If only my mind could always feel the way it does in meditation. Yesterday I was practising one of my preparatory kriyas in which my eyes are open on the inbreath and then gently close as I lower my head down towards Mooladhara chakra, internalising my awareness through the descending energy pathway. During this practice I noticed a small spider had sat on my lap and stayed there quite happily and unmoving for the rest of my practice (at least that part of my practice for which my eyes were open – he had wandered off by the end of my meditation).
I’m sure the small size and the stillness of this particular spider aided the calmness that pervaded my practice, and it may well have been a different story if a large, fast-moving creature had decided to join me, but I like to think that my meditating mind would have not reacted any differently than to just continue my practice until the end. The oneness I could honestly and happily experience with such a tiny and clearly non-threatening creature exists between us all, even if it is harder to see with the things/animals/ people we label as bad or scary, the things we have an aversion to. In truth, when we are in meditation and our mind has calmed down, our aversions are not as great as they normally are, and our attachments to the good are not as strong. And so our reactions become less extreme; we are able to accept our situation with greater composure. Our fears are less crippling, our emotions generally are more measured. With regular practice, too, this calmer approach carries over into our daily lives, the effects lasting longer and longer away from our meditation as we nurture the mind and allow it to rest from our habitual responses.
And it doesn’t only have to be traditional meditation practices which can confer this kind of calmness and acceptance. I often feel this same sense of the underlying rightness, the connection between us all, when I am giving a treatment or teaching – both times when it would be inappropriate in any case for me to allow my own issues to get in the way. This was extremely helpful when I was giving a reflexology treatment several years ago: a bat came to sit on the treatment couch, right next to my hand and, of course, my client’s feet. The sudden movement and appearance of this creature might normally have been enough to make me jump and perhaps make some sort of sound, but I was able to stay very calm and alert my client (who had his eyes closed so had no idea there was a bat next to his foot!), so that he didn’t move whilst I carefully moved the bat away – not entirely bravely, when it hissed at me!
When I was at university studying Social Anthropology, many years ago, I wrote in an assignment that the belief system of a particularly peaceful group of Buddhists meant that the principle of non-harm or interference with other creatures even led people to move out of their houses rather than remove a poisonous snake which had taken up residence. I am now a little ashamed of the way my own incredulity crept in to my writing on that occasion – I richly deserved the slightly sarcastic comment from my lecturer humorously scribbled in the margin of ‘now, now, what’s that lovely cobra ever done to you?’ I am sure this opened my eyes to remaining traces of ethnocentricity in my approach and in my thinking, but I think it is only with increasing maturity and my developing meditation practice that I can understand more fully how respect for the oneness between all creatures could lead us to take the path of least resistance and, rather than make a huge fuss, simply remove ourselves quietly until the danger has passed.
This is something we can all do as we increase our consciousness of our learnt, habitual responses and realise there might be another way. If we imagine the mind to be like a sheet of fabric stretched taut, we can allow our unchecked ways of thinking and reacting to thunder on that fabric like rain on a tent roof. Or we can try to tame the mind through our practice, creating some space between the events of our lives and our reactions to them, so that they become less disturbing – perhaps more like a feather floating down to land on that fabric, with barely an impact or a sound.
If only my mind could always feel the way it does in meditation……
It can, of course, and that way lies a calmer and a happier life.