Over just a few short days, the tranquility of our peaceful little suburban community was broken by an ambulance pulling up just outside our house … THREE TIMES! As we’d guessed, and later confirmed, our neighbor’s husband with dementia had had some medical/health “adventures”. After she told me about it the other day, I expressed my admiration for how calmly and gracefully she handled it all. With a smile, she told me the secret: Thirty years of yoga, meditation, and other mindfulness practices.
Janet Stone, a yoga teacher I follow, said: Don’t justDO something, SIT there [emphasis mine]. You see, when we purposefully take time to calm, center, and connect, it’s like we’re Tony Stark putting on his Ironman suit, in that all our actions become WAY more effective! What’s more, it doesn’t take thirty years to experience the benefits. While it took Tony time to become a master of his super suit, and flying was an “adventure” at first, just putting the suit on gave him superhuman strength and powers. Much the same way, while years/decades of meditative and contemplative practices will infuse one’s body-mind with deep wisdom, serenity, and coolness under pressure, a short session of quieting the mind can give us the confidence and calm to skillfully face life’s storms.
Are there activities and/or places where you seem to more regularly get clarity than other places? I ask because that happens for me while on a run, in the shower, and practicing yoga. When I get lost in those activities my mind naturally slows and quiets, which opens my inner ears to a Wisdom that’s beyond me. I have a hunch it’s the Spirit speaking, but you might have other intuitions. Albert Einstein put it like this: “I think 99 times and find nothing. I stop thinking, swim in the silence, and the truth comes to me.”
My wife and I are just coming out of a particularly stressful season of life, featuring oodles of overtime, buying a new house, moving, occupational transitions, and battling for nearly seven months to sell a rental property in a different state (while paying the mortgage and multiple thousands of dollars in repairs). Even though it was super crazy and stressful, I can also say it was a deeply joyful time, because yoga, meditation, contemplation, and the like, gave us abundant reservoirs of grace, understanding, patience, and wellbeing amidst it all (truthfully I’d say those practices connected us to the Source of those gifts, but hopefully you get my point!).
Action, whether it’s a hard conversation, a project, or doing dishes, is more impactful and effective when preceded and informed by contemplation. The mystics of all the worlds major religions agree God can be seen and experienced everywhere, as there’s no place, or person, that’s not continually soaking in the Spirit. Christianity, for instance, reminds us, “Ever since the creation of the world, God’s invisible nature has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made,” while Islam teaches, “Whithersoever you turn, there is the face of God.” Thus, Sister Joan Chittister (theologian, author, & speaker) concludes: “Contemplation is immersion in the God who created this world for all of us.”
I LOVE that and think it describes my experiences well! When we practice contemplation, meditation, and yoga it’s like we’re soaking in a Divine hot tub, wherein our bodies, minds, and spirits become infused with heavenly goodness. It is no wonder taking time to center and calm our selves increases our kindness, understanding, peace, and wisdom!
One way yoga points to the power of centering is via the Koshas. The five Koshascan be thought of as sheaths to our True Self and/or aspects of our body/experience. There’s the physical body, energy/breath body, mental body, wisdom body, and bliss body. The Vijnanamaya Koshais your inner wisdom, which I understand to be the Holy Spirit speaking in/to/thru me, but you might name this mystery differently.
Tuning into this wavelength is what I believe Albert Einstein was describing above. When we get out of our heads and drop into our hearts, we tap into a spirit of intuition and discernment, which allows us to live in a more Love-centric way. Your Vijnanamaya Kosha is like a wise sage inside you who helps free you from fears, compulsions, and insecurities to act with greater clarity, generosity, patience, understanding, and confidence.
It doesn’t take long watching the news, or scrolling through social media, to realize there’s A LOT of reactivity, defensiveness, explosive anger, name-calling, judgments, accusations, divisiveness, and violence out there in the world. Frankly, with the best of intentions it’s easy and natural to act in these, and other, unkind ways when our actions aren’t guided and grounded in our contemplations. Truly, taking time to collect ourselves, center, and connect makes us superheroes of kindness, peace, and joy. The question is: How do we do this?
While there are no one-size fits all way to meditate or contemplate, and different practices work for different people, I will close with a few general thoughts. This whole blog can be summed up like this: Think less to BE more! Now, a good rule of thumb in life is trying to notdo something (like “don’t think!”) doesn’t work so well. We must dosomething elseinstead! So, shifting our awareness from our thoughts to something else, will tune us into the spirit of calm without condition, wisdom free from worry, and clarity imbued with confidence that’s within each of us. Please note I’m 100% NOT saying we’ll be like this ALL the time, as we all lose our cool. I’m merely saying taking time to quiet, calm, and center helps us be the best version of ourselves.
With that in mind, here are some ideas to aid us in our journeys of becoming. Contemplate something beautiful. Meditate on a phrase that nourishes you where life has you today by repeating it and feeling it as a mantra. Close your eyes and feel your breath, guide your breathing, smooth it out, lengthen it, taste it. Gaze at something long enough that your eyes become unfocused and you look through/beyond it. Get “lost” in nature. Relax your brain; let it take a nap in a hammock between your ears. Run circles around your thoughts with your awareness. Watch your thoughts like your cloud watching or stargazing. What resonates with you? What would you add to the list? What’s your experience of this practice?
Grace and peace,