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Life is Beautiful

Meditation is Not What You Think

Living at the Center of the Storm


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Living at the Center of the Storm

With all the challenges we face in these stressful days, sometimes it seems we are living in the midst of a storm. It is heartening to know that we can live, not tossed and thrown on the periphery, but at the very center of the storm of life.

It is very calm at the center of a storm - perhaps you have experienced it. After the wild flurry of wind and rain, when the center passes over, a period of absolute calm prevails; so calm, in fact, that it may feel as though the storm is over, but as soon as the center passes by, the storm regains its intense vigour and strength. Similarly, when we identify with the challenging circumstances happening in our life, it is like riding the edge of the storm, experiencing all the chaos, vast momentum and destructive impact that a storm can muster. We can learn to stay at the calm center while the chaos whirls around the edges of our world.

After the hurricanes and tornados that took place recently, we have seen how some survivors were utterly devastated when losing their homes - they expressed that they didn't know how they could go on. Their sorrow and loss had not only destroyed their possessions, indeed it was destroying them! Yet there were others who expressed acceptance, a willingness to start all over and deep gratitude just to be alive. The former were most affected by the destructive force of the storm while the latter were living more toward the calm center. They seemed far less identified with and attached to their belongings, the trappings of their lives and thus could carry on, adapting to current circumstances. Nature always favours those most able to adapt. An incredible lesson is being played out before us in real life for which these souls, serving as our teachers, have paid an extremely high price. Let's not miss that lesson.

Another way to view the same principle is to think of a wheel. If we were to ride the circumference of the wheel, we would have to experience the wheel's impact striking the ground and being dragged over sharp rocks, through swamp and mud. Meanwhile, the center or the hub of the wheel rides above all that, serenely turning.

So how can we learn to live at the center of the storm or the wheel of this life?

Reconnect with Mother Nature

We can find many ways to relax with Nature, the Great Teacher, who has an unfailing way of bringing fresh perspective to our way of looking at whatever is going on in our life. Just a short walk out in Nature can dissolve many a dilemma. Often our problems, after wrestling with them mentally over time, start to take on mounting proportions and we, ourselves, magnify molehills into mountains. Being in Nature has the most graceful way of shrinking these issues back to size. Being outside allows us to breathe the fresh air that restores our energy through needed doses of fresh oxygen to feed the physical body and prana, the subtle life force also contained in the air that recharges the subtle body.

This earth we inhabit shows us in so many ways that life is cyclical in nature and that, like the seasons of spring, summer, winter and fall, our lives go through many seasons - times of new growth and enthusiasm contrasting with times of trial and testing, periods of inwardness and withdrawal into oneself as well as times of extending outward and wanting to connect, times of abundance and times of dearth. We see in Nature the living reminders that circumstances come and go. She spreads before us an ever-moving kalaidoscope of change and adaptation that reminds us not to get fixed on things staying as they are and that the true joy lies beyond all circumstances and situations, within ourselves. We see the inspiring example of the animals and birds -- how they live so very simply and joyfully in spite of what seems enormous hardship. They always live in the present moment with such innocence, acceptance, totality and joy.

When we go out in Nature, her beauty can restore and inspire us -- the sun glinting through the leaves, the spectrum of subtle colours, the water's soothing rhythms, the sound of the rain and the soothing silence. It is so important to walk away frequently from man-made devices like computer and phone to reconnect with our all-healing Mother Nature. And is she not the living example of perseverance there for all to see? In spite of the travesties visited upon her most generous form, she is a living example of abiding patience and acceptance. Even in her anger, she only seeks to restore the balance that man, through unawareness, has torn from her so that her form and our own destiny will have a chance at reprieve. So spending time in Nature is one way we can learn to live at the still center of the storm.

