We spend an inordinate amount of time trying to make everything feel solid and secure. We want certainty and are uncomfortable not knowing. We want or even need, to know how it all will turn out. When we don’t know, we feel unsettled, insecure, like we have somehow lost our footing.
You may be feeling this way now in the face of all of the changes and uncertainty that COVID has brought to bear.
Staying caught up in your head with your thoughts is a very dangerous neighborhood to be in alone!
The practice of meditation is designed to retrain us to notice our thinking as just that, thinking.
If we can even for one moment notice how our thoughts can turn into a storyline that we subscribe to, we can begin to notice too that our aggression, passion, and anger, are all simply passing thoughts as well.
What a relief! You mean I don’t have to believe what I think?
Meditation isn’t about getting rid of thoughts. You will always think. Instead, it’s about noticing the thoughts and reminding ourselves that WE ARE NOT OUR THOUGHTS. We are simply the thinker of our thoughts.
Meditation is simply the practice of developing the “noticing muscle.”
When you notice thoughts, just allow them to surface. No big deal. When you realize you are making a big deal out of them, getting triggered or carried away by them, see if you can instead just notice them.
Remind yourself that they are simply thoughts and give them room to come and go. Loosen up. Loosen the grip you have on them. Let go of the validity you think they have.
The paradox is that we can actually be liberated in times of uncertainty.
It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s when we don’t have the answers, when we feel a little shaky and uncomfortable, that’s when we can experience awakening.
When we hold on to the ideas, perceptions, and judgments we have concretized over time, it’s then when there is little if any possibility for movement or freedom. We instead are clinging to what we know for fear of letting go and allowing a new possibility to emerge.
Imagine a time when you were afraid to do something new. Maybe you didn’t want to jump off the diving board or didn’t think you could ever learn how to ride a bike, drive a car, or have a difficult conversation with someone you care about. Or maybe it was your fear of public speaking. Just the very thought of it now might be stirring up butterflies.
Looking back, can you remember the feelings of freedom and joy you had when you actually did it? The joy you felt when you landed safely in the water, the conversation, or the speech that went much better than your mind made you believe it ever could?
That is an example of the moment of surviving when you opened yourself up to uncertainty. The very moment you defied your thoughts and did not allow them to dictate your path. You allowed the thoughts to be there and you were somehow able to put them aside and take action.
When we can relax with the insecurity – and the edginess and restlessness that come with it – we begin to understand that we do not need to always control the outcome. Instead, we are free to do something we thought we couldn’t do, simply allow things to show up as they were meant to. This is what it feels like to awaken.
There’s a great deal of peace in that.
These difficult times of uncertainty are actually a huge opportunity for us to examine and contemplate our fundamental patterns of behavior.
Practice noticing your thoughts as they surface. When you do, simply allow them to surface and fade away. This is a gentle approach that can help break up the solidity of your thoughts and conditioned beliefs and memories.
The more you practice this, the more likely it is you will notice that some of your thoughts – especially the ones that carry a lot of emotional charge – may start to subside or weaken. This is when you will begin to get closer to your own heart.