“There are hundreds of paths up the mountain, all leading in the same direction, so it doesn't matter which path you take. The only one wasting time is the one who runs around and around the mountain telling everyone that his or her path is wrong.” -Hindu Teaching
One life lesson that everyone is aware of is that, this life, it ain’t easy. So, do we conform with the social norm of feeling dull, numb, or distracted by the static of routine or is it at all possible to feel a daily sense of liberation and joy? As the saying goes; “There are hundreds of paths up the mountain, all leading in the same direction.” How do we figure out which one is right for us when we already feel completely lost in a thick fog of fear, doubt, and confusion?
First thing’s first, step away from the stories. The stories that I’m talking about are the thoughts that pop up in our mind, that we magnify and get lost in. These stories are all about the past or the future. Living life in our mind only take us away from the possibility of truly understanding ourselves and experiencing life while we have the chance. Meditation is the antidote for this. Dedicate about 45 minutes of your time in the morning to sitting quietly in an upright position with your legs crossed or in a chair. You may place your hands on your knees or in your lap. Start by taking deep breaths in and out for about 5 minutes then allow the breath to go off on its own. Come back to the breath when you notice that it stops (because most of the time, during our daily life, we hold our breath) or if your mind wanders, using it as an anchor to be in the present moment. Step back and view your thoughts passing through but do not magnify, dive into the story, and allow it to branch out. This may happen and if it does, it’s ok, you may just label it as thinking, return to the breath, and start over. This is practice. The act of noting the true reality of what is happening (in this case it is thinking) and returning to the present moment through the breath. The first step in the right direction is being in the present moment and the breath is the most important tool. You see, the breath is what allows you to live and most times we hold it, unknowingly. The same way we sometimes, unintentionally, pause our present moment (our lives) to live in the past or future (being in the present and mindfully experiencing it is to truly live). Holding our breath may cause tension in the body or even a lack of oxygen to the brain which may cause our minds to fog up, and create unmindful thoughts that do not accommodate the present moment. Meditate daily, when possible. This is the biggest gift you can give yourself. Do not wait for someone to make you happy, because this is impermanent and clinging to others or outside stimulation will cause suffering. Creating an inner stillness through meditation will allow the storm of confusion, fear, and doubt to settle down so that you may see clearly and make appropriate and rightful choices that promote your well-being.
Sometimes, seeing clearly is scary. The negative feelings may feel amplified or a sense of panic may creep in. Meditation allows us to sit, breathe, and step away so that we may view the thoughts that arise from these feelings instead of adding to them and getting caught up. Through this practice, you may learn to hold these feelings and emotions as a mother would hold her child, with unconditional love and compassion. Don’t try to resist or change what you're feeling, instead sit with it as if were a welcomed guest in your home. Feel all of it. Remember that feeling and thinking are two different things. Simply, do not get caught up in the thoughts. See them rolling in and allow them to roll away as they start to appear. Do not cling to these intangible thoughts. They aren't you. Allow yourself to cry, smile, or laugh. This is a part of the process of going through and letting go. If we resist, we will always have baggage. There was a dharma talk that I listened to last week about letting go and it was beautiful. The speaker mentioned that it is impossible to let go of something, even if it is unwanted, if we don't just simply allow it to first be. Something has to be, to dwell in existence, to then go away. You cannot let go of something that never was. Allow what is inside to live its lifetime, believe me, it is a gift and is there to teach you something. Having gratitude towards our difficulties changes our relationship with them, as well as, our experience. We actually start to receive gifts of wisdom when we stop resisting. It will fade away on its own.
Once we learn how to relate, lovingly, with our difficulties (it won’t always be this way and struggles will arise but this is practice; breathing, noting, and returning) we will feel a freedom to make clear choices that benefit our well being, with intention. Stepping into this power (always noting if it is through the ego or through love) will cultivate a sense of liberation and joy. Noting the habits of the mind and realizing how powerful it may be should be reason enough to keep a daily practice of meditation. You can go far. You can step out of this haze that most wallow through and truly live life with excitement and joy. There will always be ups and downs but learning to deal with it in a different manner is what is important. It will give you the freedom to see your path clearly and choose.