So I've been dancing around the concept of meditation for over a decade. Mainly reading and not much "do-ing" and had always thought it was too "xxx" for me to take it seriously. After all, there was serious "do-ing" that had to be done!
That is until my late 30's when a whole series of traumatic events compelled me to accept the possibility that maybe, just maybe, I didn't have life "all sorted out". As the famous saying goes "when the student is ready ..."
Fast-forward a few years, and I'm at the stage where I actually look forward to my morning meditation ...
When I understood that meditation is the most powerful act of kindness that you can do unto yourself.
This is because in meditation, you are asked neither to resist nor to judge - simply to note, accept, let go, and return to your chosen focus - moment by moment by moment, with no beginning and no end - that each moment is unique and is deserving of your full respect of its wholeness and reality.
It's completely ok to have a wandering mind, because it happens to everyone, even those who've been meditating for a long time. The difference between a novice and a master is how each chooses to respond to that moment when you notice your mind wandering.
The invitation then is simply not to be frustrated, not to be angry at yourself, not to feel inadequate. Every moment therefore is therefore a "new" opportunity to ... simply note, accept, let go, and gently redirect your attention back.
With this understanding, my mediation no longer becomes a set time, but rather a moment by unique moment by irreplaceable moment of be-ing present.
It's quite liberating!
And that truth is a simple one for me.
I don't know who I am.
I don't know how to be happy.
I don't know whether it matters to ask.
And so I struggle daily with the grayness of the grey.
Wrestling with so many seemingly mundane decisions.
Sometimes wondering why joy seems to simple and easy for others.
But I show up anyway, moment by moment.
Embracing the is-ness of my be-ing, in the here.
That cradles sorrow in equanimity with joy, anger with gratitude, wisdom with vulnerability.
And it's ok.
This constant questioning.
Of the terrain that is at once so intimate and foreign.
I already am.
So what is there to negate?
I would like to begin with an invitation to return to one moment in time when you were truly deeply in love. But not the all consuming, possessive kind of love. But the best possible, liberating kind of love that brought out the best, most expansive you.
Stay in this moment for a while, and feel every cell in your being expanding beyond you. And say hi to this amazing human being who is you in this moment.
What if we could yield money the way we love, in the truest, most essential, sense?
Do I know what this question means?
The closest I've come to being in this state of truest love is when I am sufficiently present to the being of my daughter - neither in adoration, nor self-congratulation, nor even curiosity. Simply be-ing in the moment, where eternity resides in the pauses between seconds.
No sense of other-ness.
Essence connecting with essence.
Whence and when I am in a different state of knowing.
Money is a seductive construct unto which we've poured, un-thinkingly, the best, the worst, and everything in between ... of ourselves. Stripped to its very essence, the construct of money is but one vessel that contains our desires. Desires that are largely unknown and un-named.
This too, applies to how we love.
In love as in money, our biographies play out.
But our biography is not our essence.
As much as we are all capable of the most essential form of love, so too are we capable of yielding money with the most essential of our being.
Therefore, an invitation for you today.
What if we could yield money the way we love, in the truest, most essential, sense?
In over 20 years of recruiting, one of my favourite questions to ask applicants is this: "do you know what kind of environment you need to blossom?"
And so it is with a great irony (such is life) that I discovered that I actually don't know the answer to this question for myself. And have perhaps never known.
Why is this question important?
It is entirely possible that by sheer luck, one finds oneself constantly in environments where one flourishes. Or that by sheer force of will that one can constantly turn any situation to one's benefits. Or that sheer blissful ignorance shields one from the vagaries of discontent.
I think that all of us had been in all these 3 states at some point of our lives. But at some stage, the question, if left un-grappled with, will become more insistent and express itself in ways that include broken relationships, persistent sense of "not-quite-right", physical ailments or, in my case ... increasing difficulty in making decisions I feel good about.
How do you differentiate between an environment that is toxic versus stretching versus blossoming? Or is perhaps the question more about what is one's definition of toxic / blossoming (as Kelly McGonigal pointed out in her TED talk "How to make stress your friend")?
