Love and Stillness
I’ve got meditation on my mind this week. Prompted by the annual 28 Day challenge at 8 Limbs Yoga Centers (an inspiring, woman-owned business in Seattle focused on inclusion and social justice), I have returned to my personal stillness practice. It’s not easy and I’m rusty, but I am sitting for 2-3 minutes before I move my body each morning. And that’s better than no minutes at all.
What’s the point of this practice? There’s a misconception that meditation is about emptying the mind, but that’s impossible. You can’t stop the thoughts from coming. You can learn to be more aware of them and lessen your attachment to the thoughts that often pull you away on a journey. Those journeys are a lot like boats on water. One of my favorite places in this world is a lake in Idaho. It’s almost always calm in the morning, like glass. As the day progresses, people take to the lake in kayaks, jet skis and boats. The wind usually picks up in the afternoon, the water churns with waves and the air is thick with the drone of engines. The mind is like this. Over time, you find that all the muck that the thinking brain can hold gets stirred up as you move through your day in a constant state of agitation. Only in stillness does it start to simmer down. I love the analogy I recently heard from an On Being interview with Mary Karr. She and Krista Tippett discuss how hard it is to sit.
I love that thing Thomas Keating says about practicing mindfulness and that it’s sort of like there’s a bunch of water that has mud and silt in it, and the longer you practice, the more that just kind of settles to the bottom. And you don’t feel any peace; you might practice for days and weeks, and it’s just cloudy and noisy. And, he says, what you don’t realize is that healing is happening; that that stuff — by doing that, you are settling it, but you don’t notice it, because it hasn’t settled yet…how difficult just to keep sitting there.
I find that when I sit, this is all true. It’s hard, it feels weird and I want to be doing. And yet, when I actually become still for even a short time daily, I eventually find some clarity. This stillness is essential to my well-being. A bit later in the podcast, Karr says, “You cannot be kind to others if you are not kind to yourself.” I keep going back to that this week. If I chose not to practice, not to be quiet for a few minutes at the start of each day, that inevitably gains momentum with the sunrise and never slows. I become an anxious, unhappy being. I am weighed down with my faults, my loved ones faults and the world’s troubles, and quite quickly I am drowning. I’m longing for kindness and it begins within, so I make time to sit.
Today is inevitably focused on external shows of affection and love. Our internal lives need just as much attention. One of my favorite practices for the heart is Maitri (lovingkindness) meditation. You can also join us at The Riveter for regular mindfulness sessions, and starting Monday, we’ll be hosting a 10-day meditation challenge with Sarah Goble and her company, REALmeditation. Sarah will lead the sessions through Facebook Live and participants can attend virtually, or meet in the Meditation Room (The Riveter Capitol Hill) and in the Wellness Room (The Riveter Fremont). It’s a great way to bring accountability to your meditation practice, or start one if you’re new to this type of practice. Why not try a little stillness and see how not doing changes you?