Change and Commitment

Climate Protests

So many of us are poised, waiting for these next 5 days to pass, anxiously trying on hopes and fears like second hand sweaters at Labels.  Change is the soundtrack, the set, how do we play this one out?  Will we all become drama queens or somebody’s crazy uncle?  How is this debut any different from those of the last millennia?  How have people coped?  How can we endure these next 5 days?

Myself, I am grateful to fall back on ancient teachings as they are translated and interpreted by folks living right now, right in this swamp, with the rest of us.  One of my teachers, Lama Tsering Everest, reminds me that change is continuous and that we humans have always had to deal with this.  On a microscopic level, even the stones are transforming.  Right now, your body is metamorphosing, leaving something behind and growing something new.  Things are always rotting away and others are popping into form.  Amid the curling fingers of the desiccating, golden leaves, fresh, white mushroom babies have pushed their heads through the forest loam.

If I love that thing that’s dying, I moan for my loss.  Should I prefer chanterelles for my pasta sauce, I might dance a gnome’s jig.  Am I now a drama queen, locked into the time-worn dichotomy of hoping for fungi and fearing falling leaves?  Perhaps there is a 3rd party candidate beyond hope and fear.

Of course there is, and it might be called All of The Above.  The beautiful teachings of yoga and Buddhism reveal the essence of everything to be the same.  Einstein showed that matter cannot be created nor destroyed and that it’s all matter.  It all matters.  The core of each living being is Buddha or Ananda or Christ consciousness but we just don’t see it that way.  How can those people be like us?  It feels so real when I know someone is hungry and someone else is denying them food.  I see a victim and a big fat dummy.

If I knew my Buddha/Ananda/Christ self, could I just see two people who are still under the bewitchment of being human, aka suffering?  A simple quiz to find out if someone is, like you, human:  Do they want to be happy?  Do they want to be free from suffering?  According to Wikipedia, Higher consciousness is  “the part of the human mind that is capable of transcending animal instincts”.  Maybe I could cool my burning righteousness, retract my fangs and hackles.  Could I foster compassion for both players, rather than pity for the hungry one and wrath for the other?  I could wish them both more ease, freedom or sense of safety.  This also doesn’t mean complacency, but rather it’s an opening to many other choices.

We’ve all had glimpses of enlightenment or awakening, and sometimes it’s so clear how we should behave.  However, we mostly default to Me and Mine.  If we seek a sustainable happiness, it will mean losing something else.  When we say yes to one thing, it always means saying no to everything else. Don’t worry yet about having to give up anything.  Rather, start to make room for the possibility of feeling less reactive, freer from the choke collars of hope and fear.  Both of these concepts steal your power and the experience of the present moment.  If I’m afraid it will rain tomorrow, I’ve put my happiness on a certain outcome and lost all other possibilities of enjoyment.  If I hope for sunshine it simultaneously means I fear the rain.  Rather than let something outside of me decide how I’m going to feel, I can spend that time in prayer or meditation, focusing on the way I want to feel right now.  In these practices I can change my body chemistry, and have an embodied experience of contentment or joy.  The more I practice, the more time I get to spend basking in those chemicals that put my mind at ease, allow me to relax and let all of my body’s systems heal and recover from stress.  When I notice how good I feel, I can try to remember this when the lure of self-righteousness wiggles its finger in temptation.

You may be a newbie to prayer or meditation, so I’ll offer you a very simple, yet profound verse you can try.  I’ve shared this practice, called Meta or Loving Kindness, in the past, and it never gets stale for me.  I taught this to a private client just this week, and decided to practice it this morning myself.  I got to feel the freedom and empowerment, the release of hatred and a wealthy feeling abundance as the outcome.  Give it a try.

First, sit comfortably or lie down.  With eyes closed, take some longer breaths to help you settle.  Now, bring to mind someone who is easy to love, maybe a young child or a puppy (I know there are a lot of puppies out there!). Imagine their eyes, looking directly into yours.  Inside your mind, say to them:

May you feel safe.
May you be at ease.
May you be happy.
May you be free.
May you be healthy and strong.
May you feel loved and cared for.
May you accept yourself just the way you are.

Repeat this two more times.  Notice how you feel in your body.  Feel what’s happened to your physiology.  Likey, hormones have been released from your glands, you might feel your smile muscles involuntarily working, you might even giggle.  This is all you!  Bathe in this for a while, soaking it all in.

You can do this same practice for other beloveds, noticing that there is an endless storehouse of Meta or Loving Kindness.  It’s as if you have underground diamond mines, just waiting for you to bring your little pickaxe and share the goods.

You can also make these prayers your own, adding to or omitting lines, crafting them to your needs.

The next stage is to do the practice for someone you’d call neutral in your life, maybe a clerk or a neighbor you haven’t met.  Notice how this feels.  The mine inside just keeps on giving.

For some folks, the next part might be more difficult, while others like to do this one first.  You put yourself in place of “you”:

May I feel safe, etc.

For the adventurous, those who are ready to look at some of your strong beliefs and habits, place someone you don’t like in your prayer, imagining a one-way transmission from you to them.  Observe that your diamond mine is still growing precious gems and you haven’t lost anything.

If you want to go to the advanced round, for lots of extra points, place a politician in your prayer, or someone who has signs in their yard which really trigger you. Be careful to stick to prayers that are not harmful to anyone.

This practice can be quite humbling, recognizing that I feel the way I do towards some people,  and I still believe it’s worth the time spent.  If you want the world to change, you don’t have to do anything because it’s already changed since you started reading this.  If you want to feel different about your world, commit to practices that will support the way you want to feel.  If you’re waiting for the world to change to meet your beliefs, you are guaranteed an unhappy life.

We are all made of the same essence, and we all need care and compassion.  Next Tuesday there will be many disappointed folks and many who will feel they’ve won.  Let’s prepare to support them all.  Commit to your human community and to yourself.