(My second Whidbey Rocks “peace rock” found on the trails;
thank you mystery painter)
Last year, I did an experiment. I meditated regularly two hours each day for six months. I made this a priority (other than working my usual seven days a week). Something interesting happened. The reason this practice only lasted six months is I experienced a type of dissociation that made it very difficult for me to function well in mundane activities. Mindfulness teachers praise the “observer” state, because how else can we discover our own habits or preoccupations or negative self-talk patterns in order to be able to shift them and live healthier lives?
But I became so aligned with the observer that I felt I could not connect to the part of mind that dealt with paying the bills. It was really a blissful state to be in and if someone had been able to pay my bills, I could see wanting to remain in that state. Over time, I could more quickly slip into glimpsing a spacious state of consciousness beyond thoughts. In fact, I wanted to meditate 6 hours a day.
Apparently Eckhart Tolle wandered in such a state for two years (minute 27 of autobiography interview) before he began writing, publishing and becoming one of the best teachers on presence. From one outside perspective, he must have looked like a couch-surfing dude with no ambition, when in truth he was working on some serious wisdom that has helped many people around the world.
Now I limit my sit window to 20-30 minutes so I can pay my bills.
What occurred to me through my experience is that so much of the Buddhist approach I have gleaned feels like it is a perfect manual for post-traumatic stress and post-crisis healing. This caused me to ponder if Buddha’s choice at age 29 to leave a wife, child and luxurious wealth behind and enter the streets and through much trial and error arrive at “enlightenment” was in fact a trauma experience from such an abrupt reinvention of himself. In short, he developed and left as his legacy the software for the mind to cope with and thrive past trauma. Now, he chose that disconnection from all he had known, whereas many of us have such a crisis thrust upon us (both hands raised). But regardless, it’s all a crisis for the mind-body.
Because I am not primarily focused on attaining enlightenment and therefore am not sure if I would make a good official Buddhist, here is a partial list of what has helped me personally, through crisis and beyond to feel more balance, joy and peace. Do not take this as any official list. There is Google for that.
Core Practices in Buddhism:
- Mindfulness (dropping into presence)
- Meditation (observing mind; providing spacious time each day)
Some Core Values:
- Non-attachment alleviates suffering
- Interdependence of all phenomena, cause/effect
- Impermanence of all
- Karma as the result of our actions, and we can work to choose the seeds of our actions
- Work toward aligned speech
- Work toward aligned action
- Work toward aligned livelihood
- Lovingkindness (focus on causes of happiness)
- Compassion (focus on freedom from sorrow/suffering)
I love this beautiful conversation.