Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Peace That Passes All Understanding

                                                           Photo by David Johnson         

It's been a little over a week since I was discharged from the hospital at the University of Minnesota, and I am happy to report, that though recovery has been gradual, it's been good! Often times when my body "gets on a roll" in the wrong direction, it's a battle to get back on the right path. I think that resuming the steroids and catching things quickly has been a key factor. That....and getting out of the hospital. There is this rule of thumb that my husband and I have come to realize. Hospitals play a very obvious and key role in helping me to get through the bad times. But there comes a point in every hospital stay that we determine that being there is actually making me sicker. I'm not quite sure what it is, but I know that for me it has a lot to do with the state of my mind when I am in there. Being in the hospital, my mind takes on the identity of "patient". Or maybe even more appropriately - "sick". Laying in bed, in a 10x12 room, inundated with doctors and nurses and all that goes along with that, its hard to move my thinking in any other direction. And don't get me wrong, there is definitely a time for being in the hospital (unfortunately). And I am fully aware that my diseases are here to stay. But the moment I begin to identify with them - I'm stuck. Coming home, although overwhelming at first, always gives me things to think on other than ME. When held in balance with taking care of myself, taking care of my family is the best medicine!

This whole idea of identifying with thoughts or with anything for that matter, has been taking up quite a bit of my thinking lately. Which seems quite paradoxical, but holds possible truth on any account. The direction my life has been taking these past couple of years has focused mainly on living or "being" present in this very moment in time. Versus, as I have said before, spending time regretting the past or worrying about the future. Neither of which hold any possibility of living "in". So in doing this, if successful, one finds themselves much more aware of what and how they are thinking. In a sense, you become a watcher of your own thoughts. Saying to yourself things like, "Oh, look at how I just assumed that" or "Oh, here I go again, thinking ..." or "Why am I thinking that"...and so on. It's almost like there are two of you - the one that thinks, and the one that watches your thinking. It's an odd concept and I could talk about it forever, but I'll try to get to my point...for your sake!

They way our brains work - and thankfully so - the minute we are witness to an object or a thought or a life situation our brains begin to relate it to something else. Simply put, if you look at a cup, your brain will immediately think of why it is a cup. It's shaped like a cup, has a handle like a cup, is about the size of a cup...yep, it's a cup. We see something, and then we relate to it. This is done mainly by the remembering - by your memory of what a cup has been in the past. If you could slow things way down, there would be a point of contact between seeing the object and relating it to your memory. That moment happens so quickly we don't even realize it's happening. We think it's automatic - one in the same. I see a cup....period. It happens this way because our brains desire to get that "fix". We see something and immediately our brains scramble to figure it out.

Most of the time this process serves us very well. Thankfully so. I don't want to have to scramble to remember I am looking at a cup. Although, thanks to Lupus, this does happen quite frequently! Other times, this instantaneous relating can get us into quite a bit of trouble and cause a tremendous amount of suffering.
At the moment of contact between seeing and relating to memory - on the heals of getting that mental "fix" the mind relates. But it can be much more complicated than recognizing a cup. This relating brings in past memories that also include much more complicated things like biases, plans, ideas, views, notions of how we think we and our world should be.... multitudes of past expectations, hurts or fantasies. When we don't catch this running train of thoughts, when we don't "see" what we are thinking, those perceptions become our reality. We build an entire world around a simple perception. And often times, these desires to relate are just lurking in the backs of our minds, waiting for a perception to attach to. Looking for identification....looking for it's "fix". For example, if I think the world is coming to an end (a view) I am much more likely to see signs of it everywhere. My brain naturally wants to figure it out - be validated - identify with what I perceive to be truth. But we have all seen the tragedy in this thinking. People who have a certain mental formation or view that live their entire life being imprisoned by that view. Only to find out the view itself was simply a formation in their mind and not reality at all.

