Friday, October 17, 2008

Passing The Two-Minute Test

I'll start off with a few words about my whereabouts since late August — I moved! My second move of the summer, actually, and then the dramas of moving into a new home (like no hot water, malfunctioning dishwasher, dozens of deficiencies, etc.). That, plus merging two households into one, plus starting a new school year for my son, and it all adds up to not having a ton of time for blog posting ;-)

It has given me a number of days in which to reflect, however. When I first started my blog, I was already well on my way to completing my bereavement. I did want to share a number of tips and techniques for coping, understanding, and finding the road to peace, and I believe I have done so. To that end, I will no longer be actively posting every other day or so. I have said what I have to say, and past postings are always available for those just setting out on this journey. Other projects now await my time.

I will, however, post periodically in response to specific reader questions or comments. And I'd like to thank Jenny for encouraging me to break my silence and post again :-)

On the 26th of September, Daria posted the following comment:

You often talk about using the skills you've learned in Vipassana, and other methods of meditation, in your healing process. To successfully heal, do you feel that these methods must be used, or can we heal from our grief without in-depth knowledge of these methods?

Thanks, Daria, for the great question. I've been thinking about how to answer it for the last three weeks. First off, I'm not sure I would use the word "heal" anymore. What has changed is my perspective. But I know what you mean.

I really appreciate Eckhart Tolle's work for simplifying a host of psychological and spiritual concepts — cutting through the miasma of thousands of years of nebulous opinions and getting to the heart of things. I find it interesting that I am only discovering his books at the end of my grief journey. His two best-sellers encompass everything I think you need to know to come out of bereavement. Here's what I have learned:

To me, bereavement is a devastation of your mind, your ego. Your mind intensely dislikes the present moment, preferring instead to keep you caught up in thoughts about the past and anxieties about the future. Sound familiar?

In bereavement, your ego, your sense of self has been shattered. To compensate, your mind switches into high gear and roughly shoves you into alternating currents of your past married life and the dark, single, uncertain future. This is a very dangerous thing for the ego to do — most people don't appreciate being shoved around, and they are likely to do something about it. And they might start paying attention to the present moment. If they do this in the right way, they will come to a startling discovery — that the present moment is perfect just as it is, and that there is no need for the ego.

Meditation is simply the act of being focused on the present moment. Right this second. And this second. And this second. Not focused on the past. Not focused on the future. Right now. Only now. Sound simple? Try it. Try just being aware of the present moment for 2 minutes. No thoughts about the past, no thoughts about the future. Just the immediate feedback from your 5 senses. Close your eyes to make it easier ;-)


Well? Bet you couldn't go the full two minutes. Your mind sucked you in to the past, or tried getting you to focus on something you need to do in the future. This is the nature of the mind.

I wrote that near the end of my Vipassana course, I discovered the Vic that has no problems. Thanks to Eckhart Tolle, I now understand that that Vic was the one who was totally focused on the present moment. THERE ARE NO PROBLEMS IN THE PRESENT MOMENT. Yes, I'm shouting ;-) Every moment spent in the present moment is a moment spent with no problems.

But the mind / ego hates this — it is a problem-solver. If you spend time in the present where there is no problems, then you have no need for the mind / ego. In The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, Eckhart sums this up nicely [pp 87-8]:

But the more you practice monitoring your internal mental-emotional state, the easier it will be to know when you have been trapped in past or future, which is to say unconscious, and to awaken out of the dream of time into the present. But beware: The false, unhappy self, based on mind identification, lives on time. It knows that the present moment is its own death and so feels very threatened by it. It will do all it can to take you out of it. It will try to keep you trapped in time.

Knowing this, try the 2-minute test again. With your eyes closed, focus only on the sensory data you receive from your remaining four senses. No thoughts about the past, no thoughts about the future. Try it again.


Still couldn't do it, could you? Now you can see how meditation training can be beneficial.

So, to answer your question, Daria: Peace exists only in the present moment. Nowhere else. But your mind will do everything it can to keep you focused on anything but the present moment. You couldn't even keep your mind focused on the present moment for two minutes, and this even after I warned you that your mind would prevent you. So who's running the show? You, or your mind? They are not the same thing. You are not your mind. Meditation helps you to dis-identify from your mind.

If by healing you mean to live at peace, you will need to find some way to live in the present moment, the only place where you will find peace. Meditation provides many methods for focusing on the present. There are other ways. In my next post, I'll outline several of them.