How strong is your awareness muscle?
Are you mindful and alert to the little things or do big worries cloud your mind’s focus?
For those of you on the east coast of Canada or the US, or in the Caribbean, you have probably being worrying about and dealing with the effects of Hurricane Sandy this week – a late-season, massive tropical cyclone.
Colossal weather systems are out of our control, but how we react to them is in our control.
When life’s storms hit are you calm, alert and attentive, or are you frazzled, pre-occupied and worried?
Even short meditation sessions snuck in here and there can help you build that awareness muscle and enable you to be calmer, more alert and more attentive amidst life’s storms.
I personally tested my awareness muscle this week while returning home through gale force winds and heavy rain. I usually try to meditate during my commute to and from work on public transit. I find it helps me be less anxious about the crammed quarters I am in and allows me to stay calm and let go of work and worry. Despite being pummeled with warnings about Hurricane Sandy through various news feeds, I was able to find some moments to just sit, breathe, relax and let go, and connect with my essence, my True Self, the God within on my journey home.
I’m grateful that I did.
After entering the house and taking the dog out to relieve himself, I returned and went into the basement. Being in a more alert and aware state, I noticed a small portion of the carpet, near the door to the furnace room, had a wet stain on it. (Had my mind been too filled with worry and mind chatter, I could have easily walked passed this little marker and left the basement without as much as a second glance.) Luckily, I was mindful of it.
It caused me to investigate its source by opening the furnace room door and OH, WHAT I SIGHT I SAW and felt. You see the hot water tank’s shut off valve had blown, and steaming hot water was gushing out of the hot water tank filling the furnace room with flood waters and hot steam.
Given that it was pouring rain outside, I could have easily mistaken the gushing water inside for the pouring rain outside and walked past the noise, but luckily I was alerted to a small something out of sorts.
Trying not to panic, I took a few deep breaths, and started to take action.
First, I secured the dog to a safe place upstairs. Then, I scoped out what was happening and the extent of its reach. Next, I cleared the area to salvage some stuff that was getting destroyed by the water and to make room to better access the source. After that, I called for help, because this matter was beyond my knowledge. As my partner was at work, I am grateful to my father-in-law-to-be, who calmly and patiently assessed the situation over the phone from a city 500km away. He guided me to safely turn the water valves to the hot water tank and system off to stop the flooding. I then called the hot water tank rental company, who told me they couldn’t have a service technician contact me until the next morning to schedule a time to come out to service the equipment. It was another quarter of the day before the technician could come out. So our family was without hot water or central heating (which relies on hot water) for about 18 hours with a blustery storm raging outside. Nevertheless, we breathed safely through the storm sitting with God within us, among us and around us.
Now, I didn’t describe this story to you as a “poor-me-tale”, rather I wanted to illustrate how finding time to build our awareness muscle through meditation can help us be alert, aware and calm to take appropriate action in life’s storms – whether environmental, emotional or situational.
Sally Kempton in From Meditation for the Love of It reminds us that to our meditation practice can give us so much if we show interest in it. She writes:
“When you approach your meditation with interest, that simple time of sitting becomes enjoyable in itself. You listen to the whisper of the breath … You enjoy the rising stillness,… and the gradual shift into a quieter mind. Each moment, whether dramatic or seemingly boring, can be full of fascination. You are with yourself. You are with God.”
Christian Gnostics, an early Christian community, believed that salvation came not just from worshipping Christ, but from learning to free oneself from the material world through revelation. Like the Eastern religious traditions, they believed that freedom from suffering came from within, and that the answers to spiritual questions also came from within, not without. They didn’t envision God as out there, but in here – a God within us, around us and among us.
So I invite you to find regular times to pause, breathe, be still and enjoy your meditation practice just for the sake of it. Enjoy meditating in whatever place or form it takes. Enjoy connecting with yourself and connecting with the God within. Sit awhile with the God within today to help you through life’s storms so that throughout it all you can continue to live an abundant life.