This week, for me, has been one of trying to find time to do the deep work I so dearly love.
And like a thread running through life, this theme of struggle that seems to have narrated my life so far has been a source of both pain and joy!
Pain insofar as the struggle is real; joy because it is the struggle that allows one to evolve.
Life is an experiment to some extent, or that it should be, points to the need for a constant battle to find balance.
The goal, of course, is to perfect balance, so it is a natural state of being.
This is something we all need to adjust and tweak constantly if we are to find balance of a healthy mind and body.
But until then, we need to become an inner scientist, inner physician, and inner contemplative.
To my mind, this constant struggle to evolve towards a perfect state of being is the very essence of a meaningful life.
Let the Darkness Shine
Everyone, at some point, feels down. This is part of the human condition.
Be it from overworking, not enough sleep, or dealing with migraines, physical discomfort is a way for the body to alert us of a potential problem.
And while harder to see at first, psychological distress can point toward an aspect of our lived experience that needs adjusting also.
These moments in discomfort are pregnant with useful information that reveal a deeper dimension to our lived experience if we are to look closely enough.
But looking closely into the darkness is difficult for some. So we need to be reminded of the benefits of doing so.
Leonard Cohen beautifully captures this need for looking deep into the darkness.
Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.
To turn away in moments of darkness is to lose the opportunity to see a path out of the darkness.
So next time you feel down, do not distract yourself with some meaningless activity.
Don’t go and do something, anything, to make yourself feel better.
Instead, use the darkness against itself by spending time just sitting quietly watching.
But be gentle while there, for it’s a fragile space, and one must be careful not to grasp at the darkness as real.
But instead, will yourself to be free from the darkness, by being with it without giving in to it.
The British philosopher Galen Strawson and fellow meditator says it well when he says:
“There is a fundamental sense of the word ‘free’ in which this is provably true; and this has been known for a long time. There are plenty of senses of the word ‘free’ in which it is not true, but the sense of ‘free’ in which it is true seems to be the only one that many take to be central or fundamental. It is the sense of ‘free’ that is in question when it is said that because people are free agents or have free will, they can properly be held to be truly responsible for their actions in such a way as to be truly deserving of moral praise or blame.“
For Strawson, there is a sense, the most important sense, in which free will is an impossibility, and in some sense, he is right.
This is true, for if free will were possible, we would all choose to express it, willing ourselves away from painful or uncomfortable situations. And yet, we all continue to experience dark days.
This, of course, does not render arguments against free will entirely mute.
While I will not go into this here for fear of becoming verbose, my position remains that we do have the potential for free will.
And that the extent to which we can express our own free will is coupled to the degree to which we have dominion over our mind.
Tips for the Everyday
This is a quick meditation tip I learned years ago. I have no idea where I heard it from. Indeed if I heard it from anyone or if I simply felt the difference in my own experience during meditation.
It’s simple and easy to implement. And just plain nice.
Next time you meditate, where you place your hands on your knees or in your lap, place a soft piece of fabric under your hands. It could be a soft blanket, or anything really.
This soft, gentle feeling will help your mind move towards being soft and gentle. And it is in this space that we can really begin to do the work we all need desperately to do.