(Drifting Clouds - Hiding Sun . . . )
In practicing meditation, I’ve discovered for myself an ancient truth: my thoughts and feelings are related to previous mind states, going back to the time I was first conceived and began to relate to the environment. From this observation I reasoned that, if thoughts are mostly the expression of past conditioning, it follows to ask the question, who am I, really? What am I? Meditation helps me to explore these questions, and it’s good practice in being here now.
When I watch my thoughts from the standpoint of an interested observer, as a scientist with heart, I can see how easy it is to be convinced that thoughts and feelings are real. Meditation reveals that they are not, but are rather an expression of earlier conditioning—nothing to hold on to, or do about them, just watch them arise and pass away, like clouds passing across the sun.
Over time this observation of thought patterns and attendant sensations in the body can tend to dissipate the grip of old conditioned patterns of unconscious behavior. What remains is the energy to emerge as the authentic person that has for years been residing under the veil of the imagined “me.” I began to make friends with myself, to put my arms around the whole me, nothing excluded. This process is the fertile ground from which we can grow, anew.
In his book, The Myth of Freedom, Chogyam Trungpa states: “....a person always finds when he begins to practice meditation that all sorts of problems are brought out. Any hidden aspects of your personality are brought out into the open, for the simple reason that for the first time you are allowing yourself to see your state of mind as it is.”
It’s been hard for my ego to accept letting go of the person I’ve always thought I was: The hardened Marine Sergeant; the hardened, suspicious street cop; the daring pilot, the sailboat builder and deep water sailor, the imagined kick-ass and take names hard guy, or the injured Vietnam veteran. When I first started meditating I noted feelings of embarrassment as the “macho” me had difficulty accepting this new “weirdo” kind of behavior. Even now I notice I have less trouble identifying with the spiritual warrior image than that of other, less flattering, titles. I’m still the same person, only the old image is giving way to something much broader, lighter, compassionate and open—like the sky. While it can be difficult at times, meditation reveals a great deal about oneself, much of it unflattering. As Trungpa Rinpoche reminds us, “meditation is just one insult after another!”
On the other hand, meditation practice has also been a jewel of a gift. It has helped me get some insight into the inner workings and heart of this being called Fred. I’ve become more aware of the space that embraces the all of me, without terms or conditions. Meditation connects me with the infinite space within which we all do the dance of existence—like happy dolphins. When I’m in that place, there is no need for a you or a me, a this or a that. I know, even beyond my bones, the truth of the matter.
To me, meditation is a dynamic process of self-exploration on every level. I’m learning about my edges, those mental and physical states I particularly like to hold on to, run away from, and avoid altogether. But understand this: meditation hasn’t been a quick fix. I stumble a lot. It takes commitment and faith that the process, over time, will grow the flower and yield the fruit of self knowing. As my practice has grown I’ve watched old patterns slowly lose their importance and I don’t get so caught up in them. Like the bow of a sail boat slicing through a wave, with sails well trimmed, the boat and rudder rightly tended, life flows a lot smoother, even through the stormy parts.
While I’ve had a stormy life I nonetheless find myself here sharing this part of it with you and feeling a little lighter. The skies of mind are less cloudy all day. Internal storms are kinder.
Seeing my life as it is, I have an image of myself as cloud and sun together, not separate. Both need each other to be fully in this world, to drift and dance together in the sky; and to play with the minds of children who muse in wonder about such things while peering out of windows, riding in the backs of cars. Sweet blessings upon them all—and upon you. May you find health and happiness on your path to awareness!
“We love. That is why human life is beautiful!” Rumi
Fred Mills lives in Salem. His phone number is 503-371-8407. He can also be reached by email.