August 29, 2016

Practicing in the Midst


I met meditation during a difficult time in my life. A time filled with fear, grief, anxiety, and shame. Meditation was true medicine. It reconnected me with myself and reawakened my life. The changes were gradual but important. Yet when I felt better, I stopped my daily practice, thinking, "I'll be fine." Of course, I wasn't. Life again became complicated (life was life), and I returned to daily meditation. Now I clearly see the evidence: If I practice every daywhether life is great or difficultI cultivate awareness, clarity, and love. Some days, I feel ease. Other days, I feel doubt. Regardless, I sit and stay with what is.

Meditation is an experimental lab. It's a way to watch and experience the mind; to form new relationships with thoughts and feelings; to reconnect with embodied sensation; to cultivate love and awareness. But it's not done in a vacuum. I sit in meditation for two reasons: 1) to benefit myself, and 2) to benefit others. When I'm mindful, I more skillfully interact with others. The greatest teachings on a meditation path are out in the world, not on the cushion. We need both: we need to sit and stay with ourselves; and we need to sit and stay with others. Plus we need courage to do this with an open heart. A heart open to joy, play, and wonder; a heart open to pain, loss, and difficulty. 

It's hard to stay with big emotions. They can feel overwhelming. Still, what we resist persists. To practice in the midst, we must ease our way in: establish safety, connect with breath, and open just a littleopen to what's there, with kindness and compassion. This is an honest and gentle practice; a patient and persistent practice. The next time you experience complicated emotions, come here, sit with me, and listen:


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8 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing, dear Joy! Just before I read your 'Practicing in the Midst', I was realizing something similar for my writing, walking and creative practice, yet for these forms of meditation it's the other way around for me. I tend to commit to them on the days I feel good: these ways of meditation would be of greater benefit if I would truly integrate them in my daily life and practice on a regular basis, make them to a ritual, part of the structure of my days. They always bring me back to the essence, cultivate inner rest on greyer days, so I bet they have the same potential on dark days as well yet something inside me always tells me that it's better to create from a positive feeling as I have the fear the darkness will colour my art and writing ... It's a part of me that I'd rather hide than show although I am aware of the fact that to live a mindful life, it's also of great importance to dare/have the brave courage to bring the darker sides to the surface, to be vulnerable ... Would love to read your thoughts!

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    1. It's always good to hear from you, Elke. You have such wise, beautiful insights. I understand about practicing when things feel good, yet not when life is difficult. It's interesting how we resist mindfulness at the very times we need it most. I've worked with this a lot. It's actually "in the midst" when we most need to reconnect with awareness, creativity, presence, and compassion. My photography and writing are informed by all pieces of life--the full range of emotions. A daily practice allows me to see and experience all the different mind- and heart-states. This magnifies my joy and gives less power to fear. Not all art and writing must be "shown." If I'm in a dark state yet still choose to practice (e.g., write or photograph), then I can also choose what I want to share. There might be nuggets on the dark days that inform the light days. Right now, I'm trying to bring my meditation/mindfulness practice into all of life, because life is a powerful teacher. I'm glad to have friends like you on the path. Hugs!

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    2. Thank you for your very much appreciated wise words and insights and for your friendship, dear Joy! Wishing you plenty of courage and strength: I am doing the best I can to walk a similar path ...

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  2. PS: I am currently reading the whole oeuvre of Natalie Goldberg, taking Erin Faith Allen's 'Metamorph' course and diving into Toni Bernhard's 'How to live well'. I bet these women's lived wisdom is teaching me a lot and makes me realize even more what I shared in the above part ... It would be an act of gentle, mild and healing (self)compassion: starting to take baby steps.

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  3. OH I will! Thank you for sharing this post Joy. This is what I try to practice every day and in my therapy the last two years. That is when my new start begun. When I quit my job and started to study being a therapist. I often thing of what you once wrote about September and being where you did not want to be. I struggle and practice. Every day.

    I have had little time to read your blog because of the baby and other million things I need to do... not always want to do : ) sending lots of love and hugs!

    Agnes

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    1. So good to see you here, Agnes. Of course, Boris needs your time. Those kiddos are so important. You practice for yourself as much as those kiddos--being a loving, patient, imperfect, beautiful mom. Even "in the midst," you seem like you're in a better place. Practicing helps. Hugs to you!

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  4. I needed this so much. Life has been so crazy and I stopped! I let all the emotions take over. I remember you always say, start again, so here I am. Thank you so much.

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    1. Yes, Cathy, we can always begin again--in any moment. Begin again with kindness. It's good to see you. :)

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