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My ears often perk up whenever I utter the words, “I have to…,” or “I had to…”
I am working on conditioning myself to avoid those words.
Similarly, I’m cautious when I hear others claim, “I have to go to work,” “I had to vote for him/her,” or, “I had to put my pet down.” The only thing we really have to do, is breathe. Everything else is optional. That includes food and drink, or else demonstrators could never go on a hunger strike. Granted, a no-breath strike would be, literally, short- lived, but that’s besides the point…
When we use have or had, all we are doing is seeking justification to an action we do have a choice for; and that is why those words are more dangerous than they may, at first, seem. Have and had give us permission to act without taking full ownership. “It looked like he was holding a gun so I had to shoot him.” “I have to work at this stinking job or else how would I pay my bills?” “I cannot stand him but I have to stay with him.” Have and had dispower us. My aim is to replace those with choose: “I choose to go to work,” “I chose to vote for him/her,” “I choose to put my pet down.”
Now I really have to finish this blog post and move on to do the other things I have a choice about doing…
When teaching ‘Introduction to Meditation’ workshops, I often begin the session with a question: “What do you think of, when you hear the word meditation?”
A common answer is “emptying the mind.”
Let’s explore this idea. Can the mind really be “empty?”
The simple answer is that the mind is never vacant. In fact, if it was to be empty, I would be gravely concerned…
When we practice meditation, we practice flexing the mind so it is able to be fully present and engaged in the moment. That is to say, a rigid mind gets stuck in its own made-up loops. A flexible mind does not. Therefore, we are not trying to empty the mind as it holds so many treasures. Rather, what we wish to achieve is a way to quiet the whirlpool in our heads by way of purposeful relaxation. We do this the same way we practice yoga: by slowly taking on mind “postures” and examining them. We observe, and we let go. It is a practice that takes time. The more we do it, the easier letting go becomes, and we can obtain control which allows us, in turn, to be present. Thus meditation is not about emptying but rather about having a mind engaged in the moment. This allows us to write, sing, dance, work, and play, all while being in a state of meditation.
Another common confusion is the difference between meditation and concentration.
Concentration is a milestone on the road to meditation, but these are not one and the same.
I will leave this as a topic for another post.
Patience is surrender,
to this moment,
and the next,
and to the one that follows.
Patience is the antithesis
for measuring time.
It is learned from a tree;
it is a soul gaining wisdom,
through endless life-cycles.
Patient is a Divine Spark within,
one that, on occasion, gets a little dim,
but never quite extinguished.
Patience is something
I am in high demand, yet short supply of.
It is an all but a forgotten virtue,
our entire society seem to lack.
Yet patience depends on no one and no thing,
as it is also… hope.
Cary, NC, October 15, 2017
(c) 2017 Ronen Divon. All Rights Reserved.
On some mornings I just can’t seem to find time to meditate. And for me, if I don’t meditate early in the morning, I will likely not meditate at all.
What does it mean that I cannot find time to sit on a pillow, close my eyes and ponder?
I’ve been around long enough to realize that not finding time, stands for having other priorities. It simply means that meditation is no high enough on my priority-list, compared with other items such as, well, heading to the office to take care of business…
I know I should meditate. It does me good. Thus, I cut a deal with myself; if I cannot find twenty to thirty minutes for that pillow, I sit for at least five minutes.
“Ha!” you may say, “what can five minutes do for you?”
Curiously, that was my response as well, so I am glad you’ve asked.
Here is what I answered myself, or, in other words, what five-minute meditation taught me:
1. It is truly not about ‘size’ i.e. length. Yes, more time may be helpful, but the mere fact I made time, never mind how much, to meditate, means I care enough about my well-being and that is a good start.
2. It is not about nothingness. True that within the space of five minutes, it is challenging most days (although not always,) to reach ‘nothingness’. But, and I can testify to this from personal experience, nothingness is not really the ‘goal’ of meditation. If there is an aim for this practice, the practitioner is missing the point. Meditation is a practice, nothing less, nothing more.
3. When I cannot have everything (enough time) to obtain nothing (which is anyhow not the goal,) sometime something (5 min) is enough.
The above may beg another question: if one can obtain in five minutes what others require in thirty minutes, why would one even want to spend more than five minutes meditating?
