is what we have. Or, the devil is in the details. Who would have thought that spending a weekend sitting under the Big Top with 70 people (yes, the Esalen yurt felt like a circus tent) breathing, and then reflecting on this process, would be so difficult?
At times, it was excruciating. I kept wanting to fall asleep, my busy life (and the late summer heat) catching up with me. The sound of the surf below us blending with Zen teacher, speaker and writer Cheri Huber's soothing voice...everyone quiet, pondering their "practice" — the ways we keep ourselves from being present with Life. (My specialty is the perpetual re-write, as I edit all out my regrets, large and small.) Then there are obsessive "mantras" — endless loops of distraction and self-criticism. Add to this mix residual emotions from the past, and worry about the unknowable future, and spontaneous joy withers.
Cheri, like so many of the enlightened ones, has a quick wit, and (dare I say it?) a wicked sense of humor. She's not invested in evangelizing Buddhism, "it's hard enough for those of you who are powerfully motivated," she says. Yet her organization, Living Compassion, works to make a difference in the world, most notably in Zambia, with her Vulnerable Children Project.
The big "A-Ha" for me was that I finally grasped the concept of the Ego. That creature that keeps us separate from life, stuck in our own movies, unable to fully feel and enjoy the world as it unfolds around us, moment by moment. The ego-centric conditioned mind that makes us suffer can be interrupted through awareness practice: understanding and compassion felt in the body through healing breath. This is freedom. This is where creativity lives, where wonder lives, and I want it!
So, are we now all ready to meditate 10 minutes a day? Try by just enjoying a few breaths, relaxing all your exhausted grey matter as you exhale. (Terrifying, isn't it?) Or, as Eckhart Tolle says, we can consciously ask ourselves, what will I think of next? Then watch that thought appear like a tiny mouse emerging from her cartoon doorway. Because a significant part my brain is actually an archive of black and white films, I think of Deborah Kerr, in Night of the Iguana, chasing away her "blue devils" with deep, restorative breaths.
Let's heal the world, starting with ourselves. Be in the moment. It's a good trick and the only game in town. We can begin to climb this mountain, right now. Ready, set, go!
We are shaped by our thoughts. We become what we think. -Buddha
Photos by Linda Sonrisa