"This is the way we train ourselves to look at reality,
with the eye of formlessness, signlessness;
it means transcending the appearance, the sign,
to touch the ultimate reality."
-Thich Nhat Hanh
There is a storm. It’s not coming. It’s here.
It’s been pouring, thundering all morning and now on into the afternoon. I’m listening to John Fahey as he begins plucking faster and faster, the energy of his guitar matching that of the lightning and rain outside my window. I’ve downed a few cups of coffee, I’ve read some books, I’ve smoked some weed, and I’ve putzed around the house.
But I feel this storm in my bones. I feel it in the ache of my hips, the pull in my knee, the pace of my heartbeat. My body aches and still the storm draws and entices me not to give myself to it, but to sit with it, listen to it, feel it, walk out into it. There is pain in the body, but my curiosity and perennial search carry me through enlightening and striking experiences.
The storm is a storm, and I want nothing more from it than to see it for what it is, to peer into it’s reality as a thing-in-itself and to peer into our shared reality as object, subject, singularity, and nothingness. If I sit with the storm—let the rain drip and drop and run down on me where it will, the static in the air scintillate and raise the hairs on my neck, the wind blow air deep into my lungs—the storm will tell me of itself. I need not impose my projections, my prejudices, my presuppositions onto it. To tell the storm what it is or what it means or what it needs to be is to lose out on the wisdom and opportunity for growth that the storm presents to us organically and intrinsically.
And so, we sit with it.
We don’t give it our thoughts, our impositions, our symbolism. The storm rises, runs its course, and fades away. Our work is to acknowledge it, feel it, and let it be.
It is the same with emotional, philosophical, spiritual, ideological discomfort. When we feel those feelings of uncertainty, pain, and discomfort we are presented with options: to deny their existence, to numb out and suppress their existence, to allow them to destroy us (a natural consequence of the previous options), to become enslaved and reactionary creature to them, or to sit with them and recognize that they are our best opportunities for growth.
Sitting with our feelings and looking deep into their true nature, our true nature, can take many forms. It can be journaling through your feelings; starting with something as simple as writing, “I am feeling uncomfortable,” moving on from there by acknowledging the different ways in which discomfort is manifesting in your body and mind, and seeing what happens next. It doesn’t have to be profound or pretty. It’s a way to peer into yourself with loving-kindness and compassion while experiencing and learning to accept all the aspects of being a human being. A way to see and love yourself that opens you up to better see and love others.
Meditation is also a useful practice. I want to say I’m terrible at it, but that almost defeats the purpose of mindfulness and meditation. It is whatever it is. Most days I don’t meditate. Of the times that I do, sometimes I struggle to sit still and be present for five minutes, other times I can lose myself to deep breathing and stillness for long stretches, more often than not, though, I am constantly working to bring myself back to the present. That means acknowledging those thoughts that pop up unannounced, not giving them any more thought, letting them pass un-judged, and returning my focus to breathing and the present sensations in my body. Meditation is the best practice for learning how to catch ourselves before we switch into lizard-brain autopilot and either react to or evade discomfort in the moment. We sit with and experience things without trying to fix them or deny them. We do this again and again and again.
So simple. So goddamn difficult. So fucking worth it.
There are many other ways to practice mindfulness and meditation in our lives. Go find what works for you, and if you don’t find that, keep searching until you do. Never stop seeking. Never stop trying new things or adjusting your practices and beliefs.
Keep at it. The only way to fail is to not even try. There is neither shame nor failure in trying. Perfection doesn’t exist even though we are always reaching for it. To be human is to be imperfect. Embrace it. Don’t try to be what you aren’t. Just be.
We are in a storm within a storm within a storm and there are only more storm clouds looming in the distance. Listen to these tempests as they tell you what they are, and learn to sit with them in shared, singular reality, or drown in the agony of fighting what it means to exist as a human being.
Want to support my writing and other vices? Check out any of the options below to make a donation.
© Alessandra Ragusin 2016-2020