Saturday, September 7, 2019

Living Gracefully in Times of Upheaval

We are living in a time of great uncertainty, upheaval and change. Indeed everything seems to be speeding up—and will continue to accelerate. Time feels more compressed—a day can feel like a month in terms of the amount of experience compressed into that period of time. Energy is moving at a faster and faster rate through our bodies—in order for that to happen, stashes of unresolved emotional issues that we habitually carry in our bodies have to be healed and cleared. This is a precious time of transformation, unprecedented in scope. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, anxious, and fearful of all the changes both in our personal lives and in the collective. It’s easy to get lost in the outer drama and lose touch with our own source.

How can we live gracefully in these times of upheaval? How can we maximize the transformative potential?

1) Think of a hurricane—a hurricane generates some of the most powerful forces of wind, rain and waves on the planet. However the destructive fury of the hurricane revolves around a center that is absolutely still. That still center is the source of all the hurricane’s power. Every day go into the eye of the hurricane. Close your eyes and return to that source at the center of your being-- sink into that stillness. The words of T.S. Eliot come to mind: “At the still point of the turning world. . . Except for the point, the still point, there would be no dance, and there is only the dance.”

2) During that still time, turn within and pay attention to what is going on physically and emotionally. What sensations are you feeling in your body? What feelings are surfacing? As consciousness goes about clearing and emptying whatever blocks its expansion, we will be shown whatever needs to be healed. But you have to take the time to pay attention to what is showing up. You may not understand what is going on within you—your job is to observe and feel what’s there without judgment, without a story. Trust that what shows up is what needs your attention. We’re being guided by the universe—so that each one of us can be a part of that greater transformation.

3) As you go about your day, open to the joy of ordinary moments in your home, garden, neighborhood. Be present to whatever is showing up in this moment. Nature is constantly calling out to us, as though to say, "Look here and here! Wake up to the beauty all around you--that flash of a hummingbird, this tree ablaze with red gold leaves, the cool wind brushing your face, the raucous chatter of jays. Open all your senses to the wonder that surrounds you in this moment!"  When you cultivate joy and gratitude, you benefit the collective—your joy lightens and brightens the world. It may seem like a small contribution but it is felt!

4) When you go to bed, empty out from the day so your sleep is restorative and restful. Take some time to watch the events of the day pass by, noticing where your attention catches, where you get caught up in some emotion. Every day we are inundated by information. Emptying ourselves out allows for something greater to move through us while we sleep. When we aren’t processing the events of the day, our dreams can connect us to the depths of our being. Those dreams are gifts—they are messengers from the deep. When you wake up in the morning, write them down and savor them—let the images work on you throughout the day.

Sink into the silence that is here now—
Inside you,
In this moment,
In this sound,
This tree, these eyes.

Let this silence bring you home,
And the sweet smile of Buddhas
Spring to your lips.
That wind is your breath,
Those waves are your pulse.
This silence is who you are.
     --  From How Did I Miss All This Before? Waking Up to the Magic of Our Ordinary Lives 

Sunday, September 1, 2019

The Sheer Joy of Nothing to Do, Nowhere to Go, No One to Be

I’m sitting at a small table at Peet’s Coffee, sipping jasmine tea. Just sitting, doing nothing, I open my attention to the sounds, smells, and sights all around me—the whir of the coffee grinder, snippets of conversations wafting by, a burst of laughter from one of the baristas, the musky smell of freshly ground coffee beans, newspapers rustling. Such a rich cacophony of life! The joy of doing nothing—and in this, I revel in the opening to life just as it is right now. Whether standing in line at the post office, sitting in my garden or in my office between clients, I savor these moments of my day; they’ve become increasingly important to my sense of well-being.

Ah, the sheer joy of nowhere to go, nothing to do, no one to be! Just to read these words, many people sigh—yearning for the spaciousness of that state of being while feeling the press/stress of daily commitments, constant activity, and over stimulation. Learning how to integrate these moments of doing nothing into one’s daily life has become one of the strategies that I explore with clients who are feeling stressed and overwhelmed in these times of collective upheaval and financial insecurity.

