|Rotterdam, Netherlands, June 2012|
The three "topics" have been:
1. Why do we not meditate when things are going "well"?
2. Why do we not question/ask for what we need when things are going "well"?
3. What's the difference between trusting and blithely hoping (shutting out real concerns) when things are going "well"?
These three separate conversations, at their core, also meet in when things are "not going well:"
When things are not going well, why do we insist on some absolute answer/decision/knowing that they will be ok in the future? This could come in the form of any fix: a verbal/mental guarantee, guilt/taking responsibility for it having "gone wrong" (even if it wasn't your fault) or buying some kind of material good to "fix" a problem that isn't the actual core issue.
Last week, I had quite a panic going on. I was convinced that my wife "has" to do a lot of work in a particular area (we both acknowledge that she does, but the urgency of the "has to" is what really nailed me down). I asked a friend to tell me that she was "confident that my wife will do the work she needs - I need her - to do." As soon as I asked for that request, an awareness that that temporary fix, that temporary consolation/false hope, would not actually help. I wanted a guarantee where there is no guarantee.
So, I said, as soon as I said that out loud, I think what I need to ask is if I believe it is possible for her to do the work. Is it? I asked myself. Yes, I said. I believe it is possible. That does not mean she will do it. And yet, somehow I felt more relaxed with this more realistic understanding. I know that as long as I think it is possible, I will be more trusting and more honest, and paying attention to my own knowing, instead of suspicious and angry when I worry that she isn't doing it.
My wife has also realized, at an ever-continuing level, that when her music-making is going well (which is most of the time), she lacks for nothing. When she is inspired and making great tunes, her equipment is just right. However, when she feels uninspired or is down in some other way, she looks for new gear, new toys to somehow pick up her game, improve her work flow or pull her out of a rut. This is such a common, human thing that it almost feels ridiculous to point out, but when she mentioned that comparison this morning, we both laughed:
If there's nothing missing when it is going right,
then there is nothing missing when it is going wrong.
Finally, my best friend and I discussed this morning how much we so deeply want to trust situations when they are going well - all the plans are lining up, connecting with a loved one feels good - that we stop asking for what we need. This is good enough, we think, very good - so good that we hope/wish/believe it will never "be bad" again, and we stop asking for what might seem "above and beyond" in the situation. We trust the situation will provide without us having to do any work, which simply isn't true, and becomes a set up for a fall. What's the fall? The fall is that when things begin to fall apart, we blame ourselves for not trusting it enough, or not doing enough - the latter of which may (or may not) be true, but also is impossible to prevent if we have a core belief that a situation is good enough and we shouldn't rock the boat by doing more.
We can ask questions and still trust.
We can ask questions and not be suspicious.
We can agitate for "even better" when things are "already good."
And, most importantly, we need to continue practicing: being clear, being honest, and watching our own minds, when things are smoother and easier, because they will, without doubt, become uneasy and unsmooth again, likely, quicker than we'd like.
Often people comment to me when they get beginning meditation instruction, especially at follow-up meetings, that they find they stop meditating when things are going well. I've come to believe we do this out of some kind of reverse cause-and-effect understanding. If we take the practice that helps when things aren't going well, and do it when things are going well, then things will somehow go wrong. This is reverse magical-thinking, and it is plain wrong.
We can ask for help, support ourselves, pay attention to what is going on when things are going well. We can feel ease in our bodies, we can notice when we are in not-pain. We can watch our patterns and know, trust, that things will get rough again, so as not to blame ourselves unduly when the shit hits the fan.
Meditation is always* helpful.
The best part about meditation is that it helps keep things simple and plain and clear:
Watching your mind, knowing your mind is the best preventative for over-consumption, for self-deception, for wishful thinking that keeps us locked in non-reality.
These are always the core issues.
If these don't resonant with you language-wise, find your own way.
Don't get distracted by the stories - see what is always going on underneath:
Knowing what we need.
Knowing what we can do for ourselves.
Knowing what we can do for others.
Knowing when to ask for help.
This is true freedom:
Knowing underneath, no matter what happens, we are fundamentally good.
*Every once and awhile, we need a walk instead. Some fresh air. A good cry. But in comparison to shutting down, any practice of awareness, of being-with rather than hoping-for, is beneficial without fault. Try it. And if you find you agree, trust it. That's a great thing to trust.