I kept telling myself that these environments were "good for my self-development" and justified the vicious cycle as forcing me to become more "true". But at which point does "self-development" become toxic?
Perhaps one way to approach this question is by asking ... "are the people in this environment genuinely committed to me growth and blossoming?" Then listen for the answer in your quiet moments when you are not filled with angst.
At the end of the day, I believe we can't blossom alone 🌹
Is it true that the height to which one can scale is proportional to the depth to which one has fallen? Elizabeth Gilbert in her beautiful TED talk about genius seems to reject the fatalistic and dramatic narrative of greatness that permeates modern culture.
For the longest time, I've been pondering curiosity's role in maintaining sanity. Instead of being afraid of fear itself, what if I was curious about fear? Instead of judging myself, what if I was curious about why I feel the way I feel?
Linda Kavelin of the Virtues Project speaks of sacred curiosity. And Gilbert, in her latest rumination about the nature of creativity speaks too of curiosity as a friendlier and more constant companion than passion.
Donning a few more white hair today, I can only say "how true."
To be curious is to be respectful without falling into the drama of the moment. Curiosity gives one a healthy degree of impartiality, which is not to be confused with "not caring." It enables you to fully access the full faculty of your humanity.
So imagine being curious with one's self, and not engaged with all the drama that one's ego needs. It is a kinder and gentler way of living with one's self; it is the way of flow; it is the acceptance of at once the impermanence and interconnectedness of all things.
So in every moment, I try to be mindful to:
Is there truly a place, out yonder, that is beyond right and wrong ... as Rumi claims?
Is that perhaps as well where "is-ness" and "one-ness" resides?
Is that where too our essential humanity can be experienced?
I want to believe that it exists.
But perhaps the more interesting question is ... "why is this place out yonder?"
What if I could live everyday as if it's beyond right and wrong?
As if it's "just is", and there's no need for more or less or other?
Would I love myself and others more capaciously and freely?
My legal training has me in somewhat of a bind with this idea - what would happen to law and order and justice if there's no right or wrong?
After pondering this question for a while, it boils down, for me, to one simple question ... "what is my assumption about the essential nature of a human being?"
If I believe that we are all essentially pure and loving beings, our base instinct is then to be pure and loving. If I believe that we are all essentially "survival of the fittest", then I am better off ensuring my survival.
Here's the catch, how can any of these beliefs be definitively proven right/wrong, in the sense of conforming with "reality" ... when reality is most likely a self-construct? As Jung famously said, paraphrased, "your reaction to (x) tells you more about your self"
So the question remains ... "what if you chose to believe that there is place beyond right and wrong, and that place is here and now"?
The Virtues Project describes the virtue of openness (among other attributes) as the ability to "... reveal our thoughts candidly without attempting to manage the responses of others."
Perhaps it was because of having grown up in a violent home, but possessing the ability to anticipate and remain a few steps is deeply ingrained in me.
So it came to pass that my entire being, and body, reacted to the above statement. Not to mention an avalanche of cultural narratives began clamouring for primacy - such as "that is just plain irresponsible" and "only selfish people don't care how others react to their actions" and "free speech is overrated."
Is there however a kernel of truth and wisdom in the statement?
I believe so.
Honesty, like all other virtues, is powerful when there is no intention to manipulate, and emanates from a deep intention to be-ing true to one self. When yielded with self-compassion, and sincerely offered as an invitation to be known, and therefore to connect ... it permits others to be candidly honest as well.
The resonance of sincerity and purity in an honest utterance can be felt by the soul.
I used to resist sharing about my past because I was distrustful of my own intent, afraid that in my anger, I would use my pain to emotionally manipulate my listener(s). Today, I share selectively, but before words are formed, I take a moment to check-in on my intent. And to the best of my ability and conscience, I sense the "right-ness" of sharing in that moment.
Being honest with one self is truly the hardest journey of all.
