Sitting With the Wolf in Stillness

Every morning, I spend an hour in meditation followed by an hour that includes exercise, shower, and breakfast preparation. It is this mind-body connection that begins my day. While I will revisit physical exercise and food preparation, no day opens without meditation.

Empty yourself of everything. Let the mind become still. The ten thousand things rise and fall, while the Self watches their return. They grow and flourish and then Return to the Source. Returning to the Source is stillness, which is the Way of Nature.”
~ Lao Tsu ~
Tao Te Ching

During my recent lupus flare, it was meditation that allowed me to empty and renew myself for the rise and fall of the ten thousand things. It was meditation that allowed me to explore the energy underlying every form of discomfort, the internal investigation as Devaji refers to it.

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When there is internal investigation as opposed to following the external movement,
it is possible to recognize that every form of
discomfort, every problem that is experienced, is happening inside of you.
If you do not have a problem inside, you do not have a problem. The mind will say that it is due to something out there, but where you experience the problem is inside

It is a familiar pattern of mine this looking to the outside for what may only be discovered on the inside. I have done it for almost all of my life but this past year of daily meditation has been a discovery of stillness, which is not to say the mind is ever quiet.

In meditation, which many teachers referred to as “taming of the mind,” there is no effort to reshape or redefine any of our thoughts. In meditation, we observe our thoughts, allowing them to bubble up and away from us without interference, without creating yet another thought.

Rather, we go into the stillness, to the energy producing our thoughts. Always, in meditation there is “light emphasis” on the breath (Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche) to sustain us as we sit in the stillness of our internal investigation, emptying ourselves.

As I understand mindfulness, it is bringing this technique to our day-to-day lives as they play out among the ten thousand things. For me, that means letting one storyline after another blow right past for I am interested in the energy supporting those thoughts. I am seeking the source.

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In this lupus flare, rather than pursuing my usual cause-effect-solution approach—another way of describing this is replacing one storyline with another, albeit a new and untried solution—I sought the source, the stillness, with my breath.

Stillness or “nowness” is placing our awareness on our breath as the thoughts bubble up. The breath is no more manipulated than are the thoughts. The more the breath and mind are observed, the more there is just being, no judgment, just stillness.

Internally investigating my lupus flare allowed me to sit in the energy of the ten thousand things of which my life is just one.  Rather than trying to starve or manipulate the lupus–the wolf–that is also of the ten thousand things, I just sat down with it in relationship.

Flares are never without their gifts nor is it surprising that those flares that burn brightest are always the most generous. This time, the gift of sitting meditation with the wolf has opened the door to a lifetime exploration of the rise and fall of the ten thousand things from the inside out.

Thanks to all of you for your generosity and kindness during this recent flare.

Thursday Tidbits: The Zen of Kitchen Tasks and Meditating Cats

This week’s Thursday Tidbits post considers Zen as revealed through meditating cats and kitchen tasks, the everyday of  Zen spirituality.

“Zen does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God while one is peeling potatoes. Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes.”

Alan Watts

Perhaps more than I should admit, Zen spirituality is a constant in my kitchen, which is not to say that I am able to tend to the task at hand completely, far too often not. Rather, as I am chopping onion I consider what the next moment might offer. Rarely, do I consider the onion.

EmmaRose in MeditationKMHuberImage
EmmaRose in Meditation

Often my musing ranges far beyond the physical plane–my own private “soaring with the over-soul*–rather than considering the outcome for the onion, usually mere mush.

At best, I might be considering whether I will scramble eggs or shred lettuce for a salad; both are dictated by the state of the onion and just how far my thoughts have strayed.

It is scrambled eggs if I am envisioning the next scene in my old woman novel but the salad may be saved if I have only strayed to whether or not laundry needs to be done. The answer to that is always the same, a crisp, clear “no.”

Every time I immerse myself in the Zen spirituality of the mundane, I discover something new. It never fails. To be fair, when my thoughts are anywhere but the task at hand, there are also discoveries, including the best tasting cup of coffee is made from the proper proportions of both water and coffee.

