Thursday, June 16, 2016

Calm in the Storm

    Stormy seas make strong sailors

     I remember about a decade ago overwhelmed and questioning God "when will life slow down?, I whined" At this point we lived on the Gulf Coast and hurricanes were a familiar fact of life. When the powerful spirals approached the winds would whip the waters into froth and cause the trees to dance madly. The closer the eye of the storm the louder nature howled all around us. But then came the calm. If you have ever been in the eye of a hurricane you know it is one of the quietest places on earth. There are no winds, no birds, the trees stand perfectly still at attention. In the midst of this raging howling force lies calm and quiet. The answer to my prayer for a slower life came almost immediately. Life would never slow down, my spirit whispered, there would always be a hurricane of activity and stimulation, but in the middle of it all the eye of the storm was there quietly waiting for me to pay attention. Stillness is always available even as we race screaming through our days.
The storm seems so loud these days with fear and violence erupting in our culture. It is a challenge to find the quiet eye, but not impossible.
     Quiet is a state of mind and our minds are malleable. It is the mind dropped down into the heart.  We are not at the mercy of our thoughts and we are not the victims of our circumstances. Rather when we train to be present with whatever is happening our capacity to enter quiet slowly strengthens. This training is not quick or easy, but it is super simple. Do not resist the events of any given moment. If we are suffering and we try to push away the suffering then the suffering grows stronger. But if we notice our suffering and do not abandon the sensations, we tell our suffering "I am here for you" we hold our suffering like were comforting a crying baby then the suffering quiets. When we are joyful and we abandon the moment of joy thinking ahead we lose our joy. Have you ever found yourself super happy then had the thought "this will be over soon" and your joy is gone? But simply being present noting "this is a joyful moment" this increases our capacity for inner quiet. It is natural to want to move away from pain and hold onto joy. But the thing is,  life really is just an ever flowing river of sensations and when we sit quietly and observe this flow we enter the river. When we avoid our present moments we dam up the flow.

     I actually started this blog about a month ago after two consecutive days when  my inner life caught my attention. The first day was a day off with absolutely no commitments, luxurious, right? Well I spent a great deal of time that day whipping up a storm of doubts and "what ifs" and " you shoulds" in my mind. While outwardly I intentionally only did activities that seemed  restful, fun even,  inwardly my unchecked thoughts created a very unrestful situation. I lost my inner quiet. But the next day I was super busy at work and despite my morning doubts of having the stamina for it all it was an amazingly restful day. On day two I did not resist what was happening, I did not allow my mind to run amuck and I did not look for an escape. I stayed present.It really caught my attention that my Sabbath day was so stressful and my workday was so lovely. On the Sabbath day I abandoned the eye of the storm and indulged my ego mind and this always causes some level of anxiety. But despite a light physical fatigue on day two I felt calm and grounded almost as if I had been in a spa for the day. The only difference was that on day two I continually came back to "what is happening right now" I didn't allow memories or predictions to stay in my mind, but over and over I took notice of "exactly this moment"  when the moment was pleasant I took a second to appreciate it and when the moment was challenging I took a second to "hold myself softly"
I totally get that with the current situation in our politics and culture the desire to check out is strong. And, maybe for a little while that's what's needed. Take an hour or two to abandon yourself in some entertainment. But in the long run if we are to find this quiet eye of the storm we must allow the wind and rain. We must not abandon our present moments, but we must lovingly be there for ourselves and then we sink into the quiet we all have inside of us. I get that you're afraid, I am too. But in the darkness of denial,  fear grows and in the light of loving presence fear transforms.

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