Todays Meditation word: Stories

Stories

 

We all have stories to tell, even those of us who feel that we are not at all “interesting”.

Because, whatever our story, it is just ours, nobody else’s. Only I have my exact set of experiences to tell; only you have yours.

How we tell that story differs with time, and from hearer to hearer.  When I go to a business meeting, my story is about my business experience; at a social gathering it will be about the common interests we have; at a family gathering, about the family and its history.

And yet these are not separate and distinct stories, not different people all within the one frame. They are just different facets of the same story – edited highlights, if you will, that illuminate one part of the whole.

The story of our lives are all about interconnections and how we interact with others’ stories.

And our stories are made more compelling and more interesting because we cannot tell one part from another. Friends have become family; families have become part of our work life; work associates have become friends.

Our stories can disclose to others a part of what we are like – or can be used to hide behind. We can sometimes – either deliberately or by accident – promote a picture of ourselves that is untrue. This may be because of a fear of self-revelation, or a real feeling that we are not good enough.

We may seek to sound better than we are; that we have done more, seen more, experienced more.

But when we do that it can quickly become complicated. We can lose sight of who we really are by creating a façade that we have to protect at all cost.

Apart from anything else, living a story that is not ours is tiring! We have to remember what we have said to whom, and hope that those we tell different stories to do not meet. Whilst honesty may or may not always be the best policy, it is always easier.

Our stories define who we are – all unique, all having different perspectives and experiences.

Let us celebrate our stories – all of them – and continue to listen to the stories of others.

Todays Meditation word: Time

Time

Is time really a fixed phenomenon, or does it change based on our perception?

When I used to work in an office, I can remember periods where I would arrive at 8am, work away for what seemed like hours, only to find it was still only 8.30. And yet in other places, the time seemed to fly by, and before I knew it, the clock said 7pm and I really should have stopped work ages ago.

In the world of science, they tell us that time is a function that changes depending on speed. I don’t pretend to understand the science, but it looks a convincing explanation of the physical world.

But our perception of time must be more than just a function of the physical world. If it were just a function of speed, then since we are all travelling through the void of space at approximately the same speed, we would all feel time passing at the same rate.

Instead we all seem to perceive time differently from each other, as well as all seeing time move at different rates depending on the situation.

And I think this is because we do not really live in the physical world around us. Oh yes, our bodies are there in the real world, but our consciousness is more a function of our mind. And our mind creates for each of us a unique universe. This universe is affected by the physical world, but is not constrained by it.

In the office job that flew by, I was energized by the work, enthralled by challenges, and each new day brought new learning and new excitement. In my universe, the work had expanded to fill all the available space, and so time was only a minor part of the equation. The external time – as measured by the progress of our project – moved on inexorably. But in my universe time was not really important; I liked what I was doing.

On the other hand, in my earlier office experience, the work had no interest for me, so my internal universe was concentrating more on the next thing – on lunch time when I could go out and eat, or home time when I would escape for a few hours.

It was then that external time became the most important thing in my universe, and I guess I experienced it as it really was, one minute after another.

So time – or rather, our perception of it – is more than a function of speed – it is also a function of our engagement in our own very personal universes.

Todays Meditation word: Direction

Direction

All of us to some degree like to follow directions; equally, in all of us there is a part that rebels against any restraint on our actions.

I find it very difficult to follow the directions given in a recipe, for example. I can measure out the main ingredients, but then I get inspired and add extras or take away things according to what I think would taste good. In fact, I rarely use a recipe for this very reason; I would rather improvise and see what comes out.

This does mean that I occasionally produce something that is almost inedible, but all that means is that I have wasted the ingredients, and we are disappointed for one meal; there is no big crisis.

But sometimes, the direction we have are important, and to ignore them causes serious damage.

One would think that we humans would respect the seriousness of the issue, and follow direction – but we see all around us that we do not.

I am not so much talking about rules that have been imposed on us by our government, employers or fellows. More I am thinking of the directions that we all know to be “right” and “good” – but which we seem not able to follow.

