not special

 

He was not special

For three days last spring, I was enrolled in a workshop of the Psychology of Yoga and Mindfulness with Michael Stone, a psychotherapist, Buddhist teacher and social activist. Despite having read his books and listening to his podcasts for years, this was the first time I had studied with him, in person.

I thought he was special.

When he learned that I was there for some professional development as a high school guidance counsellor on the cusp of launching a mindfulness program at my school, he elegantly wove helpful suggestions like “this would be great to use with students” into his lessons.

He made time during his breaks to meet with workshop participants. He made no outrageous claims to having all the answers and freely admitted his fears.
He had a great sense of humour.  He was as present with us as he could have been.

He invited us to not consider anything or anyone to be special.

As soon as we consider something to be special, we cling to it, try to capture it and recreate it in the future. But clinging only leads to sorrow.  Because everything passes. It all passes away.

Only a month or so after this workshop, Michael passed away.

He was not special. Only a set of conditions. Like us, he had his triumphs and his challenges, his fears and his acts of outrageous courage and he did the best he could with what he had. Through my clinging and deep mourning of the loss of my teacher, I was invited to learn once again to let go of what I think of as special.

Everything passes. It all passes away.

 

She is not special

Like me, she was one of the first to arrive on the Friday morning.  Arriving early is a trait I instantly admire in a person. Clearly eager to learn , we set up our mats and cushions at the front, close to the mat set out for the teacher and introduced ourselves to each other. We quickly partnered up for activities which is how we found ourselves sitting face to face for a powerful guided activity. As we sat cross-legged with our knees touching, we followed Michael’s direction to look closely, deeply at the other person while staying completely present in our bodies for what seemed like a very long time.

I thought she was special.

She is a set of conditions. Like you, she has her triumphs and her challenges, her fears and her acts of outrageous courage and is doing the best she can with what she has. Can you give her the gift of being completely present for her right now knowing that one day she will pass away? Not off in your head thinking about something else. But right here. Now. Coming back always to looking deeply into her face without judgment.

As the minutes on the clock ticked by so slowly, her face changed. It went from determination, to discomfort, to curiosity before it softened. I felt my face soften after moving through similar experiences. By staying right there, my breath began to soften in my body and my body felt at rest. I felt a gratitude for the present moment. For her. For him. For me.

Despite my gratitude for her in that moment, clinging to her and our shared experience is folly. The moment has passed. It no longer exists.

Everything passes. It all passes away.

 

I am not special

Nothing to see here. I am merely a set of conditions. And doing the best I can. Nothing to cling to. I too will pass.

 

You are not special

 

 

be where you are

I wish I was home already”.

This was a vague, shadow of a thought I had while walking home from yoga class one day this summer. I was not having an off-day nor did I have anything pressing at home that needed my attention. In fact, I was the right in the middle of an absolutely splendid summer of rest and rejuvenation.

At that moment, I simply wanted to be further along the path than I was.

A few weeks later, the path led me down a busy city street of colourful sights and sounds in Santiago, Chile.

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This time, the thought was a little louder and much clearer than before.

I wish I had a change of clothes”.

This, after the implementation of quickly-laid travel plans, sitting and sleeping through a smooth flight and enjoying a certain underlying thrill of an unexpected, first-time trip to South America.  I was surrounded by abundance.  But clearly abundance wasn’t enough for me.  I wanted to be on this adventurous path wearing different clothes than the ones I’d had on for three days.

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In each case, I was distracted from where I was and what I was doing by the thought of where I could be and what I could be doing.

Wishful thinking.

Putting the present moment on hold.

Dissatisfaction guaranteed.

The present moment is literally as close as my next inhale and exhale.  So why would I want to be anywhere else than where I am?

Even when the path underfoot is pebbled with the grayness of boredom or obstacles to step over, why choose to wish time away?

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Right here, right now is closer than you think.

And is not found in wishes.

And it is good.

 

the matter of grey matter

The mighty mind.  The brilliant brain.  Where grey matter matters.

Many of us view our minds as the essence of who we truly are.  The ‘real’ us. Thereby relegating our bodies to the role of receptacles that house our ever-important thoughts, ideas, visions and brainwaves.

Our minds are the mighty monster machines that leap moments in a single bound; jumping from past to future faster than a speeding bullet.

But our bodies cannot be anywhere else but here. They can’t drift off on fantastical adventures. They are rooted here. They root us here. They are tailor-made for the present moment.

Think of a time when your mind was drifting off from what was in front of you to somewhere else. Then, all of a sudden, a physical discomfort, or tickle or itch brought you back to the moment where the discomfort, tickle or itch actually existed.  Brought you back to your body that was still right where your mind left it to wonder, desire, fret, consider or ruminate.

Trying to think of being in the present moment or attempting to will yourself to be present doesn’t work. Believe me, I’ve tried. The present moment is not in your mind.  Its waiting for you to be discovered in your body.

 

 

Sitting, breathing and settling your restless mind on the grounded-ness of your body is a start to discovering the present moment right there in your body, in your breath.

In this way, the body is like a magnet, pulling the present moment to you and gently inviting your mind to come in. To come in, settle in and rest.

Even right now, this very second, let your mind rest on the breath moving through your body, filling and emptying.

By noticing the breath moving in your body, the present moment is magnetically drawn to you. Your body, firmly rooted in the present, invites, this moment to stop by for a visit.

And the body continues to greet you each time your wandering mind recognizes the breath’s movement, stops to engage and watch then choosing to sit for a moment with it.