Regardless of the outcome, discovery expands the moment to its brim. There was a time that a burnt coffee carafe or hot, coffee-colored water dismayed me, and although I may greet those moments in resignation, I am able to see them in their own Zen spirituality.

Living with animals has taught me more about Zen spirituality than any other resource, including kitchen tasks. This week’s video, courtesy of ZenFlash, features just over a minute of cats meditating, which I found illustrative of Zen but not the kind of meditation that feline EmmaRose has taught me.

EmmaRose has always been a meditating cat but not with any kind of object, especially round and especially large, as she tops the scale at five-and-one-half pounds. For EmmaRose, small, round objects are for batting and chasing into obscure areas invisible to human eyes. She prefers meditating at the window, which she does daily, and she considers the panes carefully.

Choosing Her PaneKMHuberImage
Choosing Her Pane

Often, squirrels are visible from the right pane while the left side might offer a darting, lime-green lizard–EmmaRose seems to sense the season for lizard viewing–the middle pane offers the most sun on any day. Whatever these moments provide EmmaRose, she is at her window to discover anew each day.

Who is to say whether or not she “soars with the over-soul”* for she has the light of day, which may offer a squirrel or the infrequent lizard as well.

I and my onion can only aspire.

Thursday Tidbits are weekly posts that offer choice bits of information to celebrate our oneness with one another through our unique perspectives. It is how we connect, how we have always connected but in the 21st century, the connection is a global one.

*Soaring with the over-soul” is from a satirical essay Louisa May Alcott wrote regarding her father’s involvement with 19th century transcendentalism. 

In the Gap

It is not exaggeration that for almost 60 years I have been a woman who lived outside of herself, meaning whatever I could not “fix” I suppressed, as if a reckoning would never come but, of course, it did.  Fiscally, physically, and spiritually bankrupt, life as I had known it ended, which really was a good thing.

It did mean I had to “go wild into my life” but as freeing as that is, it is not without its pitfalls. The discovery of my story revealed a raw power but knowing my story is only freeing if I am not attached to its outcome. If I am, I am doomed to repeat my own history. I am not without my moments of reliving past behavior but they are fewer.

Two weeks ago, I began accessing what Deepak Chopra calls the “gap between our thoughts” through meditation. Chopra says that in meditation, we access our baseline state of consciousness, in essence where we began. For years, I have touted meditation while my actual practice of it was not an actuality. When the Chopra Center offered a free, 21 day meditation challenge, I was not without my skepticism yet I knew I was ready to begin meditation.

No doubt that makes a difference but I am amazed at what meditation has provided me over these past two weeks. They have not been easy weeks for my lupus has been quite active but meditation has provided me another way to be with lupus. In accessing the gap between my thoughts, I am in the stillness, where my physical body connects with my consciousness.

“In the gap” is a tempting place to stay but the pull of physical existence is stronger. For me, meditation is not a ‘60s “trip” nor am I in some sort of trance. I am, however, in a place where my physical presence is lighter. Upon my return–and this happens every time–there is a physiological change in me, a release of tension that pervades my life more and more. Whatever physical discomfort I have been feeling, it is less.

Here’s what I think is happening: my pain is less because more and more I accept it as a part of my physical presence. I do not know that I have ever accepted lupus or any of the other names my dis-ease has accumulated. While it is taking me some time to realize fully that acceptance, the coincidence of reading Cheryl Strayed’s book as I began meditating with the Chopra Center is not lost on me. Both are tools for releasing the past and accepting what is by choosing to be present in each moment. When I am, there is a physiological change in me.

After 35 years of chronic illness, I am surprised but I also know that when I went knocking on the doors of the ancient traditions this time, I surrendered. That is an admission I never thought I would make much less post on the Internet but in accepting all of my story, lupus included, I surrendered to all I have been and all I have done, freeing me from the responses I have always made.

When I am present, the physiology of my body responds differently. I am not pulling from the past or tugging from the future for a response. My moment is not attached to any past baggage or any future “what ifs.” Situations are not free but my response to any of them, including lupus, is.

Being present is to reside in the unknown, “where the wild things are,” where creativity connects with consciousness. It takes practice, requires patience, its paths are many yet the moment is all we ever have, and it is enough.

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