All of us know that it is bad for our bodies to drink too much alcohol, to overeat, to take unnecessary drugs. We all know that for a healthy body we should drink more water, eat moderately, and exercise daily.

And yet for many of us, to follow these simple directions is not easy.

In fact, it seems impossible to give up the “habits” we know to be detrimental to us. We start out with all good intentions to follow the direction of good health and happiness, but soon find ourselves unable to resist that one small thing. And then, having had one, we rationalize that another won’t hurt, and so begins another cycle of self-destruction.

It is almost as if there are two sets of directions hard-coded in our brains – one that takes us towards wellness, and one that leads in the other direction. And sometimes, no amount of self-will can take us down the right path.

For many of us, the simple knowledge of what we should do is insufficient – we are powerless to ignore the baser impulses that drive us.

It is here that we can reach out for help – either to literature, to others who have the same issues, or even to professionals who can teach us coping techniques.

As a very wise person once said to me – “If all else fails, follow the directions”

Todays Meditation word: Dreams

Dreams

I usually don’t remember my dreams – doctors tell us that we all dream all night, but I normally don’t recall doing so. But when I do remember them, it’s normally easy to see how it was put together from things that had happened the day before.

I’d have been out in the rain, and dreamt about it raining, or I’d seen something happen to someone else, and dreamt that it was me.

But on occasions I dream a kind of “back story” that seems to recur over and over, and not to be relating to anything specific that I’ve been doing.

A few years ago, I kept having a recurring dream about owning an apartment that I didn’t live in. In my dream world, I’d remember that I needed to go and check on the place, so I would go there, unlock the door, look through the mail, made sure everything was OK, and maybe decide to stay the night. The thing is nothing ever happened in my dream – nothing startling that is. It was just as if this was just a natural thing that I needed to do,

And when I woke, my first thought was “oh yes, I must go and check on my apartment soon”, before it dawned on me that I didn’t actually have one.

It never bothered me, and I never sought to find any explanation – it was just a thing that happened, and then, after a while, stopped happening.

Until, that is, I started to dream it all over again, and I wondered why? Why now? And why do I now remember them when I used not to?

Whilst I am no psychoanalyst, I can see how each time I was in a state of flux between one “world” and another – I was in a time of transition. And maybe my head was getting me prepared to move on by making this action mundane and routine. Maybe my dream was showing me that moving on was nothing to fear, and that it would all be OK.

The thing I have come to realize is that my brain is a way more complicated thing than I understand, and it works by itself sometimes to help me get through things.

I am still not sure I want to analyze dreams too much, but I have come to see that, just as I can often recognize the physical things that are happening to me in my dreams, they are often a clue too to the emotional and spiritual things happening in my life.

I do not think that my dreams are predictors of the future, but they can sometimes help me acknowledge the things going on in my life that sometimes I’m not even aware of.

Todays Meditation word: Beauty

Beauty

 

Every new parent thinks that their child is the most beautiful in the world. Every newlywed thinks that their new partner is the most beautiful person they have seen. And yet to other people, this is just another cute baby, another nice looking couple.

Beauty seems to be always what we think it is. One only has to look at the way people have been portrayed over the years – from the classical paintings of the 17th century, to the pin-ups of today – to see how the definition of beauty changes with our tastes.

So is there no external measure of if something is beautiful or not? Surly we can all agree on some things?

I guess there are some things everyone can agree on – but these tend to be things that are external to our human condition.

When we see a sunset over the ocean, or the early morning mist rising from a pasture, we can all agree that this is a beautiful sight.

But I wonder, even here, if we are all-seeing the same beauty. For one person, the sunset will invoke deep spiritual feelings, and be a time for reflection and meditation. For another, it is just a light show, and when it’s done, it will be time for the next thing.

Maybe therefore the real secret of beauty is that it is intensely personal, and comes from our innermost soul.

