para-re-dox

Here’s what Emmy said: Once you begin to accept the lack of control we have over so much of our lives, you can begin to relax. The tighter you try to hang on to the illusion of control, the more anxiety.

Here’s what I said: Well said. A paradox. (there’s nothing I love more than a paradox)

Here’s what Carol said: It is not a paradox that when you give up on the idea of control you have less anxiety. Once you accept the fact you have no control, you have less stress. It is logical.

Yes. As usual, Carol is right. This is logical, but still, it seems to me a paradox is in there somewhere. I try to explain to Carol where the paradox lies.

Here’s what I said (actually the edited version of what I said known as what I wished I would have said):  If I had the superpower to win friends and influence people (apologies, Dale Carnegie), then I would have more control over the people around me and get things to go my way and if things were to go my way, I would have less anxiety. There is a power surge when you convince someone to do something your way or on the rare occasion you can change someone’s mind(in reality, this has never happened). But, it’s much more useful to to accept the hugeness that is the universe outside your dominion. It’s a paradox  that when you accept how little control you have, you end up with more control.

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Resistance

If you tell me you’re deciding whether or not to divorce your husband, or you’re struggling with your newly teenaged daughter, or you’re looking for your best friend’s murderer, chances are I’ll tell you to try meditation. It’s a bit like chicken soup (it might not help, but it won’t hurt) and I do not mean to insult the power of chicken soup (more on that later). Unknown

And even though I believe so strongly in the power of meditation and its ability to resolve issues that never even occurred to you, when it’s time for me to sit down and meditate, I resist. It always seems more important to start the project I’m behind the eight ball on now rather than twenty minutes from now after I’m done meditating. Or I need to take the dog for a walk. Or I should really make that phone call I’ve been putting off for weeks. I know I need to meditate and I know I need to meditate on a daily basis. I know I am a more efficient and productive person when I meditate. I know I am less consumed with anxiety. I know. I know. I know. But it still is difficult to sit down and stop.

The easiest place for me to fit some meditation time into my schedule is when I find a half-hour or forty-five minute break in between commitments. I figure I can’t get anything much else accomplished in that time anyway and I sandwich in a meditation session. It’s only a pretense of productivity, but it works. The problem with this is that I don’t find this break in my schedule on a daily basis. If I were the person I wished I were, I would meditate every day at the same time. Sigh. Even after all this meditation, I’m still me.

My Favorite Paradox

I know it’s spring because there are worms sticking out from under the snow. photoBut, this past Sunday, the weather held on and Emmy and I got to go for our walk in the Metropark as we do every Sunday when the weather and our schedules cooperate. Emmy also meditates and she learned her technique the same way as I did – through a weekly visit to our friend Lee where she would sit in Lee’s living room and have a conversation about the way to fit meditation into one’s life and the challenges and rewards that come from trying to stick with a meditation practice. Emmy and I talked about the ways our lives have changed since we started to meditate regularly. How it’s hard to describe and even harder to remember in what ways we were different. There is a paradox inherent in meditation and Emmy described it in a wonderful way. Once you begin to accept the lack of control we have over so much of our lives, you can begin to relax. The tighter you try to hang on to the illusion of control, the more anxiety.

 

Random Reflection

It’s been over two years since I first started to meditate on a regular basis and I’ve been trying to remember what my life was like before. In some ways, it’s like trying to remember the pain of a headache once the headache has been vanquished. Pain can put you in the present moment like nothing else, but once the pain is gone, it’s also gone from your memory.

The biggest difference to my life post-meditation is my receptivity to the random.  I used to think that if something happened and it was a random thing to happen, it must be insignificant. I don’t think that way anymore. If I read something that resonates with me, I pay attention. If I meet someone that I had just heard about a couple of days ago, I pay attention. And if a random act leads me somewhere I did not expect to go, I go.

Still, I do not believe that everything happens for a reason. That old platitude provokes. Stupid things happen. Unfair things happen. But if the stupid and the unfair lead me someplace, it doesn’t mean I should not go. I might not  endow a stupid unfair thing with more significance than it deserves, but I might not ignore it either.

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Measure for Measure

The latest study on the benefits of meditation was released this week in JAMA and covered by all the usual suspects (Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, Forbes). The study concludes there is no evidence that mindfulness meditation is an effective tool to control substance use, sleep or weight.

imagesStill, we all come to meditation seeking something: more focus, relief from pain, less anxiety. And we want to know if it works. Yo! It’s way more subtle than that. If you stick around long enough, you start to see that what you sought was mostly valuable because it brought you to the practice and what you find has little to do with what you sought.
Meditation is experiential. I have a moment of clarity. I notice a cry for help disguised as a fib. I remain calm as the airline agent insists I told her to discard my boarding pass. I think of an old friend and the next thing I know, I see her walking down the street. Oh, that’s happened to you too? But I’m not thinking it’s a coincidence.
As per the Serenity Prayer, there are two categories of situations in life: the things you can change and the things you can’t. Meditation brings you closer to acceptance of this basic reality. How much closer? Can the benefits of love be scientifically measured? These type of metrics are best left to poets and philosophers.

Dumb secrets

There are secrets and there are dumb secrets. Dumb secrets are those bits of information that are hidden because the only potential holder of the secret does not want to know. The sort of people who don’t want to know are called husbands. A man can only carry so many subjects in his head at one time. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It does not occur to my husband to worry about the very thing that distracts me from my work. He has access to the information and chooses not to access. The result is that there is information being withheld from me and the not knowing sucks up all my attention and diminishes my focus. My husband, in the meantime, gets his work done.

So, my choice is to ask my husband for information which will require him to think about something he does not want to think about or to make peace with the fact that whether or not I know does not change the status of the information. The facts are the facts whether or not I am aware of them.

Today’s meditation was dedicated to letting go of the need to know. What has happened has happened whether or not I am aware of the results

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