Meditation begins with a long out breath. Once we are seated, determined to meditate, we breathe out all of our worldly concerns and just meditate. If we have a lot of worldly concerns, we may have to breathe them out several times. If, as we meditate, our concerns return to us, we breathe them out again and begin meditating again. The ability to breathe out our worldly concerns is a tremendous power. We all have that power.
We don’t have to meditate to recenter ourself with our powerful exhale. We do it naturally whenever we get a sense of relief. We sigh, or say “whew” (which is just an out breath wrapped in a word). We can also do it whenever we need a sense of relief. Whenever we feel too much tension building in our body, when our worries and fears are filling our minds, we can breathe it all out with a long, conscious out breath. When we breathe it all out, our body knows that everything is all right. Then we can breathe in and begin life all over again.
It is important to remember our ability to reset our systems with our breath. We become anxious when we are not getting enough oxygen, and we don’t always get enough oxygen when we are anxious. We may worry about this or that and forget to breathe. When we notice ourselves suffering from our cares and concerns, we can breathe them all out. As we breathe out mindfully, all is well.
Existence is such that we cannot even imagine how spectacular it is. When we think about it, it becomes something else. Since we think all the time, we imagine the world to be just what we think it is. As we think and think and think we may even imagine that existence is something terrible. We may feel crushed by the awesome weight of the world. Those are just heavy thoughts. They weigh nothing at all.
When it is difficult to behold the splendor of the world, we only have to stop thinking. We stop all of our opinions about everything. We stop seeing what is good and what is bad. We stop worrying about who and what we are. We just take it all in, as it is. What is left, just beyond what we think about it, is amazing.
It can be difficult to stop thinking. It takes practice to see around, or through our thoughts. It is like jumping into a jump rope. If we think a lot it may be like double dutch. In order to get into the jump rope we have to watch the rope, get the timing down and then jump. It gets easier as the rope goes slower. It’s the same with thinking. Watch the thoughts and then gaps appear. WIth thinking though, unlike jumprope, when we see the gap we are already in, no need to jump.
We can slow down our thoughts with our breath. Anytime that we want to, or need to, experience the wonder of existence, we just breathe out everything. Breathe out all of our thinking, breathe out our self, breathe out every last opinion, fear, worry, hope, then breathe in the world as it is. When we behold unfiltered existence, we may be filled with awe or gratitude or a sense that everything is right with the world. As soon as we experience that, we start trying to wrap it up with thoughts and opinions and it’s gone again. Of course it’s still there. It’s always right there. Right here.
Even from a non-dualistic perspective, there are two sides to reality. There is good and bad, joy and suffering, ignorance and enlightenment, self and other, life and death, physical and spiritual, light and dark, relative and absolute, happiness and sadness and so on and so on. It can be liberating to understand how we become captive on one side or another.
In our everyday life we generally try to lean to one side. We want good, light, joy, happiness, and enlightenment. These are all things that we have. We also have bad, dark, suffering, sadness and ignorance. Mostly we experience these ups and downs from a relative perspective. What feels terrible from a relative perspective is inconsequential from an absolute perspective. From a relative perspective, it can be devastating to find out that the person we love so much, loves somebody else. From an absolute perspective, there is only love, no self, no other.
When we are able to experience both sides at once, we are free to be devastated by our broken heart. It is our time to be devastated. When we know that the devastation is relative, we can handle it. The absolute is all around us. The moon shines brightly in the night because the sun is shining where we can’t see it.
We are physical and spiritual beings. We live and die. We experience joy and suffering. When we learn to live with our ignorance we become enlightened. The world is just as it appears, but it is something else entirely. Check it out.
We have no choice but to deal with whatever is happening in our lives. That is all we do all the time. Whatever comes our way, we deal with it. How we deal with what is happening determines how much we suffer. The practice of mindfulness allows us to deal with things with a compassionate awareness, which can greatly reduce our suffering.
The practice of mindfulness requires courage and faith. It requires courage to look directly at our own and other’s suffering. It requires faith that we can actually deal with what we see and through dealing with it relieve the suffering. Mindfulness is a practice in the present, because that’s where suffering and joy occur. The present is where compassion heals.
When we find ourselves in a difficult situation and notice ourselves suffering, we can remember to be mindful and look at that suffering. That is dealing with it. We can feel compassion in our desire to heal the suffering. When we are able to deal with the suffering, we can deal with the situation. Recognizing that we can handle our suffering and our difficult situations brings immediate relief. As we practice mindfulness, we experience that relief as a moment of joy. When we find ourselves experiencing joy, then again, all we can do is deal with it.
Peace is available in every moment. If you are not feeling at peace in this moment, then you are busy thinking about something. We think that the things going on around us disturb our peace. We get annoyed, angry, sad or scared by the conditions around us and we think that these conditions prevent us from feeling peace. These conditions can be distracting, but they have no effect on the peace that is waiting patiently there for us all the time.
Meditation is the practice of finding peace. As we sit and focus on our breath, we are only thinking about our breath and we are able to feel the peace of the moment. We stop our habit of judging ourselves and our conditions. We are just sitting, breathing. The peace of the moment is able to envelop us as we sit. Anger, annoyance, fear, sadness, or discomfort may also come to us as we sit, but when we feel these distractions we notice that we are thinking and, without judgement, we return to our breath. Again we are able to feel the moment’s peace.
Regular meditation trains us to return to the peace of the present again and again and again. It teaches us many different ways to find peace in each moment. When we gain confidence that peace is right there for us, we are free to go about our busy lives with all the constantly changing conditions and thoughts that obscure the peace. We can be sad, angry or afraid about these conditions around us, but whenever we want, we can breath it all out and breathe in a fresh moment’s peace.
If you have suffered a great loss or, if you struggle with depression, the painful feeling is extreme and unrelenting. You need to find a way out of the darkness. Unfortunately, the only way out of the darkness is through the darkness. In order to get through the darkness, you need courage. You need to know that you can do it. You can do it.
When you feel sad, feel sad and use that sadness to build compassion. To build compassion from sadness, think of your sadness as everybody’s sadness. Recognize that everybody is suffering just as you are suffering. That broken hearted feeling is your tender heart experiencing deep love. Compassion is connecting with the love and using it to help yourself through this difficult time. Compassion is also using your painful experiences to understand and help others.You don’t have to do anything extraordinary to help others, just feeling your sadness and building your compassion is helping others.
As you travel through this darkness, be kind to yourself. Be kind to others, if you feel angry, try not to take it out on other people or yourself. Cry as much as you need to. Keep breathing. If it feels like you can’t go on, you can. Keep on. Keep offering your sadness to the world. Somewhere in that darkness there is incredible light. It will find you.