I'll give you an example or two of how I have done this in my own life. Be thankful I'll give only two - because this has been a great point of suffering for me most of my life. But think for a moment about mornings. Specifically a weekend morning. You have that moment where you are half awake and half asleep and you remember that it's Saturday. Yes! This wonderful sense of peace flows through you as you realize that the alarm is not going to go off and you can sleep a bit longer. For me, this moment would last about 2.5 seconds or shorter! So, see here the moment of contact. The "object" I am witness to is Saturday. Ah, yes, Saturday. I am sitting on the heals of getting my "fix". I am now at the point of contact and my brain kicks into scrambling to "know" what's happening. It relates. I brings in all my biases and views, all of my notions of what a Saturday should be, what ought to be, what needs to be done.... I quickly attach to these forms that I am creating and before I know it, I have built my Saturday (my world) around simple perceptions. And if I am not careful - which for about 25 years I was not - that attachment became the impetuous to get me out of bed. I literally would jump out of bed flooded and nauseous with all that needed to be done in that day. And often times, I would spend the whole day  following the dictates that my mind had attached onto. And believe me, these were not very pleasant days - for me, or my family. I could go a whole day never really actually being "here" or present in my day. Or worse yet, I could go a whole lifetime. Years and years of being presented with an object, my brain scrambling with the ideas that something must be "done"...creating a view of what I think it is and then struggling to get rid of it. In a sense, grabbing on and then trying to let go. Grabbing on, trying to let go. Grabbing on, trying to let go. Because deep down, we know that what we are doing is crazy. We know that it does not feel good. We know that it brings suffering to ourselves and to those we love. But we just keep doing it because our minds have constructed this "way that it should be". All from memories, all from simple perceptions, and very little from what is needed in this very moment in time.

I let myself fall into this pattern this last time I came home from the hospital. My object = home. Immediately I became attached to the notion of what needed to be done, what had not been done, what I could not do..... without going through it all, you can see the suffering. It happens so quickly, the mind wanting to get it's "fix" - to prove what it thinks it knows. But...Oh, how deceived we are!!!!!

If we can just be the watchers of our own minds. Slow things down just enough to know you are on the heals of getting that "fix". I'm not saying that these memories or relations are not going to arise. The idea is not to NOT think about these things. Memories will pop up. The past will creep into your present every second that it can. The future will work it's way into your worrying. There is no way around it. But when it does - see it, relate to it....Feel it. But do not be at the mercy of it. Ride it like a wave. If it's a pleasant feeling, be in it. Feel it. Let it linger for a while. Let it warm you. If it's an unpleasant feeling, feel the contraction in your gut. Feel the pain in your heart. Let it linger for a while. There is not much you can do about it - it just comes. Watch it. Ride the wave. You don't have to attach on to it, you don't have to "do" anything. If it's pain from past memories - you don't have to pick it up and deal with it again. You don't have to breath life into it.

It's just remembering.
These are just memories in your mind.

Don't get tripped up by it and start the emotional journey of needing to "do" something. All we are trying to do when we "do" something is to get away from the uncomfortable feeling we are having. Just let it rise like the wave, crest, and disperse gently onto the shore. The truth is in the feeling. The delusion is that you must go back and deal with it .

Although it took me a day or two, I eventually got back on track. Thanks to the never ending patience and gentle reminding of my beloved husband, I was able to again recognize that living in the moment - I had everything I needed and more.

I can not adequately put into words the freedom that comes from being awake to this moment. How painful it is to get lost in our perceptions and how beautiful it is to be living in the Now. For me, my perceptions are very rarely a true depiction of this moment. And when I choose to be awake, when I attach less and listen more, I suffer less. When I resist, when I cling to negativity, the universe seems to not be on my side. But when I let go, when I yield from the inside out, a new dimension of consciousness opens up. And if I actually need to "do" something, my action will be in alignment with the whole and supported by the intelligence of reality - the unattached state of openness. Circumstances and people then become helpful and cooperative. Coincidence happens. And if no "doing" is necessary, I rest in the peace and inner stillness that comes with surrender. The peace that passes all understanding.
I rest in God.


Anonymous said...

So true. It kind of makes me sad to recognize what I am missing. Like I am not living, but like I am forever preparing for an end. I probably need to finish "The Power of Now" book.

Thank you.

Theresa said...

I don't know if you ever finish a book like the The Power of Now. It's more of a continuous read and re-read. The promise comes in just being aware that there is something to be aware of. This "forever preparing" for something that you talk about - unfortunately this is something that people don't "get" until on their death bed. That moment of realization that all the while you were "preparing" the Now was being missed. My hope comes in the knowing that I AM all that I need to be, in this very moment. I believe it's the "I AM" that is to referred to when God describes God's "beingness". Tolle states the same thing. We work so hard to attain more - but everything we need to be present in this moment - to be fulfilled - is right withing us.

Peace and blessings to you in your journey.