Nudge and Flow newsletter theme december january
~ Nudge and Flow In my twenties, I neglected to practice meditation for several years. I was in a spiritual group, our entire lives revolved around Dharma, but nobody meditated. We were anti-practice. Although we did practice many things--every day listening to teachings, for example--we thought meditation was for beginners. And we did not want to think of ourselves as beginners. (A serving of blind spiritual ego, anyone?) In the middle of monsoon one year, when the teachings were at a lull, an old friend invited me to meditate with one other person. "I will come by and pick you up at 6 tomorrow morning." It was not a question, and there was no need to question: it was just the right timing for me to start meditating again, at long last. The fact that my friend would be at my gate was enough to get me up and out, to walk together the rest of the way to the little cement house by the forest where three of us would simply be still together for an hour. Radical beginning. Many of us live in situations where we are surrounded by people who do not meditate. We have an anti-practice culture. Or we are surrounded by people who practice, but we do not. Or we practice, but just to check it off on our list. It is worth wrestling with what stops us. (Do we think that we should not need to practice--that we should already be done? Do we think we do not "deserve" to meditate, or to sink into our deepest aliveness before we attend to outer pressures? Do we really think we do not have time to "do nothing?" Are we afraid to be happy, or to be ourselves in our own lives? Perfectionism, guilt, postponement? Do we shy away from the tenderness, unpredictability, and humility of practice? I don't mean just the humility of not being perfect. Are we mostly shy of the silent, simple, unspeakable vastness that goes so far beyond us (as we know us) that we no longer have any reference points? Now, there may be times when a pause in a rigid or controlling practice pattern may be healthy. We can re-group and come back into the flow with more heart and fluidity. But in general we can ask, What has (or can have) authority over our habit energy of avoidance? Who inside us is big and friendly enough to stand at our gate at 6 tomorrow morning? There is something childish in us that really wants to stick to the melodramatic known, to the pale predictable, or to the aggressive certainty of not-being-beginners. We are so loyal to the cover-up and to covering up the cover-up. As quantum physicist David Bohm says in Unfolding Meaning, "certain questions are very painful to face. Now thought is constantly trying to find ways of escaping, of avoiding the question. Thought is programmed to try to do this and to conceal what it is doing..." And I would add that thought also avoids what is overwhelming in a positive or liberating way. Thought is programmed to avoid our true nature and to cover up that avoidance. What can nudge us into simply getting on with it? On any day, not just after a long gap, we may need a nudge, a small push, to get started. Just knowing that can help. Or we may need a "carrot" for the donkey--like the idea that "this is good" or "self-care"--to get us going. I think of my practice of jogging. Some days the nudge is that I think, "This is good for my body." But if it were only good for my body, I do not think I would continue year after year. The fact is, once I get out and into my rhythm, it is my mind that loves the "flush" and freedom. If I only did it for the thought that it is good for me, I would not last long. For me, the practice of jogging is sustainable because it does real good for my mind to get beyond its horizons. A simple, slippery, easy-to-forget good. Similarly with meditation, the idea that meditation is good for us may help us start. Or maybe we need at first some good company, or a routine. But once we are into our practice, the fact that we need it becomes obvious. Once we get started, we keep going for the simple, slippery wholesomeness of coming home into our deep being. Whatever comes up, or goes away. However pleasant or unpleasant. Good. But let's remember that this goodness is by its nature easy to forget. So first, we may need a nudge, and then we may need to let the meditation flow. We need to feel our way for when to stop nudging (or justifying, or giving authority over to somebody or something else). Over decades, I have gotten to know, inside out, a persistent fear of assault. Because assault does happen, and way too often, I have had to grow my ability to hear my intuition even when I am afraid, even when I may have every reason to be afraid. Very gradually, the wisdom in the lower belly has won out over the paranoia. Then I noticed how extremely attentive I can be to the belly voice in moments of potential danger, and how good that was. I wished for that much "vigilance" in moments of peace. But it was not through trying to be vigilant that the flow came. And it was not not through trying. Everything comes together to allow this free flow of love for love. Love for that friend by the gate who is not outside anymore, or never was. Once we are free of the habit energy of avoidance, we may let our so-called practice have a life of its own. We may give our heart to the goodness of the silence that speaks to our sweetest places, the stillness or the movement that flows with aliveness.