Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Now Is the Time


If it weren’t for my mind, my meditation would be excellent. ~Pema Chodron

You’ve heard me frequently emphasize and encourage practice. I’ve talked about the “razor’s edge” of practice, that place where we are challenged to release, expand, embrace, accept, forgive. The place where we meet fear on the battlefield and bow in respect. The place where we experience the distress of not knowing. The place where we come face to face with reality and find that it looks just...like...us. Not the us that we tell ourselves about, not the us that we hide from others, not the us that we want others to see – no, the us as we are, just as we are, right now in this moment.

How do we practice when, well, when things are like they are? Especially like they are these days? How do we practice when everything from viruses to earthquakes to politics to not enough toilet paper threatens our equanimity? When our routines are disrupted, our expectations disregarded, our assumptions revealed and proven false? When fear runs rampant in our minds and our hearts are shattered in grief?

This is precisely the time to practice, to practice, as Pema Chodron says, like our hair is on fire. (That always makes me laugh...and motivates me!) This is when the practice we do when things are easy, shows up to support us and sustain us when things are hard. This is when the trust we have built up in our practice is put to the test and carries us steady on the course.

And what is it exactly that we are practicing? What we can. Awareness. Loving kindness. Meditation. Too much? That’s okay. Practice mindful breathing. Start with this breath. Now this one. It is enough.

The point is not to add more to our to do lists, or to reach some self-imposed standard, but to permeate our lives with compassion, beginning with ourselves. How many times have I heard someone say recently, “I have to,” or “I should have,” or some version of self demand or self failure. When I hear this, I just want to say, “It’s okay. We are all muddling through as best we can, learning and adapting as we go. It’s okay.”

Bring awareness and compassion to the muddling. It is enough.

Now is the time, not to be perfect, not to know everything. Now is the time to practice, to practice being here, now. Take another breath. It is enough.

If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath. ~Amit Ray

Note: The photo above is one of my statues of Kuan Yin, the Chinese goddess of mercy and compassion. I love this statue because she is surrounded by coiling dragons with water churning beneath her. Yet she remains serene, pouring the nectar of compassion right into the dragon's mouth.

11 comments:

  1. Loved the post, Galen ...this quote sticks out.."Bring awareness and compassion to the muddling. It is enough." I like that. It seems like awareness is who we really are at the spirit level. This conscious awareness of all that can be perceived is really the life which we are.

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    1. Thank you, Brian. We are so hard on ourselves, ever striving to be something that we are not. Bringing awareness to who we are, being awareness, releases us from all the futile striving. Thanks for commenting.

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  2. A powerful post, Galen. I'm practising mindfulness, self awareness and concentration. For some reason the third feels especially needed right now. Stay safe.

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    1. You too, Lynne. I feel like I'm practicing day to day, sometimes hour to hour. Thanks for commenting.

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  3. Isn't this a good time to really pay attention to what is right in front of us? The birds on the tree, the rustle of the leaves, the couple walking hand in hand down the sidewalk raise our connection to what is happening.

    Objects in our house that we have not really noticed or looked at for a long time can take on fresh importance in triggering memories or feelings of contentment.

    Enforcing slowing down can have a positive influence on us at a time when we need all the calmness we can muster.

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    1. I love your observations about what is right in front of you, Bob. Literally right in front of you! Someone mentioned recently treating this time as sacred time, like the Sabbath. I liked that a lot. Thanks for commenting.

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  4. Taking that next breath, and the next, and the next . . . This, too, shall pass. And hair on fire or not, we will emerge stronger on the other side of the current woe. I have no doubt, nor do I fear. God's got this, and He's got me. That's all I need to know, and in light of that, I can remain grateful.
    Blessings, Galen, and thank you for enlightening us all!

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    1. One breath at a time, Martha! And I love your statement "God's got this!" Thanks for commenting.

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  5. I studied your statue carefully and realized that the goddess' state of equanimity comes from her compassion for the dragon. I wonder if I could cultivate that compassion for the virus. I wonder, as I sit in my easy chair and tap on my keyboard, reading the posts from my virtual family. Thank you for the inspiring post, Galen. You are one in a million. :-)

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    1. What a brilliant perspective, DJan. I had not thought of that. I love your idea and will give it a try myself.

      I have many statues of Kuan Yin, but this is my favorite. It's interesting because in Chinese culture, the dragon is a powerful, positive image, bringing good luck and fortune. Yet the dragons in this statue appear, at least from a Western perspective, to be coiling around the goddess in an ominous sort of way.

      Again, we are invited to consider our own judgments and assumptions. How does my experience of the statue change if I see the dragons in a positive light? In a negative one? How does that affect my interpretation of the goddess pouring out the nectar of compassion?

      Either way, apart from positive or negative, there is clearly a sense of stillness and serenity in the center while a lot of action and movement is happening all around. And the root of that serenity is in the manifestation of compassion. Compassion for everything, without exception.

      You've got me thinking of all sorts of things! If I'm one in a million, then you are one in a trillion. Thanks so much for your inspiring comment, DJan.

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  6. I do love your thoughts on this one. We are enough and it has been a big subject lately in our faith. We are all muddling through and learning how to be more loving and compassionate. For some that's a gift in some ways. I guess my goal is to continue to develop and pray for Christ like qualities in my life. I know I won't ever be perfect but at least I can work on it slowly and be happy doing it.
    Blessings and hugs!

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