Learning to do nothing is truly an art, one which few of us in our fast-paced society have mastered. The benefits are many. When we slow down and rest in being, we begin to flow with the current of life. We come home to our bodies; stress melts away. In those precious moments of doing nothing, we have the opportunity to reconnect with our Source—and when we are rooted in this Source the world reveals her magic.

Many are surprised that we deepen our spiritual practice not by doing more, but by doing less and less. Doing nothing we become more receptive to the Truth, more open to life as its is. When we relax back into nothing, we start to realize that nothing is not dead space at all—it’s alive, vital, vast. Energy rushes through the body and animates the senses. Vipassana teacher Jack Engler writes: “My practice now for the most part is doing nothing. I just sit there. I know it sounds dopey. . . Ninety-nine percent of the time, I just open the field of attention. If I had to put it into words, it’s learning the art of doing absolutely nothing. So you’re sitting there, attentive; and enjoying the show. Whatever comes up. A thought. A sound. A sensation. You don’t reach for anything. You just let life bring stuff to you.”

Here are some suggestions for learning the art of doing nothing:

1) Find a safe place in your home and take 10-20 minutes a day to just sit, doing nothing—a place where you will not be disturbed. You might need to experiment with a few places until you find one that feels really comfortable. Turn off all distractions: phones, TV, computers, Blackberries. Allow your body to relax, take some big breaths, and stretch if you need to. Settle into simple being, sitting very still—remembering that right now there is nowhere to go, no one to be, nothing to do.

2) Open your awareness to your breathing, paying attention to the flow of the breath in and out of the nostrils or the rise and fall of the belly. Be aware of sensations in your body—heat, cold, tinglings, vibrations, throbbing, pulsing, aching, lightness, density. Don’t try to manipulate or change your experience—let this all be as it is. Listen to your body—what is your body telling you in this moment?

Keep relaxing, letting go. Gradually open your awareness wider-- to the sounds around you. Allow listening to happen with your whole body, not just your ears. Keep listening. Allow your body’s boundaries to dissolve. Is there a point that you can’t tell what is coming from within or without, that there is no more separation between inner and outer? Everything is happening inside you; you are the body of the world!

3) Experiment with small nothings in your daily life—in the check out line, in the waiting room of the doctor’s office, waiting for the light to turn green. Being alert, relaxed and present, gently open your awareness to whatever is going on around you—conversations, activities, sounds.

Practice driving without talking on your cell phone, without listening to the radio. Enjoy the scenery; focus on your breathing and the sensations of holding the steering wheel.

4) Spend some time in nature, whether in your back yard, a park or the woods—inviting the trees, stones, plants to teach you the art of just being, of doing nothing. If your thoughts start to take you out of the present, just notice them and gently bring your attention back to your breath, your body and the natural world around you.

Drink in the stillness that emanates effortlessly from each tree, each stone, each plant. Such a sense of peace!

If you feel overwhelmed by the daily onslaught of emails, phone calls, news, financial concerns, work & household demands, if you’ve lost a sense of inner peace, take time each day (just 10 to 20 minutes!) to practice the art of doing nothing. In the spaciousness of that nothing, you just might discover the vitality, peace, energy, and inspiration that you’ve been yearning for!

I have a feeling that my boat
Has struck down there in the depths,
Against a great thing,
And nothing
Happens! Nothing. . . Silence. . .Waves. . .
Nothing happens? Or has everything happened,
And are we standing now, quietly, in the new life?  
      --- Juan Ramon Jimenez

You will find more suggestions for integrating the sacred into your daily life in my book How Did I Miss All This Before? Waking Up to the Magic of Our Ordinary Lives. If you are curious how a retreat might incorporate this art of doing nothing, check out the last chapter: Waking Up In Paradise Retreat.