Monday, June 21, 2010: Interconnected joy
After two yoga classes on Sunday, I felt elated, delighted, and sincerely joyful. Joy-ful. My soul truly felt brimming with joy. It was amazing, and wonderful, and cool. Very, very cool.
When I woke up this morning, my soul had retained the joy from yesterday, and I felt so bright, and positive, and truly happy. It was beautiful!
I completed my morning routine (yoga, meditation, shower), joy still in tact. I drove to work in a rainstorm, and arrived to the parking garage still happy. I walked from the garage to my office building, genuinely smiling the whole way. Good, good stuff.
I got to my desk at work. Slowly, over the course of the day, I interacted with people. Some expressed frustration with others. Some made negative comments about various situations and circumstances. Some “joked about” (mocked) other humans. Some shared events from the weekend with a “yeah, but…” attitude. (As in, “yeah, the sunshine was nice; but it was too hot…”; and other similar ways of expressing a negative sentiment with every statement offered.) And while I refrained from engaging in these behaviors (i.e., I didn’t get frustrated, I didn’t critique, I didn’t mock, I didn’t complain), with each interaction I experienced, I felt a tiny little morsel of joy slip away, leave my presence, leave me, leave my soul.
By the end of the day I was still “happy”, still positive, still pleasant in my mood; but not ecstatically, jubilantly, wildly JOYFUL like I had been 8 hours earlier.
Interestingly, over the course of the day, I was really aware of what was happening. With each interaction, I sincerely, truly witnessed another small drop of joy leaving the reservoir I had inside of me. I really did see the impact of these seemingly “small” comments, and how they affected me. None of the statements others made were about me – but that didn’t matter. The comments were about people, and the tenor was about negativity; and my sensitive soul picked up on those two things, and I was impacted.
Today, I received a lesson in interconnection; specifically, in how deeply we all really *are* connected. If I make a flip comment about another person, and even if that other person is not around, and even if that other person never finds out about the comment, my action has caused harm. The negativity of the comment has spread to anyone who may have heard the comment. And even if no one is around (i.e., I’m talking to myself), I have still caused harm with the comment – I have fed a seed of negativity inside of myself, which will be spread to others in the world at some point in time (likely in the near-immediate future) via negative thoughts, negative mood, and ultimately negative actions and behaviors.
There is no such thing as a “victimless crime”; even if I am by myself, if I am feeding seeds of negativity, judgment, criticism, hardness, harshness, or worse, I *am* hurting the world. I am hurting myself, and in hurting myself, I will hurt others. A person in pain has no choice but to share pain (even if it’s just a teeny, tiny bit); a person in fear has no choice but to share fear (even if it’s just an itty-bitty morsel); a person in self-criticism has no choice but to share criticism (even if it’s just an itsy-bitsy drop); and all of these minuscule amounts take at least the equivalent amount of joy from others, if not more.
And I got to experience all of this today; really, deeply experience it. It was an amazingly powerful lesson; and it makes me want to do all I can to love myself and accept myself and treasure myself – ALL of myself – as much as I absolutely can. By becoming the most exuberant, delighted, accepting, joyful person possible, I have a small chance at truly helping the world; and perhaps even changing it. Wow.
Friday, June 11, 2010: Membership, belonging, longning
This morning I met with the guiding teacher at a local meditation center, to get advice on some challenges I have recently become aware of in my practice. It felt wonderful to talk with someone who not only “gets it” (i.e., who [through personal, direct experience] truly understands and appreciates both the struggles and the amazing goodness that can come out of a consistent meditation practice), but who is also more experienced than I am, and further along the path than I am; and so can help me as I progress in this journey, pointing out spots that may be tricky or potentially problematic, and also alerting me to really cool things that might be ahead – so that I can be on the lookout for all of these things as I approach the various areas along the path. And I appreciate the “trustworthiness” of this individual, as he has not only read about the terrain of this path and studied various maps, but has actually physically walked down a section of the path before – so he can draw on his own personal, direct, real experience (and not be solely dependent on intellectual, conceptual understandings [which may or may not accurately reflect the true reality of the situation]).
