As athletes trained in visualization techniques know, our bodies begin to move into the physiological state we are imagining. Rehearsing a goal, as if we have already achieved it, entrains our entire system to follow through and deliver the physical result.
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The well-known phrase, “Don’t just stand there, do something” has its merits. But like every other generality, there are exceptions to the rule. In this case, there are so many exceptions that it’s not really a rule.
Yes, there are times when the practical course of action is to act fast. But there are many other times when “fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” In those cases, it’s more a matter of “Don’t do something, just stand there.”
We’re also cautioned to count to ten when we are angry, to avoid acting impulsively. Fair enough, but what about creating an ongoing state where such reminders aren’t necessary?
Meditation is a useful practice for cultivating just such a state. When we meditate, we’re letting go of any claim on the sole authorship for our own experience. After all, we’re “doing” nothing. We’re not even thinking (hopefully, or at least not much). Instead, we’re simply being. And the state we enjoy in those moments can stay with us. In fact, the traditional intention of engaging in a meditation practice was always to develop a sustained experience.
What’s unique about the eyes open-meditative state we can develop over time is that it enables us to be extremely practical. Why? First, because we become more observant. Here in the 21st century all of us are overwhelmed by an assault of data in every moment, both from the outside and the inside.
The unrelenting onslaught of pitches assails our senses, prodding us to consume. Entertainment, magic bullet drugs, relationships, products of all kinds, get rich online schemes… the information age is a 24/7 flea market… and we’re the fleas! Meanwhile, our self-talk is just as unrelenting, re-running regretful mistakes and daydreaming impossibilities, preventing us from seeing what’s going on in the here and now.
Secondly, a meditative state gives us more control over those thoughts. When we hear a lie, such as “You’re an idiot; you’ll always mess things up” we can challenge our inner judge with a positive statement like, “Yes, I’ve messed up, but I’ve learned from my mistakes.”
Henry Ford famously said that “whether you believe it or not, you’re right.” Belief is powerful. Beliefs create bias and determine behavior. But meditation interrupts this chain. When we suspend thought we suspend belief and something else shows up. It’s unmistakable when it happens, yet difficult to describe to those who’ve never known it consciously.
A sensing emerges, some sort of inner reference point beyond thought or belief. Some speak of a witness state, of developing the ability to see yourself and examine your life, your behavior, and make decisions based on a sort of inner compass, connected to the whole of life. This is what we mean when we speak of “going with the flow”but it’s meant to be our normal state, not just occasional occurrences.
By the time we reach adulthood, most of us have developed an array of habits that distract us from this experience. As a result, we find ourselves pushing our way through life with an emphasis on doing. Thinking is useful for supporting doing, we believe, but “being” gets lost in the rush. Who has time for that, in this accelerated world? Who has time to meditate?
But, as Joe Dispenza writes in Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself, “The supposed altered states of consciousness achieved in meditation during true mystical moments are actually “natural” human states of consciousness that we should strive to live by on a regular basis.”
Imagine what life would be like if we did indeed live that way? The fever would subside, that impatient, acquisitive state of consciousness where more is better yet never enough. Even for those of a spiritual bent, hope lingers. “All I want is the chance to prove that money can’t make me happy” is a funny Ashleigh Brilliant cartoon but it’s also the anthem of our modern era, accurately expressing our secret faith in “stuff.”
Thoughts become things. If we want to be more practical in life, it makes sense to begin paying more attention to the being side of our equation. We can go straight from thinking to being. But we can also begin with being… then watch our thoughts change to reflect and express who we are.
That’s how life becomes effortless.
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