When we are in touch with the holes within our consciousness we can then set out to fill them with our inner wisdom and become Whole again.
Love Love Love, C
Stillness - being in the world around us but not of it. The more effortless it is the stiller we are.
When I use to think about stillness my reference point was identifying the calmness and serenity of the outside world around me where activity is constant, sometimes chaotic and not without its moments of relief. I wanted to know how I could experience that stillness within myself. I was learning to connect as one with the world around me and it helped me connect to the infinitely supportive, colorful and multidimensional world within me.
Today I’ve come to understand stillness as an ability to exist in the world around me without being of it. Meaning, I can consume but I needn’t be consumed by it. Sort of like being the biggest fish in a very large ocean. The more effortless I find it is to be still, the more I am able to recognize the increasing quality of this stillness as my level of internal happiness. This happiness is what allows me to move forward in life and successfully engage in activity, or inactivity, which ever is required of me to choose the highest path at any given moment. That was a pretty long sentence. How about a relatively long illustration to drive this point home?
Imagine a river with its rocks, its size, its depth and the direction the water flows. The river bed is like our reality, our container; and our consciousness is the all enveloping body of moving water. The rocks, earth, living creatures and activity that exist in and around the river are like the characters of our life - people, places, things, ideas, events - so as the water moves steadily in one direction it moves with its environment continuously flowing as it needs to get to where it’s going. It plays its crucial part in nourishing and supporting the success and health of the ecosystem that it is inextricably a part of. If for a moment we can relate our unique existence to this metaphor it becomes easier to grasp how we can experience a sense of stability and stillness within an active life without being consumed or distracted by it for too long. One way of putting it is there can be moments of pain but suffering does not need to be prolonged. If suffering prevails, consider our consciousness of stillness morphing into a stagnant body of stinky, infested water. It’s true, that was a pretty undesirable description of a polluted mode of existence. And it needn’t be the case, unless there is a purpose for it and there is always purpose in every moment of our life.
So the take away from this message is that stillness is a gateway to navigate life from an empowered place in time and [an often unpredictable] space. This stillness can only be accessed when we go within first to successfully live from that inner world to the external world that is around us at all times.
How I Began Meditating
There was a time when confronted with a challenge focus became difficult for extended periods and I’d procrastinate until I had no choice but to work under pressure. It’s not a bad thing, just that these specific occurrences weren’t conducive to my work ethic. And, my mind had a tendency to go in-and-out of worrisome thoughts which somehow became like second nature. The truth is, these habits didn’t fit who I am but somehow through circumstance became a part of my life. It was a matter of time before I began understanding how to use meditation to my benefit like break unsupportive habits and regain control of my thought process again.
I began meditating when I was twelve and it started when I was shuttled off to study about 495 miles north of Los Angeles. Totally resisting and crying all the way up, and 12 hours later, having briefly viewed San Francisco and Van Ness Ave through my seat window, I arrived at an international Chinese zen Buddhist school tucked away into a seemingly strange but beautiful private community in a town called Talmage. The sprawling school is known as The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas and I was living away from home for the first time. There weren’t really 10,000 Buddhas on campus but there were lots of wild life like peacock, deer and the town locals, who made up in entertainment for the lack of actual Buddhas. I wasn’t a particularly rebellious child, just willful and adventurous, but my spirited nature was actually quite worrisome for mom and she thought it would serve me to study at this particular boarding school. I basically went from an urban southern California pre-teen life to a very quiet and simple way of living with perks like clean air, the sound of traffic had disappeared and I was living on a landscape of lush greens and mountainous terrain. Here I owned my first proper winter peacoat, dark navy blue wool from L.L. Bean (thanks aunt Michele). I spent warm days taking my first hikes and straddling fallen trees to get across rushing creeks. It was a religious way of life in The City with meditation class once a week as part of the curriculum, and back then it was the hardest time I ever had wanting to be quiet or still. I didn’t master meditation here, or even come close to understanding it then but I think my environment had deeper and lasting effects that would later have a hand in nurturing the meditator in me.
It wasn’t long before I was expelled from this institution. Truly, it was not for anything I had a hand in (but the story that went down is far more entertaining than the truth), and in hindsight the event was a necessary blessing. Much like the way I arrived at CTTB, I was in tears flying back to Los Angeles; but not before I had at least a school year’s worth of studies, a vegetarian diet, meaningful friendships and kinda mean girls for balance and flavor, no boys, no tank tops, no skirts or pants above the knees; care packages received, pay phone calls made, walking meditations, pre-dawn walks to breakfast, ceremonies, being defecated on by birds released in said ceremonies, lectures, unfounded punishments and scoldings (mostly scoldings) and enough restrictions to turn any child into someone a parent might actually have to worry about; and, yes, seated meditation. I think it was in my cards to practice meditation before getting expelled and uprooted again from a place that became home; where, despite the expedient discipline from teachers and darhma masters, the bonds I created with classmates made me feel more loved and supported than I did in Los Angeles at that time. Life went on, I survived and new friends were made.
22 years later through exploration and inner development I have a meditation practice that is consistent and a joy to maintain. There is some effort in the process and what comes of it is the inspiration for this blog. Meditation, in a way, is like sending my consciousness to a higher place from distractions so I can allow an inner landscape of answers to unfold. Meditation has helped me replace spiraling thoughts with more trust in life; instead of feeding doubts and uncertainties I’m more grounded and I think I see life a little bit more clearly. Harnessing my focus during challenging times is no longer the issue it once was and continues to improve. Mediation has become second nature and totally fits who I am. It seems when I was ready to see the value in it, somehow meditation made its way back into my life, or me back into its realm. It really is just a matter of time and of living life for the pieces to click.