In having this one-on-one time with the teacher, I became aware of how much I miss being a member of a group of like-minded people, who willingly and happily invest time, energy and effort practicing (living) the same “values” (for lack of a better term) that I also hold, who attempt to direct their minds and their hearts in the areas that I also believe are positive, constructive, worthwhile, important. Meeting with the teacher today reminded me of how powerful interpersonal connection can be in supporting what can be challenging (yet positive and life-enhancing) efforts, and how important being an active member of a community can be, and how lonely and discouraging it can feel to not be “a part of”. Hmm…
I guess I have some things to reflect on. I’m curious to see what the “next phase of my development” may yield.
Saturday, June 5, 2010: A meditation “break through” – kind of
For the past week or so, I have been struggling in my meditation practice. The “concentration” part of the Vipassana mindfulness-concentration combination has been quite weak; and as a result, my meditation sessions have amounted to little more than games of fetch with my mind. (I.e.: My brain throws out a toy [a thought], and my mind chases after it; but then my mind sees a squirrel and gets SUPER excited and runs into the woods chasing after that; but then my mind notices a scent on the tree that the squirrel ran up, so my mind needs to obsessively investigate that… and so I then walk into the woods, find my mind, and gently bring it back to the open field where we were initially practicing how to “sit”. I’ve almost gotten the mind to the edge of the woods and we are approaching the clearing, but then my brain tosses out another toy [thought], and my mind wriggles out from beneath my hands, and BAM – is off into another part of the surrounding wilderness again, chasing ever-elusive toys. And this scenario is repeated again and again, my brain never ending with the supply of “toys” [thoughts] to throw my mind, and my mind never failing to find yet another space to get lost into…and me finding my mind in a myriad variety of lakes/ravines/forests/back yards/etc., and walking it back to the clearing where it and I are “supposed” to be learning how to sit.)
I’ve been trying to work with this situation just as it is, and have been really trying to notice precisely when/under what conditions my mind is most likely to make a break for it and run; and after several days of dedicated observation, I have found that my mind is getting lost most often in the spaces between breaths. As I am inhaling, my mind can stay with the sensation of air hitting my nostril; but in the pause between inhale and exhale, when no external sensation is palpable, my mind somehow thinks the lack of sensation is a cue to take a break; but because my mind is still a puppy in this whole process, it’s bouncy and peppy and BURSTING with energy – and so a micro-second break is all it needs to run off completely wild. Once I am able to find the mind, and together we find the exhale, I’m good to go for a small bit, feeling the exhale on the nostril. But again, once the pause between exhale and inhale takes place, the “void” of sensation, of activity, tells my mind “break time!”, and we repeat this drifting/running/chasing process again, and again, and again…
I am told that meditation is simply a controlled environment for “real” life; that whatever happens in meditation occurs in the broader life as well; so skilled meditators take advantage of the “laboratory” of meditation, and see what findings in the meditation setting can be applied to the broader life. As I reflect on the awareness gained in my meditation practice from this past week, I see corollaries between my mind going wild in the pause between breaths, and my head going a bit crazy in the pause between larger daily activities (i.e., in the transition between home and work/work and home), and between even more subtle transitions (like from one work task to another, or one home activity and another); and even in the larger scale transitions (between one day and another, one month and another, one holiday and another, one season and another, one year and another…).
Hmm. So, I guess my meditation practice from this past week was actually more beneficial and “productive” than I initially thought. But I still feel like the concentration side of the mindfulness-concentration pairing is in need of “more”. But I guess I get to sit with that, and wait for “more” to be revealed to me.
P.S. To fellow Buddhists: I realize the futility of claiming the mind as “mine”; in this blog I use the terms “I”, “me”, and “mine” for the sake of clarity via written language. In my practice, and in my daily life, I try to recognize and remember the futility of clinging to anything as “mine”, especially this impermanent, always-changing mind.