Here is a spiritual question.
If meditation is too painful for you because the hurt inside is yelling so loudly, should you still meditate? Or is it wiser to stop? And if the latter, is there some substitution you could make so that your practice might limp along until you, in a reasonably short eventuality, are in a position to resume meditation?
Here is a practical consideration.
One can well begin the process by demanding incrementally more dignity for oneself. By that I don’t mean to suggest that mopers can cure themselves by taking to the streets and demanding passerbys salute them, call them “Sir” or “Madam” and otherwise pay homage. I’m speaking rather of simple, private adjustments in one’s life. For example, tidying up one’s apartment, organizing one’s finances, keeping oneself and one’s dress clean. Or, calling forward a more specific example in order to awaken the senses and with it one’s imagination, suppose it was Saturday morning and you were alone in this apartment, eating a pomegranate; pomegranates, though delicious and healthful reminders of the wonders of international trade, can be rather messy; no great surprise, then, that you notice, while passing your bathroom mirror, that you’ve got some red streaking on your chin, adding a sort of Halloweeny ghoulishness to your aspect; now, you’re not planning on going anywhere for a while, and you hadn’t even noticed the juice stain until you’d seen it in the mirror, so it clearly causes you no physical discomfort; it may even be possible that a bit of pomegranate juice on the skin provides a little health and beauty benefit by infusing your flesh with antioxidants; perhaps you should leave well enough alone and continue walking past the mirror; but no: it is at this point that our method inserts itself, explaining that for the sake of your own private dignity, you break your momentum, turn back towards the mirror and wash off the pomegranate juice, also taking the opportunity to straighten your hair. Do you see? In this way, you communicate to yourself at a very deep level that you mean business, that you demand something of yourself and for yourself.
Indeed, even if a meditation practice must be paused, one’s spiritual practice need not collapse in upon itself. In addition to taking care of your space and your appearance, you can also focus on being mindful about what you say and how you present yourself. You can keep a journal each night, writing down how you felt and how you behaved and what you want to do next and how you might accomplish your goals. You can exercise. You can breathe carefully, taking care not to overbreathe and feeling the stillness created when you breathe air out but do not immediately breathe air back in. You can even add silent chanting meditation to your walk to work and to the time spent falling in and out of sleep. A good one is, “what should I do, what should I do, what should I do, ….” Another nice phrase to run over and over again in your head is, “how can I actually make things better for me and everyone else?”, or some variation like “how can we all make things better for everyone?”
We humans. Do you remember the spot in the creek where the channel suddenly and precipitously narrowed, creating a funnel of white water emptying into a deep (5ft?) and wide (10ft?) trench in the creek? It was between Napier Park and the bridge over Main Street that led from the front gate of GE to the downtown, which was of course nothing more than a small section of Main Street. Creeks ever evolve, and I don’t know how long after 1992 this slice lasted. Certainly, in 2010, it was no more. An awesome sight, but also a little terrifying. What I enjoyed doing at the time was tossing a stick into the creek (pronounced in this essay, out of nostalgia and shouldershrug, as “crick”) right above the diving tunnel and watching its fate. Because the water churned so violently both forward and backward at that spot, the stick would often spend several seconds jiggling back and forth in place before the chaos’s fickleness resolved into the inevitable suck-down under the white water. The water after the frothing was glassy green and deep, and from the right vantage you could see the water gushing into the deep spot as a straight white tube sunk into the green still waters. You never knew when the stick would emerge. It might be a few seconds, it might be five minutes. This private research of mine held me in good stead when my family went to nearby Niagara Falls and learned, in an incredible 3-D film with surround-sound and a surround-screen wrapping around the first fourth of the auditorium, of someone who went over Niagara Falls in a giant rubber ball with extra oxygen stored inside, but who, held under the falls for 14 hours with only three hours worth of oxygen in his tank, was found the next day inside his perfectly preserved one ton tomb.
“O divine Niagara, be prepared on July the 5th to receive a faithful worshiper of your beauty and of the mystery that covers you, and if you will to keep me with you eternally as your prisoner, I accept the sacrifice in the hope that your divine nymphs will spray my grave with flowers from the gardens of your palaces.” (George Stathakis, Buffalo Evening News from I guess sometime shortly after 7/5/1930)
If you’re just a human, tossed about by the noises inside and outside, a prisoner to the white water of stimuli and other physical slaps, how do you proceed?
Some say that asking any question except “how can we make things better for everyone?” will lead to the correct answer. Simply because all other questions miss out on the fundamental interconnectedness and spiritual importance of all sentient creatures, and so ask the wrong question. No matter how passionately, creatively, logically, interestingly you answer the wrong question, you still end up with the wrong answer. And, so goes the reasoning, it is this failure to even quite want to make things better for everyone, that keeps humanity breaking apart on the rocks all the time. Is this true? Didn’t, for example, Marx ask that question, and end up finding an answer that has not made everything better for everyone? I guess the nuance is that people ask questions that they may think answer that question, like “how can we give everyone material security?” or “how can we get everyone into heaven?”, but in focusing on these questions, they skip over the one they are purportedly answering, and actually answer something quite different.
But if that’s the case, then how can you ask anyone to ask this question, since in asking it they inevitably skip over it, and only think they are asking it? Well, we have to keep tuning ourselves, keep refining our approaches, keep coming back to the real question, the one that understands we are all in this together and must find and share kind joy together. We can’t come up with ideas, policies, or systems to once and for all correctly ask and answer our question. But we can agree that it is our goal and keep refining our ideas, policies, and systems with the understanding that they are not the answer, that the answer is known only to the inner joy that knows what this life is really for, and as such cannot be perfectly translated into ideas, policies, and/or systems, but that it be better or worse translated into such what we say and do, and so it can and should remain our shared goal and standard. Not to bring about heaven on earth or to force everyone into heaven. Those kind of goals make sense only for God. But to work together within the only framework that can possibly mean anything to human beings: how can we grow together in the understanding of how we are all in this together and how we should therefore treat ourselves, each other, and the resources (be they ideas, governments, raw goods, etc) we share?
Author: Susan Jes Sayin
Editory: B Willard
Copyright: AM Watson