Sunday, October 12, 2008
Why In Times of Crisis Meditators are Especially Grateful for the Practice
As meditators, we are grateful for our practice that helps us more skillfully navigate this current financial crisis and all situations in our lives -- not as observers untouched by the experience, but as conscious participants, fully engaged but clear seeing.
Here are some examples of the kinds of differences in our daily lives that we meditators often find between having a regular meditation practice and not having one:
Say you have a headache or stomach upset after looking at the value of your retirement fund or the daily news. As a non-meditator you might take a drug or try to distract yourself in various unskillful ways, and if it persists call the doctor in hopes of more heavy duty drugs.
As a practiced meditator you will more likely sit with the sensation of the pain, notice the emotional component and breathe into the experience. You may recognize the tension in the body and understand the cause and condition from which it arose. You may give yourself more spaciousness, be gentle with yourself right now, not take on too much during this period, and perhaps take walks in nature or meditate more frequently.
As a non-meditator you may not connect the fear you are feeling with the anger you are expressing to family or fellow drivers on the road. You may not see the connection between your anxiety and your difficulty doing your work, so you give yourself a hard time for being so stupid. And you may give coworkers, also affected by the crisis, a hard time for their suddenly less than stellar performances as well.
As a practiced meditator you will be more likely to see the connection between your emotions, thoughts and behaviors, and sense your connection to all other beings. So you will be more likely to take the fear experience, sit with it, and allow it to inform your interactions with your coworkers, family and everyone else, in the form of compassionate understanding for any unskillful displays they show in response to their own anxiety.
As a non-meditator you may compound your fear by getting caught up in incessantly imagining a dark future, rerunning images of the 1930’s in your head, thinking back over what you might have done differently in the past that would have changed this outcome or cursing the past actions of others in an endless loop of blame. This leaves you unable to be attentive to the current moment that requires your full attention.
As a practiced meditator you have trained your mind to notice when your thoughts get caught up in the future or the past and you can skillfully and gently bring your attention back to this moment, knowing that this is the only moment that is real, the one you can experience with all your senses and the only one in which you can take action. The future and the past are just plans, fantasies and memories, in other words, just thoughts.
As a non-meditator you may have your identity firmly invested in your material wealth or your position. As a practiced meditator you have a greater opportunity to begin to recognize that you are not your stuff, that your value is not composed of material wealth, prestige or how you make that wealth, that you – and all of us – are uniquely and universally valuable just the way we are.
These are some of the reasons why at times of crisis meditators turn to each other and say, “I am so grateful for the practice. I can’t imagine going through this without the practice.”
Of course there are people who don’t have a regular sitting practice who have found the same spaciousness of mind. Perhaps they do Qi Gong or some other form, or perhaps they have a naturally spacious mind. But for most of us, without a meditative practice of some kind, we fall into the habitual and unskillful patterns of mind that bring us ongoing suffering.
At a time of crisis those who don’t have a regular practice might say to themselves, “I really should start to meditate.” or “I need to meditate more regularly.” It’s never too late to start!
If you would like to learn more about getting started meditating, click on the link (right side of this page) to my website -- Stephanienoble.com. In the meditation section you will find several downloadable pages that offer ways to begin. If you need more help, contact me, or find a meditation center in your area.