just be it It’s about the work involved in establishing a dedicated practice to feelings of a bigger belonging through practices aimed at increasing feelings of compassion, gratitude and forgiveness
September, 2019

Graced Again

Thursday, September 12th, 2019
Another close call. Graced again.

We should all do ourselves well by recounting all those moments when we should have died or been killed, but we didn’t.  These are those events where through no cleverness of our small selves, we survived.  I’m not saying that we can’t train ourselves to get out of the way.  I can think of many instances where people have panicked, freaked out, and stress resisted an event out of their control, only to really mess it up.  We can ‘think’ we’re prepared for uncertainty, that we’ve trained well, have the skills for the action at hand, yet surprise always has a way of coming up.  That’s the real work.  When the earthquake happens, can we hold our center.  Keeping ourselves in balance, aligned to the moment, we’re less likely to get in God’s way.  So what do I mean by that?

There’s no question about the fact that you didn’t make you.  The mystery is huge and we never will know everything, or even come close to knowing everything.  It’s a stupid question.  All we can do is humble ourselves, hold a curious mind, steward/take care of those people, animals, plants, environments we’re participating in, and give thanks for the tremendous opportunities to participate in this brief period of time where we inhabit our bodies.  A big part of taking care is found in training ourselves to hold stillness between stimulus and response.  This is a highly trained skill.  When uncertainty emerges, can we pause to find our presence, and then act more skillfully?  We seem to be in an age where people are more and more reactive, almost instantly responding to events from a reactive, non balanced response.  All too often, this reactive response causes harm.  So how do we train for the pause between stimulus and response?

Perhaps the greatest practice for developing this skill is found in meditation.  The yogic word ‘asana’ stands for balanced posture and that’s what we’re practicing for.  Many spiritual traditions list ‘equanimity’ as one of the highest virtues.  A meditation practice, focusing on the breath, in silence, helps us grow awareness.  As we settle the reactive mind down we dismantle our notions of ego, the illusion that we’re somehow separate.  As with many things, the more attention we put to our practice the stronger our capacity to hold equanimity in the face of chaos and uncertainty.  Dedication to this practice takes great resolve.  The more we practice stillness, witness mind, and balanced posture, the more proficient we are at honing that space between stimulus and response.  Developing this skill leads us to more skillful means in the responses we make to what comes up before us.  It’s not about force or control.  It’s about witnessing and knowing how to move, breaking the illusion of division.  It’s what the Eastern martial arts are about, finding the path of least resistance for the most efficient response that aims to ‘no harm’.

I’ve had several close calls with potential death.  Yesterday I had another.  I was windsurfing Lake Superior in some pretty extreme conditions (25-35mph winds and 6-9’ waves).  I’ve done this many times, have a deep practice with this, and felt confident for my session.  Everything was going beautifully as I aimed to sneak past a peninsula for a better heading to smoother winds in the more open waters.  Foiling has my board at 2-3’ above the water and I need less wind to plane at 15-20mph in those seas.  As I got closer to the peninsula the wind lessoned and eventually the board dropped off plane.  The water was more turbulent from bouncing off the nearby cliffs.  The wind was lifting over my sail as it met the obstruction of the cliffs, and I could not stay standing on my board.  The waves were biggest as they crashed onto the ledges of the peninsula, the currents were strong and I was being pushed toward the rock ledges.  I was not in a safe situation, knowing I’d be thrown on or against the rocks in a matter of seconds.  I could have panicked, froze, resisted, and made reactive attempts to resist the situation or beat myself up for getting into such a dangerous situation.  Yet, just prior to the first of three massive wave rolls I pushed my gear away from me.  My mind was stilled as I took the first roll.  Thank you God, no rock smash.  The second wave, same thing.  Rolling like in a washing machine, fully surrendered to the moment.  The third wave was bigger than the others as it picked me up and slammed me over the ledge and onto the rock base.  There was enough water to cushion my impact with the rock and I was elated to be in without serious injury.  My rig was bouncing like a small toy in the crashing waves when another massive wave threw it up over the ledge to a place where I could grab it before the backwash started pulling us in.  A lack of awareness to the dangers of sailing too close to the peninsula could have ended my time in this body.  I apologized to the body for all it does for me, how I jeopardized its health, and then committed to further growing my awareness practice.  I was elated with the gift of the given, the Divine participation in my continued gift of presence in this body.  There’s a huge chemical release of all the energy hormones (endorphins/dopamines/adrenalin/serotonin/oxytocin),  after a close call with death.  There’s something much more special about each breath.  The colors are more rich, the sounds more harmonic, and the taste of life is on supercharge.  The temptation is to somehow credit myself for getting out of this situation.  Nothing is further from the truth.  I was gifted the experience of ‘no harm’, both to my body and my equipment.  Humbled to the earth, my prayer was one of deep gratitude for a positive outcome from a stimulus that had rare odds of non injury.  This gift is called grace.  There was deep allowing rather than forceful resistance.  I’m still experiencing a deep sense of fullness following this event, what can be called ‘great fullness’, a deep sense of well being that feeds the body/mind/soul in further zest for life.

I can honestly say that I doubt I’d still be in my body today if it weren’t for a dedicated meditation practice.  The reactive mind can be extremely dangerous as negative momentum builds, pulling us off center.  Holding our center, smashing the illusion of our separateness (yoga), engaging the moment from a deeper sense of awareness and presence, we dramatically reduce the risk for making a mess of things.  I have found it helpful to meditate on the following insights about silence:

The light of silence destroys the belief of me.

Silence is freedom.

Action of silence is entirely different from action born from words.

In the light of silence, all problems are resolved.

Can you imagine how much we’d improve our relations within family, community, state, nation, globe, and planet, if we just sat in silence before speaking?  Do we have the collective discipline to just shut up for a bit and recognize we don’t know everything?  Can we commit to being our best in approaching a collaborative effort to stewarding the health of our bodies, minds, spirits, all beings, the planet, etc.?  Can we get bigger when the problems seem so big?  This is what we’re here for, to take care, to aim to ‘no harm’, and to trust the support of the Divine as we do.  When we can sit in silence, destroying our narcissistic belief in ‘me’, better and bigger solutions are presented.  This is what Divine providence is about, not some exclusionary ‘thought’ of separateness and specialness.  I’m so glad to just be, aiming to kindness, in gratitude for the opportunity to participate in the next arising breath.