Ambitious, busy mind. I see I have not blogged in some time. But I have been writing. I had one huge accomplishment this year – I submitted a story to a magazine. I eagerly await a rejection letter. I say this not to be self-critical, but because it is a generally accepted truth that all writers must be rejected many times before they are published. For me the huge accomplishment, the one that marks my evolution to a “real” writer is that I submitted a story. I finally overcame the illusion that I might someday fall into fame and notoriety as a writer without taking this step. And I found myself hugely relieved. Which brings me to today’s observation. Writing stills my busy mind. Whether I am writing in my blog, working on my ambitious trilogy, writing a poem that will never see the public eye, or even dreaming a new character, my mind gets quiet and I experience a type of freedom that I have seen described by experienced mediators. And it stays with me, not perfectly, but throughout my day. If I have taken time to write, I have greater ease and comfort.
I spent the day at Spirit Rock, some time ago, at a beginner meditation seminar with Jack Kornfield. I highly recommend it to anyone with any inclination. We listened to a little dharma talk, tried a meditation, listened a little more, took breaks, did walking meditation, eating meditation, sat some more. I took away more than a few pearls of wisdom. The first, was that asking your mind to not have thoughts was similar to asking your skin to not sweat. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I heard this. I have never been able to still my busy mind.
The goal of meditation is not to stop the thoughts, but to remain unattached to them. I might, during a meditation, begin to think of the list I have made of things to do that day. The goal is not to suppress this thought, but to notice it and rather than adding to the list, running through how to get through each item on the list, or rewriting the list, to simply notice, “I am planning” or “I am thinking about my list,” and “I am breathing.” The idea is freedom from the attachment to my thoughts, not a disappearing of them.
The second pearl was even more important to me: when I practice Osteopathy I am meditating. Jack didn’t say that, but as I practiced that day, sitting, aching back, busy mind, and as I listened to the dharma talk and the questions from other beginners I realized this was true. I have been given this gift – Biodynamic, or Traditional Osteopathy, which demands that I practice being fully present for HEALTH every time I put my hands on a patient. It means that if my mind wanders over to a lesion I am not allowed to participate in my ego’s attempt to better it. It means that if I notice I have wandered over to a lesion, my job is to locate the Health. If I need to look for Health in the lesion, that’s ok. If I need to find Health in the flowers blooming outside the window, that’s ok to. But I have to keep the ego in check, “busy mind, busy ego, take a rest, return to the Health,” I tell myself. So, though a beginner at meditation, I found, I had some skills, from years of practicing Osteopath, to bring to the couch when I sat for my meditation.
And then I found my need to write again. And I sacrificed my meditation time for writing. And I found I was not suffering but thriving. Writing also brought me to a state of peace and focus.
I am not trying to diminish the work of meditation. To become skilled at meditation, one must inevitably practice meditation. I am not fooled into thinking I am a monk of some sort with advanced capacity to still my mind and bring my heart rate down and love everyone unconditionally. But I do want to offer this encouragement.
Many of my patients say to me, “Yes, I know meditating would help, but I cannot do it.” They go on to tell me they cannot quiet their mind, or their body will not be still. They are sure it would help if they were good at it, but they are equally sure that they will never be good at it.
My answer to this is “What do you love? What do you work hard at but you love it deeply and so the work feels easy, even when it requires all of you? When do you notice ease? Are you running in the woods? Are you doing the plank? Are you knitting lace or writing or carving wood? Are you chopping vegetables or shoveling compost or inventing a new design?”
Find your bliss, and then do it, a tiny little bit at a time, and notice if your mind stills down to one thought, if your anxiety eases, if you are able to be a little more present, in your disappearing into this passion then you have arrived. Take this moment into the rest of your day. This is the practice.