Have you ever taken a step away from your mind long enough to notice the relationship between stress and the thoughts you carry in your head? Can you imagine the release if you only could stop all thoughts for a few minutes? Of course we do this every night for a few hours. We realize that if we were to stop sleeping these same thoughts that maneuver us through the day would force us into mental bankruptcy and we would lose our minds. So we try to get our sleep.
I awaken as the sun pours through my east-facing windows every morning and I am drenched in light. I return to my body and stretch, and feel gratitude for the beauty I enjoy as I look out the window over my small town ringed by mountains. I awaken with quietness and openness inside, wondering what the day will bring.
Awakening spiritually is much the same -- coming into a sense of lightness, openness, spaciousness, where thoughts do not interfere with the simple beingness of life -- the I am is experienced as a felt sense rather than a belief, the entering of this moment. As the mind lets go of expectations, desires, and the need to judge oneself and others, all the billions of neurons bouncing around in our head become calm, aware, responsive to the amazing experience of right now. Our senses brighten. As the heart awakens the body becomes soft and relaxed, melting sometimes into wonder at the beauty all around us, the miracle of existing at all. We know our self to be an expansive spirit in a body, using this form to dance and move in the play of life. As the gut awakens the knot in the belly that wants control unravels itself and we are available to change our fear to curiousity, and notice that life unfolds outside of our control, and we are capable of meeting it as it is.
I am 72 now . When I was 20, 30 even 40 and 50 I could not imagine being happy at this age. Old people looked -- well, old. I thought it would be very depressing to give up feeling pretty, being part of the movement and adventure of life that absorbs us when we are young, having lots of energy and moving through the world as if I was "somebody". And it is true there are challenges in aging. Sometimes my feet are unstable. I fell flat on my face off a ledge a couple of week ago and looked for a few days as if I had been in a bar-room brawl. (Frankly, I felt mainly intense gratitude that nothing was broken or permanently damaged.) All of my family in the generations above mine have passed on and many friends as well. Nearly every week someone I care for is reported in a battle with cancer or a heart problem. There is always the knowing that at any time the axe will fall for myself or my husband. But somehow all of this is just absorbed into the weave of living, and in its tragedy there is a beauty, just as in the bright day there is a compensatory dark night with its stillness and solitude. I can be sorrowful for what is not here now or grateful that I am still here now. Which will bring me peace and happiness?
So much of a life today is driven by the demands of an intense and commercial society. Energy is pulled in many directions and the longing to have not only what we need, but everything we want, consumes the majority of westerners, while the struggle in much of the world is simply to stay alive. Humans are in constant turmoil internally, trying to change things, acquire something, gain recognition or achieve goals. And then they are surprised to find they are not happy and the world is not at peace. This is the drivenness of thought, of the part of mind that fears to relax, to let go, to explore just being. We have lost the grace of simply being alive, the appreciation of the natural beauty and wonder in the world that can only be seen when we "Stop". Millions of us cannot even enter the stillness of sleep anymore because the mind will never stop.
If you are seeking peace and beauty in your life create a way intuitively to heal yourself. Put something beautiful in every room to remind you to be present, or find a spot where you can sit in stillness or walk in beauty. Learn true meditation, a simple sitting without efforting and letting things be as they are. Play music that distracts and sooths your spirit. Do something you love each day. Let go of toxic situations in your life and then do not carry them around in your thoughts once they are gone. Create your own series of koans or inner questions that cannot be answered with mind but take you to a deeper place, a place of Truth, i..e "Isn't this only a thought -- a random neuron firing? Is it true?" "What is wholeness?" "Who am I without thought?" "Can I love without attachment?" "What do I know that no one ever taught me?" Find your own, because the portal to awakening is deeply within you. And along this path you will discover peace, joy and appreciation in the very simplicity of living itself.