Todays Meditation word: New

New

 

There are new beginnings all around us all the time – only sometimes are we aware of them.

In the western world we celebrate New Year’s Day as an occasion to make resolutions on how we will be better in the year to come. Each year we have a birthday, when we can look at what we have done in the past year, and sometimes decide to make a new beginning. It is the same with anniversary dates – a wedding, or a date that we did such and such, or the date that some great event happens. How many sentences start with “do you remember what you were doing when you first heard – – – -”.

Whilst these can be good occasions to review our lives, they are more often just times when we say that we will change, but without any real determination to do so. Many of us make the same “New Year’s resolutions” year after year, and know inside of us that we actually do not have the real desire to change. Birthdays and anniversaries can become times when all we do is look back – either with regret that things have changed, or to live again those past times, which can never actually come back.

In fact, we start each day new.

Each day is a new one, each day we can go forward, or go back. And these daily decisions are not all going to be world shaking. But each new day takes us along a path.

Sometimes, when looking back we can see that on one day we did something new that totally transformed our lives. But more often, each new decision, each slight course correction, builds on the previous one, and like a giant liner on the ocean, we slowly head in a new direction.

What the big occasions – the New Year or the Birthday – give us is an opportunity to stand back and review where we are. And sometimes we get the opportunity to take a time out – as when going to a retreat or sanctuary. These times of reflection are well and good, and it is only by seeing where we have come from that we can really chart the way ahead.

But equally important is to look ahead, to see the new horizon and the new paths that are opening up in front of us. We can stay where we are, but to grow as human we need to take a new step every day, every moment.

There is a new world waiting for us each day; let us take the opportunity to make it a better one.

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Todays Meditation word: Depend

Depend

 

In the world that I live in, we are all encouraged to be independent. We hear all the time that we need to stand on our own two feet, that there is no such thing as society, that the only thing we can rely on is what we produce and make for ourselves.

There is a sense where this is correct, there is a sense in which we are all islands, unconnected to each other, all simply looking for what will benefit us.

But to say that this is the whole of the human condition is to ignore that great part of us that is a communal creature. Right from the early hunter gatherers, we as a species needed to depend on others for some of our physical wellbeing. Today, none of us in modern society could continue without the active participation of others. The rich man in his penthouse apartment still needs the sewer worker to make sure he can keep well, and the sewer worker need the millionaire to pay for his work.

But at a much deeper level, all of us depend on others to keep us growing and nurturing. We need help, and need to help others.

It may seem strange that I include the need to help others, but actually, to be fully human, we depend on others not only to help us, but to need our help as well; both aspects of our lives need to be fed.

We humans need to belong. In some communities, this belonging can be to a biological family, in others to some sort of tribe or gang. Because even in what might seem to be the most violent and anti-social of human societies there is always the feeling on interdependence – the need to depend on others and have others depend on us.

Even in a street gang – where one supposes that each individual is out for what they can get, each member looks out for the other members of the gang to some extent. There is a mutual dependence that keeps the group moving on as a group. And even as we dislike the way this dependence is evidenced, we have to accept that it is a very real part of why the gang stays together.

It is possible to live with only the physical dependence on others, but if we cut ourselves off from the dependence of others emotionally, then we deny ourselves a very real part of what it means to be human. We all need people to depend on us and on whom to depend – we need our tribe. This may be family, friends, a local community, a group with common interests: it doesn’t seem to matter what.

But, contrary to what we may hear, our lives are enhanced, not diminished, when we live dependent-based lives of giving and receiving love.

Todays Meditation word: Knowing

Knowing

 

It is interesting to think about how much we know – and how often it turns out that we didn’t really know it at all.

I was once at a recovery meeting when a stranger walked in who was tall, thin and blonde. I am none of those things, and immediately I knew without a doubt that I would have nothing in common with him. But as the meeting progressed and we all shared, I found myself fascinated with this man’s story – because there was nothing in it that was anything like mine, but at the same time it was exactly like mine. The physical things were different, but the emotional and spiritual journey could have been mine exactly.

This one incident really brought home to me how what we know, and what is, can be totally different things.

