floor in front of my television wishing I could get a 360 degree view of the leotard-clad instructor so I could see exactly how her left ankle appeared to be attached to her right ear.

Mellow Monkey

Being in an actual class with a three-dimensional instructor was a much more effective way for me to learn especially since all the teachers at the studio were keen on the ‘come and watch’ version of demonstrating the pose first and explaining in detail the geeky why’s, what’s and how’s of each pose. And not once was I asked to turn myself into a human pretzel or attach my ankles to my ears.

At the end of my very first class, all newbies were instructed to lie down on our backs into what is known in Sanskrit as Savasana or Corpse Pose. After an hour of lengthening and stretching my overly-constricted body that had been tightly wound for several decades, I laid my shaking limbs down thinking that pretending to be a corpse for a few minutes would be just what I needed to recover enough for the long walk home after class.

Once the darkened room was quiet, and the softly-spoken instructions for the restorative pose tailed off, the teacher’s next words floated out over all the resting corpses like a blessing or words of commissioning that would accompany them to the new world of resting deeply. The blessing was:

Rest now. There is nowhere to go. Nothing to do. No one to be.  Just be and breathe.

And then silence.

And deep, deep relief.

I was totally off the hook. For the next ten minutes, I was given space and choice to do nothing. To let go of the need to produce, to power through, to prove. It lasted for a second. But for that second, I was free.  All I had to do was be and breathe.  I could do that.

That incredible feeling of liberation that came from this first experience was short-lived because, as a recovering perfectionist, of course I had to question whether or not I was ‘doing nothing’ correctly. Am I resting deeply enough? How could I be doing this better? Could the teacher tell that I was over-thinking it? Was anyone else struggling to stay in the moment? Obsessive much?

It has only been with time (years of it), self-compassion, regular practice and holding loosely onto outcomes that I have re-discovered subsequent moments of freedom from over-doing, over-thinking, over-producing. Beautiful, soft, liberating moments of non-doing.

Now, at the end of each of my personal yoga practices or as I am preparing to go to drift off to sleep at night or in the midst of a stressful situation, I assume the position of the corpse and bless myself.

Rest now. There is nowhere to go. Nothing to do. No one to be.  Just be and breathe.

 

 

letting go

If memory serves, I was fourteen years old when I first came upon a dog-eared copy of a Wayne Dyer paperback in a cardboard box of my mother’s books and had my first close encounter with the concept of ‘self-actualization’. I was hooked. Ass-over-tea-kettle in love at first self-development sound byte. It didn’t help that it was clearly such an incredibly sexy word! Don’t you love the way ‘self-actualization’ sounds rolling off your tongue? So what did it matter that I didn’t truly know what it meant or how following its siren call down the left-foot path of life would impact me from then on?

If I’m computing correctly then that means I’ve been walking this personal growth road for literally decades which begs the questions, “where is this path headed” and “when am I going to arrive? Questions more to be asked than answered. Yet no matter where it leads, I am thoroughly enjoying the journey. Learning, growing, evolving….zzzzzz!

Geez, sometimes I even bore myself.

Enough already.  Time for a time-out.

I feel the immediate need to stop learning, growing and evolving and just ‘be’.  For just this moment.  Can’t I take even one moment without naming a specific goal and supporting it with a well-constructed strategic plan? Or spend one evening not examining, analyzing, making a tomorrow’s “to-do” list, plotting beneficial outcomes or being a binge-perfectionist with every thought?

Time to let something go.  Let it all go.

Ways I Will Choose to Let Go This Weekend

  • Stop smiling.  Sorry Thich Nhat Hahn. Love you, but need this.
  • Get out of my head.  Dig in the garden. No mental weeding necessary.
  • Write and say nothing.  A break from bearing witness.
  • Hope for nothing.  It is what it is.
  • Despair nothing.  It is what it is.
  • Be. Wherever I am, whatever I do or not do, be it for all I’m worth. 

Sleeping Cat

So if you wonder where I’ll be this cool, autumn weekend, that’ll be me taking a nap at the side of the road in a bed of reds and oranges.  Rousing occasionally to watch the clouds float by and let my thoughts do the same, counting my blessings, watching my breath, wishing for nothing and only incidentally accomplishing something.  By accident only, not by design, I promise.