*Brian Wilcox. 'reminders of innocence'. Flickr
A continuance of dialogues with a sage who did not see himself as a sage, but others did; from Brian K. Wilcox. "Meetings with an Anonymous Sage."
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I find myself pulled in different directions emotionally during meditation. How can I work with that best?
First, if this is happening in meditation, it is happening in the rest of your life. What is true outside meditation, is heightened in meditation. This is one of the reasons for the wisdom of meditation: here, not to ascend to some so-called higher consciousness, but to see more clearly what is happening when you are not being as alert to what is happening within you. Outside meditation, you have many opportunities at distraction, in meditation, without the distraction, you see and feel more clearly.
That makes sense. But what of the afflictive feelings that pull me into suffering?
Ju-ching, Zen master Dogen's teacher, spoke, "Plum blossoms open the early spring." He did not say, "Plum blossoms open in early spring." So, as observed the Zen teacher Shundo Aoyama, this indicates the plum blossoms introduce spring, not that they announce spring has arrived. She well remarks that once this is accepted, spring is everywhere. So, truly, spring is in any season. Spring can be the inner atmosphere regardless of the mood of the moment. You may recall Jesus, in the Christian Gospels, was once seen walking on water at night. His closest followers were in the boat. They feared they would die. He said to the winds and water, "Peace, be calm." And it happened. Jesus, in the story, represents the possibility of peace, which is the possibility of spring to arise within the storm. Jesus knew within the storm was peace, and, so, peace could arise from the very storm that was seen as not-peace. Peace could arise, for Jesus was speaking from peace. He did not say, "Storm get out of here!" He did not drive anything away. Transformation came from speaking into form what he knew was already present. He was the only one present prepared to speak from peace, to announce spring right then and there. He could see calm, his followers could not, they only saw the stormy mood of the moment.
This makes no sense to me. How can I be suffering and it be this spring?
This spring is life everywhere, the freshness of eternal life here-and-now. This life is not dependent on causes and conditions, not reliant on the outcomes of causes and conditions. Emotions arise from causes and conditions, even as sensations in the body do; all that arises in time disappears in time. In time, a potentially incalculable number of causes lead to the mood of the moment. Even in your life, you can sense how an innumerable number of causes from the womb until the moment can contribute to what you feel in any moment. Yet, life, being always fresh, freshens your life by your surrender to the Grace already present even in the flux of phenomena, including the wide array of emotions that come and go in every human being's life. As long as you are in the body, pleasant and unpleasant emotions and feelings will arise. Yet, explore, what is present and untouched by feelings you call positive and feelings you call negative. So, do not work with these emotions first, be with them. From being with an emotion, you can get clarity on how to respond wisely. The response might be simply to be with, to allow the emotion to play itself off the stage of consciousness.
Would you give some brief direction on being-with emotions in and outside meditation?
I read something from Mooji that struck me as truth, when he says, "Look from the stillness, not the agitation." That is true. So, when pleasant or unpleasant or neutral arises, see without identifying with it. Do not deny. Here, you fully accept what has arisen, you do this effortlessly. Clarity of action can arise out of seeing clearly, which is wisdom. Action can, then, move from compassion for yourself, as well as all beings by seeing other beings undergo the same emotions.
Recently, being ill and having fear arise, I relaxed, doing mindful breathing. I began a silent mantra of compassion for all beings, using the beads of my prayer mala. See, from the stillness, not the agitation, the body was able to be assisted and, likewise, I was able to open to embrace the suffering of others in prayer for their well-being. This is an example of seeing and acting from the stillness, though few are able to do this, for the emotion captivates them. Meditation is training in seeing and acting from the stillness. Thereby, there is less and less suffering within you, both in meditation and outside it. And the world is blessed by your bringing less suffering into it. Possibly, the greatest gift you can give all beings is the lessening of suffering within yourself.
So, we return to what you've said before, it seems, when you say in our meditation to "Just relax."
Yes, relaxation allows the constriction of effortfulness to release. Then the tension between what is and what you want to be is resolved, you are no longer against what is happening, what you call good or bad or neutral. Compassion and insight arises from this calm of being-with, rather than the stress of being-against. In this, you are cooperating with the natural bent of the body toward inner peace and healing. Yet, this peace is not something arrived at in opposition to anything, it arises as a peace beyond what is normally meant by peace in contrast to not-peace. This peace few know, for it is a gift when one is no longer in the duality of "I don't have peace"-or-"I have peace." This is the stillness Mooji refers to, in the above quote, a stillness not in contrast to anything, a stillness of pure Presence, of natural Grace.
*Brian Wilcox. 'radiant presence'. Flickr
(C)Brian K. Wilcox, 2019
The theme of "Lotus of the Heart" is 'Living in Love beyond Beliefs.' This work is presented by Brian K. Wilcox, of Maine, USA. You can order Brian's book An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, through major online booksellers.
*Mooji quote from Vaster than Sky, Greater than Space; reference to Aoyama in Zen Seeds.