There are things that I know that are undoubtedly facts; I know, for example, that the earth revolves around the sun. And yet if I met someone with a strong belief that the sun revolves around the earth, how could I convince him otherwise? What proof could I provide out of my experience that said it was as I knew, and not as he knew? I know it because I have been taught it and it seems to fit with other facts that I have been taught. I have absolutely no doubt that I am correct – and yet – I know full well I could not persuade another of the truth of it, if they genuinely held that they knew differently.

It seems easy for us humans to “know” things first, and then find facts to back up that knowledge. This is easily seen in the world of politics, were the every action of one side is denounced by the other. If one party were to announce that it had found the cure for cancer, the other would accuse it of trying to bankrupt the medical industry!

So, when I think that I “know” something, I have often to ask myself if this is real knowledge from my own experience; is it something taught to me; or is it mere prejudice.

When I can let go of what I know, and welcome the deep uncertainty that is the universe, then I don’t need to be right all the time, and I think I can know real content.

Todays Meditation word: Meditation

Meditation

So today I have to write a meditation on meditation?

Actually, this is not a silly as it sounds, because many people – and I used to be one of them – have a skewed idea about what meditation is.

I used to think that only really spiritual people could meditate; that it took years of practice of sitting in total silence to do it properly; and that there was one right way to do it – and I didn’t know how. What I have found from experience is that most of those preconceptions are really the wrong way around.

I have found, for example, that rather than having to be spiritual before we can meditate, it is often by the process of meditation that we can start to experience the spiritual within us. When I seek for my inner spirituality in others, or in religious communities, or in reading great books, all I get is other people’s ideas of spirituality. When I sit with myself, when I stop the process of practical learning, and seek to find my own acceptance, then I start to learn what the spiritual part of me is all about. I become my own guru, my own teacher.

Meditation can take many forms. And sometimes it is a very rewarding experience to sit with someone who is skilled in leading a period of meditation. This can be a time of growth, where we learn to give up our own preconceived ideas, and become open to others.

Some of my most spiritual moments have come when I am in a room with others, and we all follow a set time to sit with our own selves. This seemed strange to me at first – why would I sit with others and none of us talk – how can that be helpful? And yet in some strange way the shared experience – even though we are all in our own separate mental space – takes us to a different level than we find just by ourselves.

But these are forms that most people would recognize as meditation – there are other ways to meditate that do not look so formal.

One of my favorite ways to meditate is to walk – preferably in a forest or on the seashore. And whilst walking to let my mind be aware of the surroundings – not to think about them or anything else in particular, but just to experience without intervention. This process can clear my mind like none other.

And then there is the process I am doing now – writing. Somehow, this often gets overlooked, but I find it quite therapeutic to clear my head of its daily thoughts, and allow my mind to wander along its own path. And I am often surprised at where we end up.

Todays Meditation word: Learned

Learned

 

I guess there are many ways of learning something – which is, of course, different from being taught something.

Even as adults, we are often in situations where others seek to teach us things – either formally, or just because they feel we need to learn what they have to say. And often what we learn is different from what they wanted to teach us.

The experience of childhood is valuable here I think. When we let out children experience and make mistakes, they learn better how the world works. By contrast, when we seek to protect them from everything, they end up not learning and not growing.  I sometimes see families in the store, where the child is whining for a sweet or a toy, and the parent at first says no, no, no, but then gives in and gets the child what they want. Regardless of what the parent is seeking to teach the child, what they are learning is that whining works and so one can be sure that it will be used again and again.

And it is the same in adult relationships. If I tell my partner that what they do is wrong, but go on letting them do it, even though I want to teach then to do differently, they are learning that what I say and what I do are different – that it is OK to carry on with the behavior.

The other side to that coin is that we can learn from experiences – or not learn from them. If we do not learn from the experiences we have, then we are bound to continue to have the same lesson repeated over and over. If I repeatedly say that something is unacceptable, but continue to allow it to happen, I am not learning. I can keep beating my head against a brick wall, but only if I stop doing so will the pain in my head start to subside.

