After weeks of 80s and 90s, today dropped down into the 70s – ahhhhh. In late summer, we spend our days between a blast furnace outside or inside frigid offices and stores. Then, mother nature offers us a respite. One day we throw open the windows open and feel a cool breeze.
As I enjoyed this day, I am reminded how I feel following a session of meditation. Depending upon the day, when I arrive upon the cushion, I may initially find myself carrying in all the clutter and chaos of the preceding hours. Mind may jump from reactions to what has already unfolded to a waiting To Do list; regret over something said or not said to fear of consequences of something done or not done; questioning choices made to uncertainty of decisions yet to be made. For those who do not meditate, this litany may make them question the merits of putting myself in the midst of the day’s events. Most of us become quite skillful at a whole host of methods to avoid such exposure: the latest app, reality TV show or the royal birth!
Why in heaven’s name would any one want to make direct contact with all the grit and grim of the day? Two reasons: 1) after the skillful avoidance, all that we have been avoiding is still waiting in the wings and 2) avoidance of the yuck of life also results in missing out on the yum! At some point, the shutting down and tuning out becomes standard operating procedure for all we encounter, pleasant and unpleasant.
Mindfulness offers us a third way. Just like a cool day offers a break from a heat wave, a period of mindful meditation creates a respite without avoidance. Continuing the weather metaphor, meditation invites us to sit in the center of the storm. As we sit, we shift our relationship with the clutter and chaos. We discover that no matter how much turmoil, we have the capacity to simply observe from a distance. And from this objective seat, we discover a me bigger than the clutter and chaos. A me that remains unperturbed no matter how perturbing the day. A me that can access calm and creativity.
So, as we face another August (and September) of 90s, realize we do not have to depend upon the weather person to announce the next cool breeze of relief. We can summon a moment of relief anytime, anywhere – simply be settling into stillness, shifting focus to breath and body and arriving in the here-now.
By Paul Deger, MA, LPC, PT