Almost all the decisions I’ve made over the years have their foundation in the degree to which I would experience fear and, more specifically, its physical effects (e.g. headache, stomach ache, etc.)
I had thought that, because of fear, I’d live a relatively sheltered life, living not far from my parent’s house in a small suburb and probably remaining single since I figured no one would understand that avoidance on my part wasn’t lack of interest but a reaction to fear.
Instead, I got married and ended up moving just about as far away from my home town as possible (for a variety of reasons). I now live in Australia and have only just begun to make a very different life for myself — different from the one I thought I’d have, and certainly different than the one I’d thought I was “condemned” to live.
It’s difficult to clearly articulate the changes that have happened rapidly over the past few months, but suffice it to say that I have been able to overcome an extended period of deep depression and am now slowly getting back on track. I attribute much of this to meditation.
I originally approached meditation — like many who suffer from anxiety and depression — as a way of finding relief by “letting go”. Not yet comfortable to just sit in silence I listened to guided meditation on my iPod for months; while this helped in the short-term I felt I was taking a very soft approach to a very hard problem.
One day, not so long ago, I went into a small forest near my apartment and just sat there for a while. I paid close attention to my breathing and, with eyes closed, I (no lie) felt my mind open wide, like a door that had been flung open. It’s hard to explain, really: it was like there was this immeasurable moment of clarity where there was a distinct sense of lightness.
I don’t consider it a moment of enlightenment; I’m not that naive or that proud. Rather, I see it more like a signpost that pointed me in a new direction: since that day in the forest I’ve worked daily to shed the idea that there’s a self called “me”, that it is always hungry and itchy and that my life was to be about feeding it and scratching the itch.
In many ways, I’ve moved on.
Now, months later, I meditate to meditate — not to “relax”, or set a monetary goal in my mind and expect it to arrive at my doorstep, or to imagine I’m a sex magnet — that part’s already true 😛
I practice looking at things for their inherent nature, for what they are. I practice not finding patterns when the tendency is to analyze to find associations between experience and memory. I practice understanding the difference between wanting and having — and how there’s not much satisfaction in either.
I’ll wind it up with this quote from Thich Nhat Han:
When we look deeply into our fear, we see the desire for permanence. We’re afraid of change. Our anger, our fear, our despair are born from our wrong perceptions, from our notions of being and non-being, coming and going, rising and falling. If we practice looking deeply, we find out that these notions cannot be applied to reality. We can touch our true nature, we can touch the ultimate dimension and this brings about non-fear. When we trust that insight of no birth and no death, joy becomes possible every moment of our lives.