I am not feeling secure today. Have you ever awakened to a day where from the very beginning you feel that something is just not right. My mother use to say that I got up on the wrong side of the bed. That is a terrific metaphor for what I am meaning to write about today.
Nothing has gone wrong. I did not bump into my fear or my urgency and in general I started the work day late enough so that I had plenty of time to meander into the morning. I saw severaL patients and that went very well. Stress and urgency which have often been my Achilles heel were no where in sight.
The air was cold, but it was not one of those damp colds, instead it was a beautiful deep blue sky morning that filled the air with a crispiness that made me want to do a grand inhale and exhale before getting in to start my car.
So, you might ask, what is wrong with today?
I am going to attempt to describe the phenomenal experience of being here, today, right now. As I sit here, warmed by a glowing blue and orange flame coming from the wood burner, I am aware of an irritable, self-centered, scary feeling that I will not be able to maintain my sense of well-being. Outside my window the naked limbs of the winter trees are frozen still and in the backdrop the ice and snow covered lake is glistening that warm winter white that i wrote about recently.
The environment is “near” perfect. I say, “near” because there is a longing stirring in my gut that has me unable to remain seated in the moment. My mind is projecting forward and back and the composition of pure unadulterated stillness is escaping me. My heart has a slight race to it. Not an overly dramatic high speed heart–just faster than it needs to be working. It is not in sync with what I am doing, instead it is in sync with what I think I ought to be doing. It is synchronized with a future event rather than being synchronized with this very pleasant, winter warm sensation of being quietly encouraged to find the next right word.
Ahaa, that wonderful sensation of having all I need…where did it go?
This moment of vitality is unsatisfying because I am chronically removing myself to an “ought-condition.” And in the condition of tomorrow, I immediately question if I will be O.K. then. Will my tomorrow have sustained this capacity to live and experience fullness or will I have fallen into the great abyss of the “not-quite-enough” yet.
You can see why i am so cautious. I am precariously perched on a very narrow ledge of contentment. “Like a bird on a wire, like a drunk in a midnight choir–I have tried in my way to be free.” (L. Cohen) Poor old Leonard, he never really returned from his monastery longings. He went to live high on a hill where he thought he might be protected from his demons because at that time in his life he still thought that all of his demons were external to him.
How do we counteract the demons within? How do we get beyond this life of errands? Is it as simple as a choice that we make; say like, “I have decided to be happy, or I am going to be positive from this time on.” Does it sound like a New Year’s resolution? Is it a simple fact of my mind telling my other mind how to behave, much like a parent might tell a youngster to behave in a toy store. I can not help but wonder at the difference between maintaining a positive attitude and pure delusional thinking. From where I sit, my new perspective tells me not to trust the solitary condition of “smile” everything will be fine. I more come from the school of “God may provide me with a boat, but he expects me to row.”
Is my story with contentment one that hinges on a pure and simple desire to be happy, or is it really not that at all that I am saying. What I am meaning is not , “I want to be content,” but, I want my way and when I get my way then I will be happy. It is a difficult question, a hideous demon to confront. What if I stop wanting the things that I have thought all my life were necessary for me to feel good, would I immediately be set adrift in an endless ocean of direction-less-ness, or is that perhaps the only real ticket required for this journey.
Countless things could happen in the next moment, the next hour, next week or next year. At least several dozen people that I know, or that I know of intimately have died in the past year. Did they start 2009 with any idea that they would be dead within the year. Any plan they had, regardless of how lofty or noble died right along with them. The point here, before it becomes too labored, is simply this. If I decide that happiness is a conditional dimension then more than likely I will experience my contentment in only a conditional manner. It is the difference between witnessing an event and experiencing your life.
O.K. let’s go back to the beginning of this short essay. Why was I feeling insecure? I think now that I have spent the last 30 minutes or so thinking about it, I can say with certainty that I have the answer. I was insecure because I had not bothered to locate my stillness. The one crisp breath of inhale and exhale just before getting into my car was sufficient to let me know I was O.K., but it was not sufficient to establish myself in the state of well-being. My contentment relies essentially on my disciplined ability to slow-down, pause & meditate on locating the silence, the stillness within me. It is the same silence and stillness that exist in the rest of the vast universe. But it is my stillness that I need to locate. My stillness is experienced through my consciousness which is a different place from which to watch the world go by than is my egoic mind. Once I have found the peace that comes from being, I can get up and easily do the next right thing because it will not come at me smelling of an obligation, it will come at me as the next right wave to catch as I body surf my way back to the shore.
I have to remind myself that the journey from the egoic mind to the location of experiencing consciousness is one that must be deliberate. You need to have seen for yourself that there is a better place to live inside your mind than the ego which cares for the past and the future. Once having caught a glimpse of this portal to consciousness, you can rely on your deliberate discipline to get yourself there. But like going from any point “A” to any point “B” we are not teleported there, we need to consciously tell ourselves to slow-down, be still, listen to the sounds until you hear the stillness that the sounds are emanating from.
My favorite means of inducing this state is to follow the voice of a Tibetan Singing Bowl, or listening to the resonance of a gong, or the vibrating strings of a cello…these are my favorite means and they may become yours, or you might find your own way to transport yourself through the corridor of the mind to the portal of consciousness.