Don’t Push The River!
I have created a small pocket in my day for meditation and reflection. It’s a small pocket because, like a lot of people, I find sitting still with my eyes closed a bit of an excruciating exercise.
Contemplative practices require that I sit still just when I feel at my most busiest and goal-centred (which is all the time, of course). My body doesn’t gracefully fold itself into an alert, but relaxed, pretzel of crossed legs and prayer hands. My Englishwoman’s stiff upper lip and creaky spine prevent any recognizable “noble, mountain-like” posture; it’s more like I resemble a round-ish hill with a few slumps and slides.
But here I sit every morning for a few moments and pause anyway. I begin with my mind racing around like a remote control car with the steering function gone. I always fight with the idea that there is something WAY more important I should be doing. But I keep sitting anyway. Because sometimes I experience a softening in my compulsion for the “get-going-already” practices in my life and calmness seeps into my speedy-busy schedule. Sometimes, I hear a tiny bit of wisdom or direction, although I probably miss this at times because it comes from a still, quiet place that is difficult for me to access.
I almost missed these two stealth thoughts: “Don’t push the river”; and, “Don’t try too hard”. Luckily, they kept pressing into my busy-brain until I acknowledged them. The first is a Buddhist principle and the second a practical adage. Both are instructing me today to relax my grip on my all-consuming schedule, to respect my body, spirit, and mind, to live the questions (Rilke) and be more comfortable with uncertainty and change, and to be fully present and alive to what is being unfolded and draped across my day.
If meditative or contemplative practices sound interesting to you, here are a couple of links to consider for more info. Mindfulness Meditation has been proven to help many, many folks with anxious and depressive symptoms, stress, and chronic pain relief amongst other difficult life-states. While you consider this, I’m just going to head back again to my comfy couch and resume my attempts at representing a dignified hill that is alert and peaceful and not at all at risk for a major mudslide (at least not today please).
(Kabat-Zin’s empirical studies & resources) http://www.mindfulnesseveryday.org
(Secular practices & resources) http://psychology.tools/mindfulness.html
(Christian/Catholic faith-based practice) http://www.sacredspace.ie
Peace be with you and your household,
Shari van Spronsen, MC, RCC