You have imagined sanctuaries but you likely have imagined something other than what your soul needs. You believe you need to get away from your life to some deserted island before you can get some peace and rest, but you can also do that by diving deeper into your own life.
You’ve been sending your consciousness out into the world over the last several meditations. Rather than spinning within yourself like a whirling ego storm you’ve worked to remember how to be a kid and open yourself up. Rather than swirling destructively within yourself you’re sending your consciousness outward, where it is more like a breeze from which valuable dreams can be snatched.
You’ll have put a lot of energy in your life and into improving yourself. Studying, practising, repeating, doing, going, enduring, strengthening, striving, reaching and working are all other names we put around the concept of improvement. But how much energy have you invested on slowing down? How much value have you placed on being quiet inside, or still, or empty?
If you’re a parent, look at your kids: how much of your time is invested in helping them learn how to do things versus organising their life to also very consciously include opportunities to develop peace? Tranquility? Being alone? Listening skills? Or even the endurance required for boredom? How many opportunities for that did your parents give you?
If you were fully grown up before the internet showed up then you had a childhood where a lot of your time was your own. You would have found plenty of opportunities to relax and have Calvin and Hobbes-type conversations. If you’re still in the workforce today, have kids today, or if you are a kid who was born before 1970, then you have seen the steady devaluation of free time and peace of mind. Today’s it’s a badge of honour to be busy, when that’s a sign that things are going poorly, not well.
You can’t fit too much life in and live it deeply and fully. That’s like spending fifteen minutes at ten parties a night and then saying that you see your friends a lot. They’re not checkboxes, they’re people. You can’t download their history, their state of mind, or your own awareness and the natural sense of compassion that accompanies it. The only thing that’s useful with them or with yourself is presence. And yet….
You’re an expert at not being present. You think you can multi-task. You can do. You consider doing so important that doing gets its own category: The To-Do List. But is there a not-to-do list? Is free time part of your schedule? Is it a priority? No, we live in a cult of efficiency. Today your worth is calculated based on what you’ve done, not who you’ve helped; especially if that’s yourself.
Today’s assignment is for you to create some actual peace. This is one of the most serious meditations so far: divide the day into your morning, your afternoon and your evening. Within the framework of each add an opportunity for peace. Each day provide an opportunity that is at least fifteen minutes long. One quarter of one hour out of each six, and then at least six to sleep (which is like another meditation). That’s only 1/24th of the three sections you’re awake for. Surely you can put that toward your mental health.
You can watch cat videos, look through old photo albums that lead to happy feelings, you can listen to peaceful music, go for a quiet walk, laugh, sit in the library and just watch people without judgment, concentrate on the people in your life that you love, or even peruse the Relax and Succeed page since that’s what it’s there for. All you’re seeking is a quiet mind with good feelings but no words.
You’ll feel resistance. You’ll feel the pull of your ego. It’ll taunt you saying things like you don’t have time for this, or how’s this going to help you? or whatever. Yak yak yak. It’s always there commenting. So what? You’re ego’s an idiot. It sees all kinds of limitations that aren’t really there, it talks you out of lots of great experiences and it runs you down regularly. Your ego is no friend to you so certainly don’t let it talk you out of dedicating yourself to something that is both so easy and so beneficial.
Set them. Get serious about them. Maintain them with the dedication you apply to the important things in your life like money or your phone. Set all of that aside and remember how to be. Because you’re not really sick or broken or lost, you’re just doing instead of being. So practice being. Start now.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.