Meditation was meant for times like these. It was discovered in deep suffering. And it was designed to move us out of fear, despair, helplessness, and disorientation and into peace, joy, confidence, empowerment and coming home. From feeling stuck to new potential. Meditation is an antidote to uncertainty.
There was a time in my life when I faced imminent death, a time when I had lost almost everything, a time when just about everywhere I looked, I found my life crumbling.
And it was precisely at that time, when one blow came after another and I found myself at the end of my rope, that the serenity of meditation burst into expression. And with committed, daily practice, a calm way forward out of the storm started to take shape.
We are in a quiet storm right now. The coronavirus and the world wide lock-down has turned regular life, which may have already been hard enough, into a pervasive sense of uncertainty.
But we have always been living in uncertainty. We just weren’t really aware of it. In fact, we never really knew with 100% certainty what was going to happen even one hour later. And now this coronavirus has shown us uncertainty in plain sight.
When our habitual life is ripped away, any sense of anxiety that we may have held at bay through working, staying busy, entertainment, unhealthy coping or other means, is now no longer covered up, and may even be exacerbated because of all the uncertainty. We might discover a panicked side of ourselves that rarely surfaces.
Not only that, if our livelihood has disappeared overnight or our health has suddenly diminished, there is an immediate need to simply survive. And thus even just making it until the next day or next week might actually be quite uncertain.
So my heart goes out to everyone who is struggling. When we are really struggling, we need to make it through the next hour. The next minute. I remember in my darkest hour, just trying to make it from one moment to the next.
Coincidentally, that is actually the practice of meditation, of mindful attention. It means we live fully in each moment. And there is a very practical reason for that. Life is happening right now, in this very moment that you are reading these words. There is no other time that life is happening!
Look around you for a few moments. Now turn your attention inside your body and feel all its different sensations. Feel the weight of your body on the chair or the ground. And now listen to the sounds of your life for just a little while. How about the smells around you? And now, try an experiment: notice thoughts coming and going. One thought, then another. And finally, see if you can notice any emotions.
All of this is your world. Because this is what is happening right now. This is your own personal reality. And this is where meditation starts. It does not start with anything other than what is happening right now.
But what to do if your personal reality is just awful? If you are feeling very uncertain and it cascades into fear, it tends to hijack your whole system so that nothing else shows up in your own world except a sense of dread.
The meditative approach, the mindful way, is to turn and recognize that fear is present and then determine how to deal with it. If you are unable to deal with it directly, you can anchor onto something else, say the breath, and let the fear subside in the meantime.
But ultimately, the meditative way is to embrace fear with gentle, loving attention. You learn to take care of your fear as you might take care of a little baby who is crying. You don’t run away, you don’t ignore it. Instead, you embrace it, you gently, lovingly turn towards it and hold it. With a baby, you physically hold it. With fear, hold it with gentle attention. Witness it.
Slowly, by staying with your experience of uncertainty and fear, just as it is, and watching it, feeling it, fear starts to change and slowly fade. In its place is a kind of peacefulness. This takes practice, and there are more details, but the key is the attitude: loving attention.
Out of that attitude, a whole new inner world of peace can be unlocked, you may discover more energy and creativity to deal with difficult situations. New possibilities open up when your whole being is at peace.
To conclude, meditation starts right where you are at: uncertain, stuck, suffering, in pain, a victim, full of worries, lost in endless thoughts. That is exactly where meditation starts and where it was meant to start. Meditation is meant to provide relief from uncertainty, from that inner agony.
So, if you already have a meditation practice, continue! And see if you can extend and deepen it, because the world needs your peace.
And if you once had a practice, dust it off, let go of excuses, get settled, maybe go through some thoughts/tension that have built up…but then… ahhhhh. You know how it feels to let go of the burden. Remember that and let it drive your practice.
And if you have never meditated before, or you want a refresher, come join a free 30 minute introduction class to learn meditation online and use the free, guided meditations online on my website. This is the perfect time to get started.