I see meditation less as an emptying out of myself and more as a filling up with Self and the present moment. Becoming so engrossed in Now that thoughts of other things just slide away. Thoughts will always come, that’s how the mind works. The practice is getting comfortable with allowing them to come and letting them float away without getting transfixed or hooked. Isn't that the practice for so many things in life? As my meditation practice grows with time, the spaces between the thoughts get richer and longer and the thoughts fade away quicker. I know I am deep in a meditative state when I am observing thoughts come and go, not engaging or following them, just being aware that they are sliding in and sliding out. It becomes another awareness of the present moment alongside so many other present moment observances. I hear the waves moving in and out, I observe a thought moving in and out, I feel my breath moving in and out. I am totally absorbed in the present moment with complete acceptance of all that it is and all that is happening right now.
While I sat at the beach on Christmas Eve, I moved from a meditative state of present moment awareness through unity transcendence to a higher consciousness healing journey, which then slid into an experience of our basic humanness. Below I share some of the magic.
As I meditated this morning a light rain began to fall. It began as a mist and grew stronger. I was aware of each tiny raindrop hitting my back like so many minute pin pricks. As I listened to the waves at the beach flowing in and flowing out and my breath flowing in and flowing out, I knew I could stay focused on this moment. I knew the rain on my back would keep me focused. I was aware of discomfort as the raindrops got stronger, but with breath I was able to sit with the discomfort. Then, when I opened my eyes there was a beautiful rainbow arc over the sea. I breathed in the rainbow vibrations and smiled. It was quickly disappearing—the half on the right slowly fading, but as it did a second arc became faintly visible above the first. I could see where the water met the rainbow, where the two arcs rose from the sea while watching the other half fade even more. And this I thought was magic. This was an affirmation of life. This was a high five from the Universe for showing up to meditate today. This was peace and this was me. I felt the oneness of all things—the sea, the sand, the rain, the sky, the light, the hope and peace and unity that is present in every moment.
Closing my eyes once again, I slid back into meditation and saw my ego self, my story self, my protective self, as a small child. I was opening to my higher consciousness, what I call my higher Self and she was hiding deep within and I felt sadness with that. So I actively worked to get quiet and invite my higher Self to take up more space within. As Self grew, I could feel love and oneness radiating out from every cell of my being. Then my higher Self shape-shifted into a woman who reached down to see my ego self as a small child. My higher consciousness reached down and picked up my child self. She held her on her hip and comforted her with words and soft arms. She then shifted my child self to a sling on her back, but that didn’t feel right—who wants ego on their back? So next, the small child was shifted to a sling on the front. Here we were heart to heart, but the ego self was looking over my higher Self's shoulder, looking behind as if to the past. Always looking into the past as we walk in the present, is a problem I just don’t want to live with. So my higher Self gently guided the child’s face back to center, bringing it closer to the heart. From here the child could only be encompassed in Love as we both walked into the future.
Then I opened my eyes and watched as a little boy and his sister threw a line into the ocean in hopes of catching a fish. I pondered the ways humans have been gifted food from the ocean across cultures and time, our need to provide, and our desire to work in community. Before my reflections could go further, the little boy was excitedly reeling in a fish! I couldn't believe how quickly it happened. I watched his sister jumping around as their catch slowly made its way expertly though the maze of rocks at the ocean's edge. The boy skillfully handled the fish, taking the hook out of its mouth and placing it in a water-filled container before the pair left the beach. I had no doubt they were racing home to family to share the excitement. I thanked the ocean for its gift this morning. The gift of joy and excitement, of providing for loved ones, of satisfaction at accomplishing something, and, of course, the beautiful silver fish.
And that is what happens when I meditate, I look at the world, at all of life, in a different way. I'm just as human as everyone else--I get angry, impatient, and nasty. But the magic that happens when I meditate opens me to a more connected way of being human, a deeper experience of the oneness that is our true reality.
For the past 17 years my family has been going away for the holiday season. This trip has evolved into one of my sacred times. It’s here that I escape the holiday frenzy and recharge for the new year. No matter what you are celebrating, December is a difficult time. High anxiety is matched by high expectations for happiness and joy. You may feel closer to your loved ones as they gather around the home or you may feel even further removed and alone. The stores are filled with people buying just to buy. I wonder at the wastefulness of plastic shopping bags, miles of wrapping paper, and holiday cards that will likely end up in a landfill. Everyone seems to be trying to fit in more frivolity as they schedule back-to-back parties and dinners.
I can’t help but be aware of the families that can’t afford presents under a tree, the ones who will barely be able to scrape together a meal for the festivities. I grew up in a family that didn’t have a lot. My most lasting and heartfelt memory of Christmas morning was the year each of us six kids received one gift—I felt that deeply.
I do remember worrying in other years about my parent’s desire to keep up with everyone else by charging on credit cards so that we could have a couple gifts to open. As a middle-schooler, I was worried we were going into debt and wouldn’t be able to climb out, worried we would lose our home just because my mom and dad were trying to bring us a little happiness on Christmas morning. There was love in their hearts, but it was mixed with the need for external validation and to prove themselves. There was thoughtfulness, but it was mixed with consumer frenzy and buying into the false dream that everything in our lives is ok because we do what everyone else around us is doing. Even then, I felt how misguided this was.
Now my husband and I take our three kids to an island for Christmas. He still buys gifts but being away has certainly shifted the dynamics. When they were very young, we would hold Christmas before we left. They would open gifts and play with them for a day or two and then could choose one or two to bring along with us on the plane. By the time we returned home, the gifts that were left behind had already been forgotten and hardly seemed to matter.
As our children got older and the gifts got smaller, we started bringing gifts down with us. They would begin opening small things on the Winter Solstice and open one thing each night at dinner until Xmas morning when they could open whatever remained. This spread the enjoyment out over 5 days and seemed less of a frenzy to me. They got to experience one thing at a time and I loved that. It was my favorite way to celebrate the season because it honored the older celebration of solstice with the return of the light as well as Christmas.
We own a home on the island that gets rented out when we are not here, so it is very much a home holiday for us. Our 18 year old son doesn’t remember it any other way. We always have a tree on island and our most meaningful decorations and stockings stay down here now. What I like best about it is that we avoid the frenzy. We begin to slow down and relax the minute we land at the airport. Things just move at a different pace. I find it a more thoughtful pace. Here I meditate daily with the sun and the ocean. Here we sit and laugh together at dinner. Here we spend our days in the company of our family and that is the very best holiday gift I can imagine.
Wherever you are in this spectrum of love and compassion and anxiety and loneliness, I wish you peace and health during the holiday season. Let’s feed the hungry children across the world, be kind to our neighbors and strangers alike, work together with love, and tend to the needs of others. That is my greatest wish for us all. This morning as I sit with my coffee, acutely aware of the privilege I have—this home, the means to fly my whole family away, the gifts my husband will give us, a table full of food, the list of my good fortune is truly endless—I reflect on how I can be a better person. I reflect on how I can change the world starting with myself and my family. I hope in some way, great or small, I can bring more Love to this planet.