“Courage is fear that has said it’s prayers.” -poet Karle Wilson Baker 1921
Just for today, do you want to focus more on worry or prayer? I have worked with people who have had so much anxiety they could not ride in planes, cross bridges, shop in major grocery stores, or drive a car. Through meditation, prayer, and a commitment to not velcro to their anxious thoughts, I have seen these individuals completely turn their lives around. Anything is possible.
Worries have no end point. You are not your anxiety and worry. Where will all your anxieties be after you die? They are not truly who you are. Take a moment and decide, “Enough. From now on more prayer, less worry.” It takes a conscious commitment one day at a time, until prayer takes over on it’s own. If you want, eventually prayer will take over. Your body and mind are a vehicle for prayer.
When worry comes let it move through, without indulging, fearing, or pushing it away. Worries are not your fault and not something wrong with you. Let worries roll through like a big wave. In Hawaii if you get pulled under by a big wave, you roll with it, and in a few minutes the ocean gives you a lull to swim to safety. If my daily worries go into hyper-drive or panic, I remind myself that even panic tends to last less than 5 minutes, and if I can roll with that too, it will move through. Rainer Maria Rilke advised his students: “Let everything happen to you. Beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final.”
If all else fails, breathe. Breathe into your belly. What can you trust at your core? When you are on your last breath you will have prayer. If a tragedy happens you will have prayer. Prayer is always here waiting for you, as a friend, a guide, and an eternal resource. A Buddhist friend who died of ALS a few years ago mentioned that meditation was his best friend in the final stages of the disease, and without it he would have crumbled due to the pain.
Find time each day to cultivate your friendship with prayer and meditation. Your prayer might be something as simple as blessing people. In busy airports or stores if I find I’m getting overwhelmed, I start to bless everyone I see. This reminds me that each person is someone to love. Each day I also repeat, “Trust life,” Thy will not my will,” and “I don’t need to be general manager of the Universe.”
Overall, prayer and meditation is how we meet each moment. Prayer is a willingness to meet each moment with heart. Ultimately there is no other choice. Start now. Aloha.
The three injunctions were shared with me by Molokai musician and healer, Zelie Duvauchelle. They were given to her by her Hawaiian kumu (teacher). If followed, they will lead you to a connected and joyful life.
As you will notice, these are simple but not easy.
Most judgments and comparisons are the result of the illusion of a separate self. Look at your two hands right now. You probably don’t spend much of your day judging or comparing your left hand to your right hand. This is because you know they are both part of your one body, and judgment would be futile. As you come to know that you are part of the cells of everyone and everything, comparisons too will decrease.
When I first heard, “Delete the need to understand,” my mind did an emotional double-take. Now, I repeat it often like a mantra, or use it like a big eraser when thoughts pile high. This mantra helps me return to silence. And in those still quiet spaces a greater Knowing can be found.
Enjoy what you discover with these teachings.
At age thirty, while on a three month Buddhist retreat, many deep insights arose in my practice. In my weekly interviews with teacher Joseph Goldstein, I would proclaim my new “this is it” version of life. Then of course the “this is it” would change, and I’d start seeking again, until the next “this is it” arose, which would change again, and so forth. Joseph compassionately listened to all my insights, and eventually gave me this mantra; “This is it, is not it.” I kept that mantra for many years. His simple wisdom stopped me from clinging to any insight as the final stopping point. It allowed more flow with the process of discovery, rather than the illusion of finding a final resting place. As human beings, it’s a natural tendency to want to find the “it.” The “it” is our imagined perfect balance of mind and body and spirit. It’s our human sweet spot, and enlightenment is the ultimate sweet spot.
This is it, is not it.
If you let this be true, it unhooks the endless game of “I’ve got it, I’ve lost it.” It unhooks the exhausting pattern of seeking and guarding. My teacher U Pandita told me, “You will always be seeking or guarding experiences. When you find what you seek, then you will try to guard it. In this way, your mind will always be disturbed. Know what is neither guarding nor seeking.” And of course this doesn’t mean we eschew insights. Simply let them come and go, as they will on their own, like the weather.
This is it, is not it.
If you let this be true, it unhooks the game of “you.” You don’t have to seek the perfect truth. You don’t have to wait for a stay-tuned-for-later version of life. And if you’ve had a life changing experience, you don’t have to maintain it. You don’t have to keep checking over your shoulder to make sure you still know it. Let yourself just be how you are, right now. In your natural state, there is no state to maintain.
One meditation student remembered how as a child everywhere he would go, he would joyously and loudly exclaim, “I am here!” This is such a natural expression of our essence; “I am here.” That is enough. You are here. You didn’t need to be thinner, richer, wiser, or more enlightened to be here. You are here. And that is always enough. Enjoy.
Each cell in your body is a hologram. Each cell is a hologram for all that is, was, or will be. If you want to see the origin of the universe get quiet, really quiet. And then feel the breath in your body or pay attention to the subtle movement of your hand. It’s this simple and this deep.
I once worked with an aboriginal elder in Australia who told me this about listening:
“When I hold a leaf I can tell you exactly what it is used for in the body, what it’s medicine is. People say, ‘Oh, that’s because your elders told you this.’ But I say to them, ‘No, what happens is I pick up the leaf and I hold it. I hold it and listen. And eventually the leaf itself tells me what it’s medicine is.’ Elders don’t tell us what the leaf is used for. Elders teach us how to listen. We listen to the direct communication of the cells of the leaf.”
If you know how to listen cellularly, it’s as if you are connected to a giant computer that knows all of existence. Your rational mind will think this is bogus. But cellular knowledge is direct, non linear and not cognitive (although later it might be reflected upon cognitively). I’ve noticed with a number of true healers, they will not discuss anything personal or important over the phone or internet. They want to meet face to face under a tree. Why? Because transformational change happens body to body in communion with nature.
We are in an era of visual knowledge and virtual reality. And yet, in a sort of cosmic joke, the ultimate connection you seek “out there” is in the body here, now. The cells of your body are portals. Learn how to listen to your subtle kinesthetic body. Brain cell, toe cell, hair cell all are equal. Pay attention to the hologram of this very breath, this movement of your hand, the cells in your knees and toes. They have something to tell you. They are whispering the key to all that is. Don’t try to think about it. Just feel. Learn to feel all of who you are. Put your hands in the earth. Look at the night sky full of stars. Notice the sensations of your body. This is your way home.