Using love-making as a metaphor, I can say this: climaxing is lovely, but as I age, I realize how much it is also about what comes before and after. When I meditate, it is not about achieving anything during those moments on the pillow. Many people who attempt meditation, suffer from a misconception related to the notion of obtaining nothingness. Funny how that is an oxymoron all by itself: gaining nothingness… But wordplay aside, meditating, whether with a quiet mind or one that keeps wondering, changes something inside; call it brainwaves, alpha, theta or anything else meditation scientists wish to name it. And that something that shifts inside, stays with me throughout the day. If I can allow time to prolong the process a little longer during my mornings, all the better. I much enjoy it. But if I cannot, five minutes will do just fine.
Learned from: reflections on my five-minute meditation
When my cat spots a bug on the wall, she can sit for eternity and a day, staring at it intently, waiting for the insect to make a move so she can play the hunter. She is so focused, it seems nothing can distract her (except for, maybe, the food bowl.)
Yet, at any given time, and for no apparent reason, she may also lose interest . When that happens, she may lick her paw and go take a nap; that bug on the wall all but forgotten. When cats let go, they truly let go…
Some days I wish I had more of that capacity — to be able to pay absolute and undivided attention; not to mention that wonderful ability to instantly and completely letting go.
Learned from: observing Tess tracking some bug or other on the wall
While visiting a Tibetan-Himalayan store at my hometown, I had a chat with one of the shop’s owners. I mentioned to her my interest in Shamanism, and inquired as to the role such Medicine Men play in the society she came from. She told me she grew up in a refugee camp in Nepal. The nearest hospital was hours away, and thus the Shamans in the camp took care of illnesses, as well as matters of the spirit. She said that she can testify first-hand to Shamans helping a person heal from kidney stones, and how a Shaman, after several days of intensive work, cured a man that was bitten by a rabid dog.
Remember the days scientists, alchemists and astronomers were persecuted; chased off to hide in cellars for the fear of their lives? Aside of reading about it, we no longer know much of those dark times. We were born into an age that celebrates science and technology. We are people that want to develop artificial intelligence, aspires to populate the stars.
Yet, there were those medieval years, when religious institutions, thirsty for power, would have none of that. Curiously, it all seems to go in cycles. Those same institutions, before transforming into the behemoths they came to be, were cults persecuted by the religion that was the flavor of the day; be it Judaism, Christianity or Islam. It seems that whomever comes to power, does to its inferiors what they did not wish upon themselves. But I am digressing.
Let’s go back, reverse the wheel of time, and travel into the past; way, way back.
Our forefathers, some of which still believed the Earth to be flat, (whose descendants, or at least some of them, apparently, still believe today in the Flat Earth theory…) knew nothing of Einstein’s theory of relativity, let alone iPhone 7. During those long-forgotten days, Shamans and Medicine Men had a role in their societies; be it a tribe or a village. They were held in high-respect as the communicators of divine and mysterious wisdom. Such men were consultants to anyone in need; a simple villager who had a feud with his neighbor, or the chief of the tribe, deciding whether to wage a war with a another nation. These occultists, if to expand their defined range, were considered holy rather than lunatic; their insights drawn from celestial mysticism. Some were frauds; no less frauds than the bulk of today’s politicians, but many were not. They had a talent, a gift of connecting with an astral plane and receiving answers to difficult questions. What happened with these people?
Organized religion and modern science drove them away as they were considered a threat to those in power. We discarded them as yesterday’s news; a fad we no longer had use for. Surely my Rabbi, Priest or Doctor have the correct answer; and if not them, there’s always Google… In our rush to make progress and shed off old superstitions, we did ourselves injustice and, to rephrase a corny idiom, threw the shaman with the bathwater. With that, we lost an important means of communication with a different plane of existence, the astral, the celestial; a realm that faithfully guided us, humans, during our earlier years as a specie. We felt like we grew out of that infantile phase of believing in tales. Yet, as Joseph Campbell would have surely told us, the myths are who we are. Our wisdom does not come from building spaceships; that is knowledge. Our wisdom comes intuition which draws, in turn, from another realm.
Shamanism still exists today, mostly in remote tribes and in cultures we consider backwards. While we struggle to find a higher-meaning to what we can do with all our amazing achievements, our technology, our knowledge – stored in terabytes out there in cyberspace, it may be time to open the door and let the Medicine Men back in. Ultimately, we are all Shamans, even if many of us did not yet realize it.
Learned from: a chat with a woman in a store, and reflections on technology and the loss of meaning.