Todays Meditation word: Secrets

Secrets

 

Is having a secret good or bad?

Many of us are taught, either literally or by example, that we should keep secret those things that are really important. We “don’t discuss that in public” and so the truths about what is happening never get spoken. Keeping something secret can be a self-defense mechanism; it stops us from getting hurt more, or from admitting that an action of ours was wrong. By keeping something shameful a secret, we think we can reduce the harm done, and maybe forget about it completely, and just get on with our lives.

But sometimes we hold secrets inside us about things that have happened, or that we have done, and these things eat away at our soul. We may have been hurt as a child, or our natural talents been stomped on, or a person close to us may be stifling us. Or we may have lied or cheated, or hurt someone either accidentally or on purpose.  But we are complex beings, and mostly we will have been both the victim of others, and the perpetrator of hurt. And yet we “carry on”, holding that secret close to our hearts because of shame, or hurt, or not knowing what to do.

We can carry on for many years like that, but all the time we do so, that secret is there inside us, growing stronger in the darkness that it is kept.

And it is not as if these destructive secrets need all be “big ticket items”. More often than we might think, it is the accumulation of a small hurt here, a little cheating there, some small disappointment or a few words spoken in haste or not spoken at all; all these seemingly small things held inside us become really large and important in our imagining.

Sometimes, we feel it necessary to “take the edge off” and find something that makes us feel better for a while. But then that something turns into a crutch that we need every day, and need more and more of, and thus starts a journey into addiction.

And if not a physical addiction to a substance or an action, it can also lead to destructive behaviors and obsessive thinking – things that seem to have no connection to the secrets, but are necessary to maintain them in the dark.

It is only when those things are cleaned away that real recovery can begin. As painful as the self disclosure can be, the only way to develop as a whole person is to go through those growing pains. I have seen so many times – and have experienced it myself – that someone’s life has been turned around and put on a better path once all the wreckage of the past has been cleared away.

We are only as sick as our secrets – the way to freedom and a joyous life is to shine the light on all those dark places in our lives.

Todays Meditation word: New

New

 

There are new beginnings all around us all the time – although 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. 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.

Todays Meditation word: Depend

Depend

 

In the world we 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 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 have a 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 of 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 holding together 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 vital 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.

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.

There are things that we know that are undoubtedly facts; we 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.

What we know and what are facts can do confused in this way – if we know for sure that someone is wrong, and then whatever they say is wrong.

So, when we think that we “know” something, we need ask ourselves where this knowledge comes from.

Is it something taught to me, which I have no basic reason to believe or disbelieve? Is this some real knowledge from our own experience? Is it something that we believe because of preconceived prejudice?

Knowledge – real, gut level knowledge – is something so strong, that it can make us act in ways that are unbelievable to others. It can create the best and the worst that human kind can offer.

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

Todays Meditation word: Meditation

Meditation

 

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 also that I didn’t know how.

What I have found from experience is that most of those preconceptions are really the wrong way around.

What I have learnt is that, that rather than having to be spiritual before we can meditate, it is by the process of meditation that we can start to experience the spiritual within us.

When we seek for our own inner spirituality in others, or in religious communities, or in reading great books, all we get is other people’s ideas of spirituality. When we sit silently, when we stop the process of practical learning, and seek to find our own acceptance, then we start to learn what the spiritual part of us is all about. We become our own guru, our 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 our most spiritual moments come when we are in a room with others, and we all follow a set time to meditate with our own selves. This may seem strange at first – why would we sit with other people 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.

To walk can be to meditate – my preference is for a forest or the seashore, but anywhere will do. Whilst walking we let our mind be simply aware of the surroundings – we do not think about them or anything else in particular, but just experience without conscious intervention. This process can clear our minds like none other.

It can take practice, but after a time it is possible to let the mind be free for a time of the constraints of the body, and experience something of the spirit within and all around us.

Then we are truly meditating.

 

Todays Meditation word: Learned

Learned

 

There are many ways of learning something – and learning something is 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 know 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 the kid is 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 we tell our partner that what they do is wrong, but go on letting them do it, even though we want to teach then to do differently, they are learning that what we say and what we mean are different. They learn 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 we repeatedly say that something is unacceptable, but continue to allow it to happen, we are not learning. We can keep beating our head against a brick wall, but only if we stop doing so will the pain 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 make us 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 lack 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.