We are, as human beings, meant to learn from experience – that is the point of having them! To an extent we are a sum of all the learning that we have accumulated over the years. And if an experience keeps troubling us, rather than shout against the fates for doing this to us again, it is better to look at the experience, and see what we can learn from it.

And what we learn from experiences can take many forms. It can make us change our ways and try something new. Or it can realize what it is we want out of life, and make us move in the direction of further growth.

Leaning should be a lifelong experience, and as long as we continue to learn, we will continue to grow each day.

Todays Meditation word: Wisdom

Wisdom

 

Wisdom and knowledge are often confused, I think, and I can see why – there are a lot of similarities between the two concepts. But it is possible to have knowledge without wisdom, and also to have wisdom which transcends knowledge.

Wisdom can start with knowledge – in order to drive a car, I have to know what control to use when, how to turn the wheel, and the general rules that every road user needs to know. And I can get by with that information in most situations and survive the road. But once I do have that knowledge, it is up to me what I do with it. We know that it is dangerous to speed, but we see people do it all the time. We know that we have to stop at red lights, but often see people drive through them. Simply knowing what we should do does not mean that we will do it.

Wisdom, it seems to me, is often learned from experience. Here, driving is a good example – the really wise person knows when to follow all the rules, and when it is not only safe, but appropriate to ignore them. Rather than drive fast all the time, they will instinctively change their speed depending on the conditions around them, and might even cautiously go through a red light, if to do so would help an emergency vehicle get to their destination quicker.

And so it is with our internal wisdom. When we have a habit that we know is destructive, and that we wish we could stop the simple knowing that it is destructive is often not enough to get us to stop it. It takes more than just knowing, more than just wanting – it often takes the wisdom to know that it will hurt and that we need help to finally move in the right direction.

Wisdom is something deep inside us that takes and combines all of our knowledge, experiences, feelings and hopes, and combines them into a powerful force. That force can help us to take what actions we need – or to show us where action cannot be taken.

Wisdom is the sense that gives us the power to say that we should take this action, regardless of what others may say or do. It also allows us to see where our efforts would be wasted, where the only real action is acceptance and a lock of action.

And that latter wisdom can be the hardest to deal with. When wisdom gives us a real and profound knowledge that we cannot change a situation, person or action, we may need to sit with that realization, and take no action.

This is hard because we are programmed to need to make changes – or at least to try. But sometimes the wisest course is to accept the situation and move on. Sometimes the wisest man is the one who acknowledges defeat, and turns it into a victory for his soul.

Todays Meditation word: Success

Success

 

What an interesting word – what pictures does this conjure up? Success can mean so many things to so many people.  I guess to the mass media, success is easy to define, because it is all about celebrity and wealth. And we can get caught up in the belief that the measure of success is what we own, how much we earn, or how many people admire us.

Is that all success is? A good career can be very important to us, doing our job well and to the best of our ability is something of which we can be justly proud. But a job is also transient and affected by things outside us – by being in the right place at the right time. Or by being in the wrong place at the wrong time!

In my life both have happened to me – the company I worked for was taken over by a rival, and the new owners needed people with my knowledge of the business, so I became for a while someone who travelled from location to location in that company. But after a while, they needed to downsize, and first thought of the people in my area to be let go.

It is possible that people would have thought me successful in the first of these times, and unsuccessful when I was let go – but is that really the whole story?

And in any case, is outward show really a measure of success? The artist who spends their whole life painting and expressing themselves, but dies poor and unrecognized – are they a failure because they didn’t sell their work, or a success because they spent their whole life following their dream? The business owner who takes their company to the very top, and dies a multi-millionaire alone in their penthouse – are they a success because they got to the top in their profession, or a failure because they were so busy with business, they never got to know love?

I believe it is impossible for anyone to judge another person’s success, because the only true success is in the knowledge that we tried to follow our conscience and strove to achieve our goals. I think that the most really successful people are those who are following their dreams and being aware of their own world.

A successful person is one who has used their God-given talent to the best of their ability, no matter if they are what the world regards as successful – only we, in our own hearts, can measure that success.