ride on

Even though it’s February, I had the incredible joy of cycling to work this week.

Along with the sheer lack of snow and ice along the path, the biggest motivator for me to get my bike out of the garage this morning, was this amazing morning light.

It was incredible.  It was as if I was looking through the shadowy tunnel of a dim, distant winter and seeing soft yellow-orange rays of sun peeking through.  For this reason, it’s (almost) okay that we are likely in for a large dump of snow in a few days.  I will take this one moment of gratitude for the light.

Brighter mornings, sunnier days and the sounds of birds chirping can certainly add some buoyancy to days that can so easily be filled with concern or struggle.

But are these very small, very welcome harbingers of spring enough to uplift when the dim tunnel also reveals much darker, less-welcomed events and situations?

• Serious illness of someone close to us
• Harmful choices we make to stay stuck in destructive patterns
• Negative choices others make near us
• Highway fatalities
• School shootings
• Courageous demonstrators against     injustice seemingly getting nowhere with   policy changes
• Online trolls baiting readers with     inflammatory over-generalizations and   irrational comments
• Others taking the bait and arguing with   said trolls, circular arguments going nowhere
• Wanting to respond but reacting instead

 

Where is the light that uplifts us when dark, heavy matters are constantly right in front of our faces, news-feeds and inboxes?

Do we bury our head in the sand, self-medicate to numb the overwhelm or raise our voices in protest?

 

Group Thoughts

In a mindfulness group session recently, thoughtful, engaged participants shared their ideas for staying resilient in turbulent times.  Here are some of those ideas:

1.         Consume media mindfully as opposed to compulsively

2.         Read thoughtful writers and not just sensationalist media sources

 
3.         Look for the “helpers” – Fred Rogers’ (aka Mr. Rogers) mother taught               him to see those who were doing good things during troubled times.

4.         Be a helper. Volunteer in your community. Be part of your community.

5.         Be grateful. Look for light in even dark situations.  It is always there!

6.         Sit with and breathe through the discomfort. The anger. The fear.

7.         Be kind and compassionate with yourself and others.

 

“I have seen many storms in my life. Most storms have caught me by surprise, so I had to learn very quickly to look further and understand that I am not capable of controlling the weather, to exercise the art of patience and to respect the fury of nature.”

Paulo Coehlo

 

We can’t control the turbulence of life, but we can allow ourselves to sit with the hard feelings in the dark, notice the light that is there, contribute where we can and then sometimes, just sometimes, we can get on our bikes and ride!

 

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?