Laugh and Let Go

Another way we can find the quiet center at the middle of the storm is not to take ourselves so seriously. Learning to laugh more and to find amusement in our own folly and the quirks of our predicament has a way of diminishing the sting of unpleasant circumstances. Laughter helps us find the hidden blessings in difficulties, knowing that they come not to harm us, but to offer us a chance to find more life-affirming ways to relate to ourselves and the world. Laughter is God's gift of built-in stress reliever, problem-shrinker and home-style healer which can easily be cultivated. People who are ill have been proven to get well faster if they watch funny movies. We can spend more time with others who love to laugh. Instead of wasting time with our friends lamenting, gossiping or complaining to each other, we can chuckle over our own human foibles. Any attitude of criticism can be traded for one of compassionate mirth at the absurdity of it all.

Even great saints have unpleasant happenings in their lives as a runoff effect even at a very high stage of realization while still on earth - the difference lies in their detachment and ability to become the ever-equanimous witness to the play of existence (in effect, they see that 'it is just happening', rather than 'it is happening to 'ME'!) The great Ramana Maharshi, for example, endured painful cancer in his arm for an extended period before he left the body. Those around him were disturbed about it, yet he never lost his compassionate smile even when well-wishers forced unnecessary painful surgeries on him to try to get rid of it; which, it is said, he allowed just to placate those who loved him. Closer to home, look at the Newfoundlanders, who, in spite of enormous hardships, always seem to find something to chuckle over. They draw our admiration and are precious teachers of humour's gift of transcendence over adversity. The power of a smile in the face of obstacles is formidable in its power. It is a badge of courage that is indomitable. We can go complaining and miserable through life or we can go laughing. Our choice.

True Prayer

It has been said, "Prayer is talking to God, meditation is listening to God." To me, the highest prayer manifests as praise for the Divine, the One in all. Formal prayers are a mere preamble. They prime the pump to the wellspring of true prayer that is just waiting to burst within one's own heart. When the time comes that we find our own words, we can know that our prayer life is deepening. True prayer is not asking for something. Does the Divine who created us not know already our deepest wishes and desires? Prayer is not a seeking, it is a finding. It is a spontaneous outpouring of gratitude to the Divine for all that's already been given and loving glorification of the Divine for it's own sake.

In worldly love, there comes a time between lovers when words simply fall away and the full weight of love overwhelms one's heart and mind so that one has difficulty ascertaining where one stops and the other begins. A similar phenomenon unfolds in our relationship with the Divine. When the experience of deep love for God hits you, you become speechless and excruciating wordless worship wrenches the heart. When that happens, understand that prayer has matured. The center of the storm is not a dead calm, it is full of love, energy, blessedness and trust.

Meditation - Journey Beyond Words

Through the practice of meditation, we find ourselves more and more dwelling in peace regardless of the peripheral madness going on around us. The busyness of the mind gradually settles down and yields some detachment (vairagya) through which one begins to realize that we are not 'the Doer' here. Faithful meditation practice also gives birth to a budding discrimination (vivek) that allows us to live with a more loving, spontaneous and agenda-free response to the world. The hold the ego has on us is gradually broken and we regain the innocence which is our birthright - not the innocence of a child, but one steeped in the wisdom of experience.

Meditation is perhaps the most loving thing you can do for yourself and for everyone else since we are at the core, One being. Disturbance breeds disturbance and calm creates calm around us. Meditation practice gives space in our life for the wordless experience of the Divine Presence to manifest -- the patient unravelling of all the tangles in our consciousness so we can experience the magnificence that dwells within which is none other than Brahman consciousness (the Source or the limitless, ever-present Pure Consciousness) with it's qualities of Sat, Chit, Ananda as spoken of in the ancient teachings. 'Sat' is truth or beingness, 'Chit' is consciousness or pure awareness and 'Ananda' is the causeless inner bliss. Through meditation we can experience our own vastness beyond the little human personality and its petty concerns. It is the pure witnessing of 'what is', beyond all concepts and resistance and pure bliss which is not dependent on any outward happening.

© 2010 Divya Prabha
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