When we look at our own new-born baby, its beauty is not just that of another infant child. This feels to us very like a miracle, that out of the love that our partner and we share, another human has been created. After the anxiety and worry of the last nine months, finally the child is here, and that only adds to the beauty in our eyes.

When we stand to take our marriage vows, it is not just the other person we see, but the memories of our times together up to now, and our hopes for our futures together. The gown and the suit may be the things that the guests notice, but to the couple themselves it is the whole person, body and soul.

And so it seems to me that beauty is something we experience not just with our senses, not just because of the input from our eyes. It is not just a thing that can be categorized and organized.

Beauty cannot be pre-defined, because we bring to our appreciation of it all our memories, fears and hopes.

Beauty is in the soul of the beholder.

Todays Meditation word: Above

Above

 

The first thing that came into my mine when I saw this word was a snippet of a song from the Beatles:  “no hell below us, above us only sky”.

We tend to think of “above” as not just a physical statement relating to height above sea level, but also as a metaphor.

Political leaders, those with money and power, opinion formers – all of these, society can put above the average person. Even in countries that espouse equality, some are more equal than others in terms of opportunities and power.

But in our own universe, we can also look up to other people who we perceive as being above us. Many of us are conditioned to think of ourselves as less than, or below other people. And even when we see that others have their own problems too, we often cling to our “below-ness” as another way of beating ourselves up.

But maybe we can aspire to “above” too. Not the worldly success that puts one person above another, but the place where we put ourselves above the day-to-day struggles of our everyday world.

Are we doomed by our current situation to view all those “others” as above us, and ourselves in a lowly subservient position? Or is it possible to rise above the daily grind to something better? To accept the conditions as we find them, but work to find a better place?

This seems to me to be a good and worthwhile place to strive for. Is there a place above our normal existence? Yes, we have to take the physical actions we need each day to continue to look after our physical body. But is there not also something of the joy of existence that we can seek out?

Every day, even as we go about our routine activities, we can look above the surface of what we are doing, and seek to look at what we can do, not at what we cannot.

We will always be defeated if we look down at the earth and see only what is below us.

But our souls can sour when we look up and see the far horizon.

Because, regardless of what there may be below us, above us the only limit is the sky.

Todays Meditation word: Tradition

Tradition

 

I’m not sure what to think about Traditions.

Lots of traditions are just ways of coping with life that made sense at one time, but may no longer do so. They may be based on old ways of doing things, and old concepts that really could be changed, but they are so ingrained in us that we just do it because we always do it.

If we look at the traditions that have come to surround things like the Christmas celebration, it sometimes seems that there are a strict set of rules that we have to comply with. For many people, it is no longer about giving thanks or the enjoyment of family and friends, and certainly has no religious significance. The season is more about the need to do all the “traditional” things, whether they make us happy or not.

And yet all these things that we stress about became traditional because they once had a meaning. It was a time for celebration, a time when we could look forward to being with our family for a few short hours, and a time when we could centre ourselves. I know that I can sometimes be so caught up in the process, so intent on making it “perfect”, that I lose sight of the real purpose of the tradition.

And that, somehow, brings me round to the good side of tradition. Because when we observe a tradition in the right spirit, we not only honor the tradition, but we respect ourselves.

When we use a traditional time of celebration to celebrate, or a traditional time of reflection to reflect on our lives, we give ourselves the opportunity to learn.

There is a difference between following the letter of a tradition, and following the spirit that created the tradition.

Maybe one day, someone in a city started doing something that worked for them. Others followed, and soon a tradition was born. Over time the tradition was refined by each new generation, and came to be seen as a rule in that city, a way of doing it that was the only approach that was allowed.

Coming upon this tradition as a stranger, we may be tempted to think that it is irrelevant, maybe even harmful. And it may be so – it could be that time has distorted the original reason for the tradition, and it is now time for a radical change.

But it may also be that we come with our own preconceived ideas, and that their traditional way of proceeding is not only OK, but even better than we had done before.

It is easy to both protect traditions too staunchly; it is also easy to reject them too easily.

As in many parts of life, the key is to find the balance.