“Meditation can help us embrace our worries, our fear, our anger; and that is very healing. We let our own natural capacity of healing do the work.” — Thich Nhat Hanh
Meditation is an ancient technique employed with the intention of balancing the physical, mental, and emotional faculties of the human being. It now exists in many different forms, each bringing slightly different methodology to the table. The meaning of meditation is somewhat elusive in the West and has, until rather recently, been shrouded by a veil of exotic mystery.
Meditation is ultimately a method used to rest the mind and attain a different state of consciousness than that of the normal waking state. Some forms of meditation have spiritual and religious connotations, other forms have a basis firmly within the domains of science.
Several of these empirically validated reasons are why meditation has had such a profound effect in my personal life. It’s helped drag me out of confusion, disorientation, and stress and into a waking state of calm awareness and non-reaction.
At age 20, I had just finished a bout of travel and exited a very short-lived yet passionate marriage. To say my head was spinning would be a dire understatement. I had been living on the opposite side of the world from my friends and family, and had no solid direction in terms of what I wanted to achieve with my life, and what I wanted to strive for. I returned home feeling isolated from people I once felt very connected to, and also isolated from my dreams, which were being dulled by frequent doses of self-loathing, self-judgement, and depression.
I felt as though I was distributing portions of my time to be lived out in the unfolding present moment and others towards reliving the past in my inner conscious landscape; A place where I would analyze my past mistakes and try to muster rectifying solutions, all the while knowing that the time they could have been applied had long gone.
Shifting past the uncomfortable thought of putting a plethora of mind-distracting activities to rest and sitting to face myself in silence truly revealed to me how severely the present moment can be dominated by the persistent, scattered internal narration of past depressions and future anxieties; a constant sheet of white noise caused by the looping mind in its basic beta-wave state.
As my meditative sessions became more frequent and morphed into routine, it was interesting to witness the very subtle yet game-changing ways in which my day to day behavior altered. No longer was I trapped staring back at the past and haunted by internal ramblings of regret anymore than I was engaged in re-aligning with my passions and sculpting out a future.
The realization arrived at my door that not only does the mind attempt to dish up a banquet of distractions and cravings with the goal of instant gratification, but many of us living within the paradigms of the Westernized world are under constant bombardment. Social media, pop-culture, and an array of installed societal pressures and expectations send us on an unconscious voyage in alignment with the current cultural narrative that attempts to hijack one’s sovereignty and shepherd one into a certain mold, lifestyle, and career path.
In that way the mind is a magician to a strict definition, in that it is capable of conjuring illusions — many of which it falls prey to. External influences and many worries and feelings of judgement that we appear to perceive from others, may very well be projections of our own insecurities and how we ultimately judge ourselves on our appearance, short-comings, and acts of weakness and addiction.
Meditation is a passive tool. Much like the motion of the ocean waves, it slowly laps away at belief systems, which are installed into our mental operating systems by life experience, until cracks start to show; erosion takes place and eventually chunks fall off into the sea and are swept far away from our psyche.
I placed the expectation onto meditation that it would play the role of a magic bullet. That if I chose to sit with myself and face myself, my external circumstances would change and I would finally be at peace with myself and the world.
This was not the case.
The analogy of the eye of the storm fits the experience of meditation perfectly from my individual perspective. In this life, we are constantly surrounded by a certain level of chaos. We are subject to the words, decisions, and actions of others, who also have creative powers over the external world. We are also at the whim of probability and chance, which may work in our favor or leave a trail of devastation and despair.
Many circumstances that occur in our external environment are largely out of our control. So it isn’t about trying to force and change this constant torrent of events. It is more fitting, and far more effective, to make the conscious choice of modifying the internal terrain of the mind. In doing so, a certain stillness arises in the form of expanded awareness and non-judgement. The eye of the storm is a place of peace, stillness, and equilibrium. Yet it is surrounded by turbulent winds, white hot lightening bolts, and clapping thunder. The chaos is always there, but when we utilize the meditative state, it trickles subtly into our day to day lives — we can alter our inner perception and find a place of serenity within the severity.
Inhabiting the eye of the storm allows one to start to observe the storm from a place of balance. This allows us to analyze our own behavior, and to realize that a pinnacle principle of our own mental/emotional well-being is how we react to a situation, not the situation itself. It enables us to straighten the canvas of our life and brandish the paintbrush of creative potential, empowering ourselves to carve out our own path and resist treading upon those carved for us by the hands of others.