While I may scientifically develop check-points, maps, steps, frameworks ... ultimately it is the maturing of a conversation with my self, and trusting the process of refinement and distillation and de-layering that slowly reveals my self, to my self ... that is the art of simple honesty.
First the journey of homecoming.
Then comes the story of acceptance.
How often have you been told "just let it go?" and you're wondering to yourself "if I knew how, I would have done it already!"
Well, fast forward many years, and I am still infuriated by this seemingly sagacious advise. Because it has never made sense to me how one could "let go" of any part of one's self. How does that square with me being me precisely because of everything I've experienced?
While this is not about semantics, words are powerful. While not wanting to take issue with this advise, I would like to propose a different way of looking at the painful emotions that we would rather not have in our lives.
And the idea is simply, expanding.
Instead of wanting to detox, purge, flush out these painful emotions, what about expanding the capacity of our being to embrace. The Chinese culture is filled with idioms that invites one to "be the bigger person", "expand one's way of being", "envelop other's entirety".
Instead of believing that we need to be "purer", "better", "lighter" within our current capacity, what about the possibility that our very being has the capacity to become larger, bigger, deeper so that it can contain everything that makes us who we are.
The tough part about the "expanding" approach is non-judgment.
Not attaching moral judgments to how we feel, and simply accepting that it is what it is. And even if we still end up judging, don't feel guilty about it. And so it continues. It does get easier, and one does get faster at arresting the judgment police.
There is a fine line between being honest about one's needs, and demanding that it be fulfilled by another; being honest about one's emotions versus insisting that the world revolves around us; and being honest about one's convictions versus being dogmatic.
Do you believe that your capacity for being-ness is infinite?
Silence is heavy
Voluptuous as the embrace
Of a tightly knit woolen cloak
Luminous in its stark bareness
Revealing every little crack and bump
Silence is evocative
Seductively lulling sensibility
Into trance-like tranquility
Rendering impossible, excess
For in every moment is cradled, the expanse of eternity
Silence is the avalanche of knowing
Fathomless in depth
As equally limitless in reach
In its presence
What use are words
When other forms of knowing, attends
For as long as I recall having memory, I've found mosaic incredibly mesmerising. Alongside the increasing presence of grey hair on my head grew my awareness of how aptly the mosaic can serve as a metaphor for perceiving and understanding the human condition.
Mosaic is at once intricate yet majestic. And it is precisely its brokeness that lends mosaic its perception of fragile beauty - the space between the tiles is as much an intricate part of its language of beauty as the mosaic tile itself. And isn't this true too of our humanity?
Whilst there are numerous titles out there extolling the necessity, power and beauty of our essential brokenness, more often that not, our daily interactions with our fellow human beings appears to be motivated by unconscious "should-ism" that demands perfection of one another. What is it about brokenness that we find so offensive?
What would happen when we accept and embrace that being broken is an essential part of humanity's be-ing? What would happen when we cease to label brokenness as bad? What would it take for us to cease labelling brokenness as bad? I can imagine one certainty ... more peace.
Accepting and embracing brokenness is not the same as using another's brokenness to feel better about ourselves. Rather, it is an acknowledgment of our common humanity. When I accept my own brokenness, and do not judge myself harshly because of it, I find myself capable of more compassion towards others regardless of whether I am aware of the form of brokenness they've experienced.
Finally, it is the coming together of many many many mosaic tiles that the meaning of its language of beauty is expressed. We were not meant to be alone in our brokenness. We were meant to come together, so that another form of beauty may be birthed through the collective.
I would like to leave you with this story.
At the beginning and end of time, Truth was a beautiful glowing orb. One day, the orb was shattered into shards that outnumbered the stars in the universe by one to infinity. These shards became souls. Thus it is that each soul represented one part of Truth. But Life intervened, and many souls believed that they were Truth, and so Hatred was bred. But some souls held onto the memory, and attempted to remind the souls who've forgotten.
I do not know the end of the story as it is yet to be written. But I do know that when all the souls are reunited, the space between the shards would be where the light shines through. And that Truth's beauty would then take another form.