Mindfulness meditation has been getting a lot of press these days for lowering stress. And who doesn’t need this?
The most common reason given, however, why people who start meditating cannot continue is:
“I cannot meditate; I think too much.”
It is distressing when we sit down to get off the merry-go-round of life only to discover we cannot get off! Not only can’t we get off but just like what happens after a long boat ride; when we are safely on dry land we feel the rocking even more intensely.
I have a friend who runs long races. He has been doing it all his adult life and it has taken a toll on his body over the years- an Achilles tendon tear here, a knee strain there, a constant need for new and better shoes for support.
About midway or so through every run, something happens. The nagging pain begins to move into the background before an uncontrollable dawning and a spaciousness in his being. The street, dirty and busy before, appears clear of all obstructions; the colors of the trees deepen in hue. His breathing matches his gait, and while he knows he is running, it feels effortless.
He falls in love with the actions of his body in motion and experiences gratitude for another day of tying his shoelaces even though, when he woke up, he was so tired. And what is the most desirable effect; there is no future to dwell on with fearful anticipation, only the step by step current in the Now.
Rumi, the wonderful interpreter of sacred wisdom, writes of this inborn love of the Now. This is an excerpt from the book, Light upon Light, Inspirations from Rumi by Andrew Harvey.
Trembling Passionate Love
Many simply don’t have the stamina to bear Presence, and prefer absence. They like to feel from a distance the warmth of the Fire, not risking to walk and dance in it. The day’s shining springs entirely from the Sun- but many, many eyes just cannot stand gazing fierce and eagle-like into the Sun’s heart.
Better for people like this to keep calmly busy at some useful task or another; they are not made to be Sun-starers. Talking about tasty dishes to a sick person might stimulate their appetite and encourage them to build their strength- but actually putting such dishes before them would only make them more ill.
Trembling, passionate love is necessary in the Quest for G-d. Anyone who hasn’t yet learned how to tremble must wait for someone who has to teach or inspire them.
Have you noticed that no fruit ever ripens on the trunk of a tree? Trunks never tremble; branches do, their tips especially. The trunk’s sacred task is to strengthen the branches so they can bear the fruit safely- the fruit also keeps the trunk itself safe from the axe.
If the trunk did tremble, the whole tree would be a ruin, so it is best that trunks stay stock-still. This is how they can serve their trembling, fertile branches as nobly as possible.
Sitting within the cacophony of one’s own mind, how can you depend on this runner’s high?
What is heightened and available in the runner at this time is his presence. At first, this presence seems lost in the noise, the pains, the grief and fears of life.
It can be helpful to ask yourself at those moments, who is able to report back to you that there is a lot of thinking? Who is noticing the grief and fear? Being able to name what is happening can be an important step in dissolving its grip.
Notice what happens when you feel a pain. First, the sensation comes into view.
The mind can evaluate, “Wow that can’t be a good thing.”
The mind can compare, “This didn’t happen yesterday.”
The mind can blame, “What’s wrong with those exercises, they are supposed to be helping me!”
The mind can shame, “There is something really wrong with me.”
Naming these tendencies- evaluating, blaming, comparing, shaming and so many others- can help you settle from the fullness of the mind, moving deeper into the heart and the love based there.
This inherent love is the trunk of your tree that is unshakeable.
Because we tend to approach life alone in our own thinking, having another person to inspire our trembling passion can be so helpful. See if this sort of collaboration calls out to you.