An unexpected book arrived in the mail the other day. A gift from my friend’s at Wisdom Publications. Zen Master Raven: The Teachings of a Wise Old Bird. by Zen Master human form, Robert Aitken. Here the koans are told by and to animals of the forest: raven, porcupine, owl, woodpecker, badger, black bear, and […]
I awoke at 4:30 this morning to darkness and silence. The dogs reluctantly got up too, although they would have preferred to sleep in. My journey over the next seven hours would not include them and they would quickly re-establish themselves in deep sleep on the couch.
At 5:00 after coffee, I began meditating. My intention was to sit seven 45-minute periods separated by 15-minute intervals for qigong, yoga, and feeding all the animals, including myself. This is what I did this morning.
Following this mini-intensive, I continued to practice in “real life,” taking the dogs for a walk in the woods, mowing the lawn, eating lunch, vacuuming, and doing laundry. Throughout these activities, I tried to keep my attention fully with the activity, not letting my storytelling mind carry me away. After seven hours of meditation, it was easier to do this, my mind more pliable and less compulsive.
Why would I want to spend my Saturday morning in this fashion? Why have I devoted my life over the past 34 years to meditation practice? Why do I continue to write about it and teach it? To answer these questions, I offer the Four C’s: control, composure, clarity, and compassion.
- Control: This type of control should not be construed to mean that I can control what pops up in my mind. That is not possible. I can, however, if I am paying careful enough attention, exert some control over what happens next. I can engage with whatever pops up or I can redirect my attention to, let’s say, my breathing body. That type of control leads to composure.
- Composure: By not engaging with whatever my mind generates (fantasies, worries, stories) then I will be less reactive and more at peace, even if what I am experiencing is unpleasant. Composure could be synonym for equanimity–that capacity to be with whatever is happening without freaking out and also not checking out. With composed equanimity, I am right there with the experience in a way that helps me to be more present and clear about what is happening.
- Clarity: Seeing the mind’s process more clearly, feeling feelings more vividly, seeing and hearing more. These are all benefits of clarity. Having creative insights is another benefit. Clarity results in a more accurate picture of what is happening and with that better information presumably I can make better responses in the moment.
- Compassion: When I can set aside all my self-referential thinking for a while, compassion naturally arises–compassion for myself and my imperfections, compassion for others and how difficult life can be, and also empathy for how joyous life can be, as well.
The Four C’s help me–and will help you too if you meditate–to enjoy the sweet, ripe fruits that life has to offer. Meditation helps us to get out of our own way and to prepare the mind to meet the abundance that is present, whether this abundance is material, relational, or experiential.