For anyone who’s doing the slow, conscious wake-up routine; have you noticed how that stretch-moment –where we suddenly feel compelled to stretch our bodies like cats do– is such a distinctive moment? And how, after that, getting out of bed feels appealing whereas before that it was unappealing? I love that.
If anyone still hasn’t gotten up early enough or waited long enough to feel that impulse, it’s worth the patience. Once we’re familiar with the feeling we start to notice that it feels like our sleeping, ethereal consciousness is climbing back into our physical bodies and the stretch is when we zip up and adjust our fit.
After that, as our waking consciousness floods back into our minds, there are these moments where that flow of energy has not yet gathered around our habits –our mind’s ‘low ground.’ Like water will, we can let that energy flow into those common channels and be who we were yesterday. Or….
Or, we can note that those propensities are merely what we revert to under stress, when other things need our attention. The rest of the time we are free to use our consciousness to shift the flow in our minds and thereby ‘be’ almost anyone. That’s all an actor does when they play a role well.
MORNING MEDITATION EIGHT
Why are we empathetic to some people are far less so with others? Our experiences. If they teach us what it’s like to be any other person, then that exposes their path through life was also filled with difficult and heartbreaking challenges (rewarding ones).
Of course, that reality is true for everyone. We all face enormous challenges in living life. But if we learn to embrace them by being more open to change, then suddenly life feels looser, and it starts to flow better.
Most days, we fill our heads with egocentric thoughts about ourselves and our own lives. And it’s fair, the current pandemic crisis insists that we give some difficult and painful ideas some serious consideration. But under most circumstances our egos sit in judgment, not in a state of appreciation.
Since egocentric thoughts about ourselves end up blinding us to the freedom and power that our consciousness has, and because it leaves us running on low-ground auto-pilot, today’s meditation is about pre-building empathy as a way of exercising freedom.
We should each think of what regularly maddens us (we may as well grab the low-hanging fruit first). Take some segment of society or some person that we routinely have difficulty with.
Maybe it’s smart people, or the person we’re dating’s brother, or someone gay or anti-gay, or who’s dating someone we like, or people from other political parties, or our boss, or some cultural group, or people who drive luxury cars.
Once we’ve chosen a group or person that we often feel strong emotions about, our meditation for today is to imagine living their life. Not in broad strokes, but what are they like in a grocery store? What are they like when they’re visiting a loved one in the ICU in hospital?
What life experiences would create such a person? We can also imagine the pressures they are under, while realizing that we can only see a tiny portion of them, just like others can’t see many of ours.
Once we have a more reasonable grip on who a person or group is or could be, our next step is to take our primary point of disagreement with them, and argue their point back to ourselves –with a sincere intention to win the debate.
Just thinking in ways that could undermine our own ego is actually a demonstration of how free we all really are. And by simply undertaking this exercise earnestly, we do two things:
1) we think about this other person’s life instead of engaging in ego by thinking more about our own, and; 2) by meditating on another mind’s perspective, we inevitably become aware of things that increase our admiration and/or respect for other’s challenges, and that brings us together.
By doing this exercise we more deeply humanize our subjects. Doing so leads us to think of others more completely, and not just as a few isolated behaviours. This process tends to reduce our levels of confusion, frustration, and anger which is good for us, and it makes finding group solutions far more likely and less painful.
Find a person or group. Imagine their life for half the day. Once we feel we’ve become aware of a more complete form of what a person is, then we can begin our debate.
Thinking in foreign, undesirable ways for a while will feel strange. But it will also help us to see how other perspectives do have value just as ours does.
Don’t forget to enjoy the process. See you for tonight’s meditation.
EVENING MEDITATION EIGHT
Hopefully this morning’s meditation brought about at least a few a-ha moments about others. This evening’s is an extension of it, so it needs little introduction above what was given this morning.
Tonight, rather than trying to think like another person to build empathy for them, we’re going to build some for ourselves. To do this we can each begin by recalling our younger selves. For this exercise we’re looking for some belief we’ve previous had that we’ve since abandoned.
Maybe it was that a certain person was perfect for us. Or that some person was a jerk. Maybe we believed some fact about the world that we’ve since proven wrong, or maybe we had a different belief about how to do something in society, but experience taught us it wouldn’t work. Maybe having kids gave us a different perspective on our parents.
Look back at that old person we were, and recognize the flow. Realize that our cells were, as they are now, in a constant state of regeneration, growing us new bodies every moment of every day. And as that happens our thinking shifts too. And as it did and does, we literally became and become different people to ourselves and to the world.
We can have more faith that change is possible for us if we look back to see how many times we’ve already done it in the past. The only issue was, in the past it was largely by accident. As aware people, we want to start making that exploration and growth more conscious.
Also, as we look back compassionately at that previous version of ourselves that the us of today would have an argument with, it’s important to keep in mind the constant innocence of our flow towards greater and greater wisdom.
It also does us and society a lot of good if we keep in mind that everyone we meet is only who they are for right now. Like we did, they will change. If we spoke to them about the same issue five years later, we might find that we needed no effort at all to find common ground because each of us had naturally drifted towards the other.
The fact that anyone might grow to be someone we agree with enough for friendship, also means that we can potentially like anyone. It’s really only a matter of patient we are. What we like about anyone is certainly what we should watch most closely for.
The advantage to this meditation is that when we can see our own innocence, then we tend to also see it others as well. And that lack of judgment is as good for us as it is for the people we’re being more empathetic and compassionate towards.
Join me in this meditation and it should allow our mind-expanding days to make a nice smooth shifts towards a restful sleep.
Sweet dreams everyone.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.