Today, for example. I was sitting with my weekly meditation group, eyes closed, posture upright, body still. Internally, though, I was critiquing a movie I’d recently seen.
Of course, when I realized I’d strayed, I brought my awareness back to the present moment.
Soon, though, I found myself amused that I’d fallen under the illusion that I was a movie critic, behaving as though an audience awaited my cogent analysis of character and plot development.
Oops! Back to stillness.
Next thing I knew, I was ruminating on how this is the human way. So often, we undertake one activity while imagining ourselves engaged in another. Driving alone, we play out an anticipated conversation with our partner. Washing dishes, we travel back in time to relive an experience from last week or a year ago, perhaps playing out other possible scenarios.
Or while meditating, we begin work on an essay about how attention wanders while meditating! I quieted my rambling mind once more.
The act of returning, again and again, to simple and open awareness, or to a specific focus point, is the practice of meditation. Slowly we drop into a deeper reality, an experience which teaches us to place within a larger context those stories woven by mind and heart. Gradually, the experience of that Essence begins to infuse the rest of our lives. We may come to hold our views more lightly, and question the way we perceive ourselves and others.
Many spiritual traditions teach that the concept of an individual self, separate and distinct from all else, is an illusion. Certainly, we each have a disposition, a personality created in large part by a combination of genetics and life experience. But aren’t each one of us also an expression of that unfathomable force that vivifies and shines through us, just as light filters through panes of colored glass?
I don various guises to clothe my spirit, yet often mistake my current outfit for who I truly am. There are the roles I claim in this life—woman, family member, friend, psychotherapist, neighbor, citizen. But there are also more transitory costumes.
On any given day, I might shine out as angry, kind, tired, playful, petty, enthusiastic, sarcastic, loving, pessimistic, generous, worried, clever, tearful, or joyous. None of these is me. They are each merely a form, a casing I create for the energy that is given me.
At the heart of spiritual practice is the recognition that we are individually responsible for the forms we create. Although it may not always feel this way, it is ours to determine the expression our energy will take, ours to choose the color of glass through which our spirit will stream forth. With conscious intent and much practice, we can learn to choose more wisely.
During my meditation period today, I did eventually settle down. By the time the bell chimed to conclude our hour together, I had nestled into that peace “which passeth all understanding”. That peace, which exists in its purest and most accessible form in the here and now, spoke to me again of what is true and enduring.
And I vowed once again to remember that as my ground of being and to choose wisely how to express it in my world.
May we all shine out with a richness and vibrancy worthy of that which is given us.