The Peace in Thinking Bigger

Who is not looking to live with peace of mind, to rest in the reality of every day, to frustrate the frenzy in favor of calm. No one wants to ride the roller coaster forever. It’s exhausting.

My way is Zen, which provides perspective but not escape. I don’t get to detach from the chaos–create an echo chamber–mine is to sit in the middle of life, to “think bigger” as Pema Chödrön says.

It is more than sitting in meditation or feeling the prana of yoga. Those are powerful, pristine moments, truly a touch of peace, but like Heraclitus’ river, each experience is its own. No do overs.

Yet in the experience is the yen to return.

Some days I sit on its banks, having finally found my way around a horseshoe bend or oxbow but it is to the river I return, always at peace, a place to think bigger.

Where I accept that all of life is an experience. I trust it. And each time I drink in these waters, I am slowed, as if in the sip I experience life to no exclusion.

Every time I go off on another meander, yet another promising tangent, the river does not slow for me but trusts my return. Of course, the river is endless but my experiences are limited to one life.

I begin at the river, mind and body balanced, but soon one is ignored in favor of the other, leaving me vulnerable and impatient, probably defensive, which is what I bring to the world.

If I am not feeling equanimity, I’m not giving it. No amount of positive thinking/action will make it so. If I promise what I am not certain, offer words people want but I doubt, the river will wash out those bridges.

I am back where I began. My mind pulls up similar events and while memory is not 100% reliable, I am reminded I do not step in the same river twice–not ever–no matter how similar the results.

I add to my experience bank as I sit at river’s side, purposefully not moving, to still the body’s sensations, even the ever-present numbness/tingling in my hands. They who never quite wake appreciate the stillness of meeting the dawn as an act of breath.

It is a recent revelation for me, having my body still my mind rather than the other way around. It is not that I didn’t know, it is that I did not do. My mind is more cooperative because it doesn’t have to fight for its turn. No more meandering…well…less trying to step in the same river twice.

We are living impermanence on a grand scale, and it is not always what we would choose, but the river is not selective in its offering. How we accept experience defines us. Do we meet the dawn or run the meander only to return where we began?

 The main question is, are we living in a way

that adds further aggression and self-centeredness

to the mix, or are we adding some much-needed sanity?

Pema Chödrön, Taking the Leap:

Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fear, page 2

Are we thinking bigger?


Looking Away

“‘In exchange for the promise of security, many people put a barrier between themselves and the adventures in consciousness that could put a whole new light on their personal lives.'” – – June Singer

Although I am not familiar with the work of Jungian analyst June Singer (1920-2004), I did discover a personal anecdote that reveals a woman who walked her talk. When asked her impression of the Internet, she responded: “`Well, I’ve just had my eightieth birthday, and I thought that if I don’t keep trying new things, I’m liable to get brain-dead. I thought, this will be a breeze! That’s what I thought.’”


A recent daily meditation with Mark Nepo introduced me to Singer, adding a Jungian dimension to my current consideration of archetypes within authentic ancient traditions. As one whose life has been characterized by rampant naïveté, I prefer “adventures in consciousness” over security any day. For me, curiosity is an integral component of consciousness and therein infinite.

As Heraclitus said, “No matter how long you probe and how far you look, you’ll never encounter the boundaries of the soul.” I find that immensely satisfying for “the pull into the truth of things is very strong” (Nepo) but it is not without its challenges, as the foray into the unknown has no consideration for what is safe or what is treasured. Consciousness just is, and it is ever expanding.

Consider how easy it is to look away—not to grow–to maintain the status quo in the hope that all we are and all we love stay the same. That’s the human being in us but our spirit, as the Isa Upanishad says, “’is swifter than the mind.'” Our spirit is always in motion whether we are or not; it provides a whole new light on our lives if only we will look.

According to the Buddhist teacher Chögyam Trungpa, if we deny our spirit by deliberately looking away from someone or something that we recognize as truth, it is “… a grave act of denying what is already conscious…a crime against the essence of things that costs us dearly” (Nepo). We attach to what we know, and we don’t let go. Paradoxically, by clinging to the “promise of security,” we risk all that we are and all that we love, for we deny the spirit of life, the only constant that creates and re-creates.

Sometimes, it is hard to know whether we are clinging to or letting go. Attachment is sticky in every way, requiring us to know our hearts before we act with our heads. There is such a gap between the two, it seems, for there are times when we look away in true innocence rather than deliberately avoiding a direction. It takes practice to recognize this “…inner knowing that determines whether we live like a dog at the end of our leash or whether we run free” (Nepo).

As one who believes in becoming a lake, I am grateful for my life of rampant naïveté, and I do not see that changing—ever.  On some days, I narrow the gap between heart and head but then, there are those other days that are not so clear.

Here is a suggested meditation from Nepo on narrowing the gap:

         “As you breathe slowly, try on the in-breath to sense your spirit. Feel where it is living in you.

“On the out breath, try to feel your place in the world, where you go through the days.

“As you breathe, keep sensing your spirit and feeling your place.

“Simply notice any difference and throughout your day look there.

“Your simple and honest looking will lessen the gap.”