My initial inquiry into mindfulness meditation was a last ditch effort to find relief from insomnia. The notion that being present could end my suffering seemed a philosophy for those who have the luxury of spending copious amounts of time on introspection, long walks and poetry – a reality for someone granted an excess of resources and good health. I had to live within the confines of reality, stressful situations, responsibilities, and obligations. I had to remember the past to keep from repeating mistakes. I had to consider the future to ensure prosperity. The anguish of fatigue caused me to act against my better judgment and I found myself giving meditation a try. For that I am grateful.
My practice has changed. What began as a outcome driven task has transitioned into something more nuanced and layered. I now seek to experience the daily upheaval of life with dignity and confidence rather than disbelief and defiance. There is subtlety as well as definition. What follows are a few thoughts on some of the transformative aspects of my practice. I hope you find them helpful.
Uncertainty without Insecurity
I’ve never been comfortable with the unknown. I like answers. When they aren’t available, I like finding them. I like to rationalize, and I don’t understand blind faith. At times these qualities have worked in my favor. I was a great student, leaving no stone unturned in my studies. I am extremely reliable, never wanting anyone to be uncertain about my sincerity. I am trusted. Yet, the ever-present desire to be sure of things can lead to feelings of insecurity, lack of confidence, and in my case worry – a lot of worry . By practicing mindfulness meditation, I’ve learned to acknowledge uncertainty, without having to address it. I observe thoughts of worry, but don’t latch onto them. Instead, I allow thoughts to fade and bring myself to the present, to the constancy of breath. And in life, off the meditation seat, worry has lost its appeal.
Hope without expectation.
There is a thin line between hope and expectation. To be hopeful is to be lifted by the knowledge that people are inherently good, that bad times are temporary, and that change will happen. Expectation can be a desire for things to be different than they are; the belief that we deserve more than what is present at any moment. The line is easily blurred and we can lose hope while expecting better things to happen. When I connect to the breath over and over in meditation I experience an accepting awareness. I understand and accept the present while knowing it will change many times over as time passes. By recognizing change as inevitable, I have gained hope without attachment to outcome. To have hope without expectation has become a immense gift – it is a new form of freedom.
Failure without regret
I’ve never begun any endeavor with the surety of success. From a young age I’ve understood that failure is simply part of the journey toward accomplishment, discovery and success. I consider myself a considerably tenacious individual, willing to move through multiple iterations of a plan before changing course or giving up. Failure has never been a difficult pill to swallow, it is the aftertaste of regret that has been lasting. I have made many choices out of obligation or a misguided sense of duty. These are the ghosts that haunt me most today. I now know that missed opportunity is the result of living out of step with the present. During meditation, I practice returning to the present again and again. Each time I return to the present, I return to truth, the only reality there is in the moment. And in moments of presence and truth it is simple to drop the shades of judgment, perception, and belief that cloud vision. When vision is clear, opportunities aren’t missed, and the potential for regret is absent.
I know I have only scratched the surface of what may be revealed through meditation. But I have gained much.