Finding the Space Between

What do you think about? Images come to us, strange and vivid; the stories our brain spins for us as it works through the events of the day. The mind is constantly busy coming up with stories to cope with the flow of information coming from the world around us as well as our memories and imaginations. Our brains are very smart – they manage an array of information that we aren’t consciously aware of, constantly trying to keep us safe from danger, fed, healthy, and connected socially.

When we start to meditate we become aware of the stories we tell ourselves, the hopes and fears that our minds come up with in such a torrent. In fact, for a while, it seems as if the mind gets even more busy with these stories, as a way to cope with the unfamiliarity of the practice. What’s this sitting around all about? There must be something I should be doing or thinking right now! The torrent of thought that happens in the new-found stillness of meditation points to the wisdom that thoughts, like dreams, are one of the ways we work with the changing landscape of our lives. In fact, we can be grateful for the marvelously inventive thought-process we have because it’s what makes us so successful as a species. Narrative is the origin of our creativity. Frankly, our stories can be quite fun, when we aren’t feeling trapped by them.

It’s ok to think. Really. Our success as a meditator does not rely on stopping thoughts. Rather, we notice the thoughts and come back to the breath. We practice coming back home to the sensation of the body breathing. There is an awareness between the thoughts; that’s how we know we are thinking. In that way, thinking is our ally: a bellwether showing us the space in our mind.

So, how do we work with all that thinking in our daily life? It’s similar to meditation – come back. There is a reality that is deeper than thought. Between the thoughts, in the body, where awareness rests. Whenever you think of it, take a moment to bring your awareness down into the body and you will find it every time. That’s a reality you can rely on; a reality that transcends all the stories we tell ourselves.

I guarantee that if you do this, you will take your stories a lot less seriously, and this will help you to be kind: not just to others but to yourself as well.

Winter

It’s cold out there; even colder than the Arctic chill at Times Square. The country seems to be at its own throat. It’s hard not to choose sides in the struggle for America’s soul, but whatever side you choose it still seems like everything has fallen apart. Society is in chaos, there seems to be no road to true progress. When will people learn to talk to each other? Where is the solution to all this coming from?

I don’t know what will happen. We all depend on one another for survival, but we don’t seem to trust one another. It’s easy to try to place blame for this mess, but is that helping?

This is Winter. When there is no road ahead, the only thing to do seems to be to despair, but the wisdom of the seasons tells us: this is the time to wait. More than that, this is an opportunity to see the world with fresh eyes. The very fear that we experience is a reminder of just how much we rely on one another. If I am fearful, what must my neighbor feel? Maybe that’s a good place to start.

Let’s try to find, in this new year, a way to be interested in those around us. Let’s take stock of what we have – the earth we stand on. What do we have to be grateful for? And what can we offer?

We are all in this together.

The sun will rise tomorrow, or maybe it won’t, but let’s try to wake up now.