I recently posted that meditation is useless if you do not take that peace into the world. What does that mean, and what is the way to accomplish this?
Perhaps a negative example is the best way to explain: you have a meditator, or someone who does beautiful peaceful Tai Chi, or lovely strong deep yoga. But someone cuts them off on the freeway and they scream curses. Their child acts out, and they fly into a rage. They get in a Facebook argument and gush abuse and anger. Their boss criticizes them, and they quake as if faced by a starving tiger.
Their meditation is still floating on the surface. Unless you can take that same peace and not react with fear and anger when presented by life stress, they are not yet penetrating the ego shell and connecting with something deeper than their self-image.
- Cut off on the freeway. What does that mean? That you will be late? That the other driver disrespected you? That the other driver put you at risk by cutting lanes? IDENTIFY THE FEAR. Did reacting with anger make any of this better? Have you increased your safety? Is this action a symbol for other stresses and frustrations in your life, and are you venting from the safety of your rolling fortress?
- Your child is acting out. Who is the adult here? Are you incensed that your authority has been threatened? Afraid that you cannot control your child and therefore she is at greater risk? Is this a direct concern, or symbolic of disrespect in other arenas of your life? What are you afraid of?
- You are having a political argument on Facebook. How often do highly politicized people change their minds about something in a Facebook argument? Why are you so invested? What difference does it make? How can you rail against the “gridlock” in Washington, when your precise behavior, writ large, is the same kind of ego-dance? If you do not exemplify the kind of rational, calm discourse that leads to compromise or clarity, on what basis can you criticize our leaders? If you are so invested in a zero-value conversation–one which ultimately impacts NOTHING, what in the world would you be like if something would actually be on the line? “Be the change you wish to see.”
- If your boss is angry at you, why is she angry? What is she afraid of? That your perceived incompetence will cost her her own job? Is she struggling at home and taking it out on you? If you lose your job, do you really have no confidence that you will be able to find another? If so, shouldn’t you invest your energy and time in developing that confidence and self-knowledge? If you don’t, you will be in fear every single day of your life. If there is 20% unemployment, why are you so certain that 80% of the population is better than you at marketing themselves? If you were totally certain you could survive if you lost your job, would you still be afraid? Upset?
When you meditate, most of us will deal with mental chatter and “garbage” for the first fifteen minutes, until you reach a “flow.” Imagine this like shrinking your ego until, like the submarine in “Fantastic Voyage” you can float through the gaps between the obstacles and fears, navigating in the clear spaces. If there isn’t enough space, if you can’t stop bumping into the disappointments and emotional tangles, you simply haven’t shrunk your ego enough. You are attached to a particular picture of life, of yourself.
We are upset when our reality doesn’t match our picture of the way things “ought to be.”
We believe the world revolves around us. Or conversely, that the world is out to get us. The reality is between the two: the world is just what it is, and cares about us about as much as you care about an individual cell in your body.
That driver who cut us off on the freeway? You could have said: “wow. He must be in a terrible hurry to drive so poorly. I hope he gets home safe.”
That raging child? You could say: “his hormones are chaos. He is filled with fear about an awkward body, a maze of conflicting new rules, confusion about the world and all its violence and sexuality. I must be calm, so that he can FEEL that calm is possible.”
That Facebook thread? You could believe that you are a microcosm of our nation, our world. If you can see the humanity in the other side, see that their anger is fear, you can either communicate better, or at the very least not take it personally. At all. Hell, they don’t know you. They’re screaming at photons. How much fear does it take to shut down that much forebrain?
Your boss is a human being. If YOU were the boss, your employees would say much the same things about you that employees everywhere think about bosses. And you would start thinking much the same thing about them that bosses typically think. And if you are stuck with a genuinely monstrous boss? People change jobs every day. Why precisely do you have less confidence in yourself than they have? What decisions could you make differently that would lead, in a year, to you having more flexibility in options?
In other words: what can YOU do to take responsibility for your life, your actions, your emotions, that lead to more and better choices? I promise you that if you have the resources and capacity to be reading these words, someone somewhere has had fewer resources than you, and done better.
But you might have to give up your IMAGE of yourself, your MAP of the way you wanted life to be. And get down to the basics of what you are programmed to seek in life: survival, sex, shelter, love, honest expression and understanding. Owning your life. The APPEARANCE of those things is quite secondary. In most cases, it is like being attached to a red Subaru, and ignoring the fact that someone is offering you a green Toyota…and then claiming you have no transportation.
We make choices, based upon our values, which are based on our beliefs, which are anchored in our emotions, which originate in our sense of “what is true?” and “who am I?”
Meditation seeks to calm us, to dive deeper than the easy answers, down below the chatter, to the original manufacturer specifications: survival, sex, shelter, love. Not the trivial socially-programmed ego-driven manifestations of these things, but down to where we can examine our choices and decide for ourselves: is this true? Who am I?
And we know that we have accessed truth not when we find peace sitting cross-legged in a cave, but when we are cut off on the freeway…when our children challenge us…when we are in arguments with strangers…and when our employment is threatened…and our breathing does not change. Nor our posture. Nor our inner calm. And we can ask: “what do they fear?” rather than “I am attacked!”
If you can maintain calm confidence, compassion, and adult awareness at those times, THEN you are starting to touch something real. To “wake up.” That is where the rubber meets the road.
Otherwise, it’s like playing video games and thinking that makes you a combat vet, or martial arts master, or race-car driver.
Start with the surface “games”, yes…but take it into the world. That is the real test.