Today I’m turning inward. It’s a wintertime thing.
The newsfeed is fading, and I’m answering the pull from the depths.
We are so terrified of this place. Holiday shopping! Decorating the house! Parties, trees, gifts! It’s all good, don’t get me wrong—it’s great, if it really makes you happy. But the people I’ve been talking to lately are just exhausted and frazzled. So, what’s that about? I think we get crazy around this time of year because we resist the gravitational pull into silence, stillness and the dark. But we all need it. Seeds that we plant--we put them in the ground, away from the sun, into a rich darkness that gives them life. We need this kind of nutrition, too. Spiritual people throughout time have walked away from their ordinary lives to sit in caves for years, seeking (and finding) that very nutrition. Granted, we can't just leave our families for the caves of Tibet right now, but we can carve out some 'cave' time every morning. Doing this brings a kind of nourishment that only committed stillness in our own meditation can bring.
Can you sit in silence, and let the circus of your mind play itself out while you watch? How many thoughts can you identify without falling into the movie of them? Can you sit inside the cave of your own busy mind, let it be spacious enough to hold the roiling, broken-boned, screaming chaos that it shows you? Can you stay present, even in the face of boredom? Sarcasm? Doubt? It can be everything from an idle fantasy to unending lists to a horror show.
When I'm in the cave of my mind, watching the circus, here's one example of what I do. I take a difficult situation—say, with someone close to me—and, instead of trying to solve it, just sit and consciously experience it. How long can I stand it before I move into fix mode? Turns out doing this can be incredibly illuminating. Somehow, the permission, the courage to just experience the discomfort actually dissolves a lot of its ‘problem’ aspect. And if there’s a right action to take, that action becomes much clearer.
But what if the right action isn't clear, and I’m stuck in the discomfort?
That's where the juice is. Stay. When I lose my footing, that’s when I most need to just stay with the feeling of "lost my footing". Resist the the addiction to finding it, to certainty. Stay with the groundlessness. Develop these muscles.
These are the muscles that will do the heavy lifting when the time for action comes. But if I’m always running away from discomfort, how will those muscles ever get strong? And if I can’t tolerate discomfort, how can I ever truly be of service where it counts? The world around us is changing fast, and we may (more than ever) truly need strong emotional muscles, and great spiritual stamina.
So let’s use these darker weeks, the ones leading up to the winter solstice, for turning inward and sitting in mess of our own mind. Every morning from December 1 to December 21, let’s make a commitment to be faithful to this turning inward. Let’s watch the circus of the million thoughts we believe, and just for a moment, stop, identify the thoughts, one at a time, and look at them. Take the thought in our hands, turn it around, sniff it, feel its weight, inspect it with the open curiosity of a baby holding an object in her hands for the first time.
We can create a ritual for this dark listening. We can light a candle (or not, if you want to more physically embody the darkness). Just sit still and be with…receiving, every day. On December 21, at 8:15pm (immediately after my 7:15pm yoga class), we will be celebrating--not only for the coming of the light, but for the nourishing fruits of the darkness that came before. So please join me--
THE PRACTICE: Every morning, sit still, in silence, in the dark. Listen.
THE SOLTICE CELEBRATION: A ritual celebration for both the darkness and the light
Wednesday December 21, 2016
Yoga & Polarity Center
32 Church Street, Malverne, NY 11565
Cost: by donation.
(There may be music.)
Let's do this.