In one of my favorite poems, T.S. Elliot writes:
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time
I always loved this poem, but only recently these words started to resonate in a different way, one that my conceptual mind could not grasp before.
What put me on the path of Mindfulness and Meditation was a search for clarity. What sustained me, and kept me on this search, was that I continuously found that this inner field of clarity also carries an energy of warmth, friendliness, and one might even say, love. The less striving and more relaxed that I can be, the more easily I can drop into this inner space and realize that, well, it’s what being truly at home feels like when we don’t get lost.
I started learning about mindfulness during the time I began facilitating groups in mental health clinics. The teachings seemed profound, offering a fresh perspective and a counter intuitive path to the traditional methods of psychotherapy that engineer change and tell us that when we change thoughts, we change emotions and behaviors. It is true that when we change our thoughts, beliefs, and perspectives, everything else changes in a domino effect. The problem was that people were trying that, and trying very hard, especially the population I was working with. On top of the unwanted thoughts, emotions and behaviors, people also experienced a sense of failure for not being able to change, and had nowhere to go to with that experience. This common event can trap people in a destructive cycle of repeating the conditions that were harmful to begin with.
Mindfulness engineers acceptance. It also offers a path to a place within ourselves that we can go to, where everything belongs and nothing has to be excluded or left by the door. That seemed so appealing to me as well as to the groups I worked with.
I learned that there are many, many ways to meditate, and I love trying and teaching the different techniques, learning about their purpose and experiencing the benefits they provide.
In my personal experience through the continued years of meditation and learning, I realized that no matter what technique I use, there is always this possibility of relaxing more and more into this inner field that has a compassionate tone, a warmth, a loving aspect to it. Gaining more clarity becomes a natural byproduct.
Many teachers have spoken of Mindfulness being Loving Awareness, or as Tara Brach says, “the two wings of understanding and love awaken as we learn to recognize what is here in the present moment, and to allow experience to be just as it is”.
The late Irish poet, theologian, and philosopher John O’Donohue, who forever planted a seed in my heart, talks about the Inner Landscape: “When you cease to fear your solitude, a new creativity awakens in you. Your forgotten or neglected wealth begins to reveal itself. You come home to yourself and learn to rest within. Thoughts are our inner senses. Infused with silence and solitude, they bring out the mystery of inner landscape.”
As I learned to trust the practice and give myself over to the present moment, especially the vulnerable parts, allowing and making space for it all, the teachings really resonated in deeper ways. What I have found is that the only way I could sustain presence in the face of some experiences, especially the ones with a painful tone, was to intentionally turn up the warmth, or the love. To my surprise, I realized that there was an abundance of it, even though I felt so depleted to begin with. It’s an embodied understanding, not rational, but once you experience it, you know where to come back for more. There is a reservoir of this warmth that we can tap into when we deeply relax and drop into the present moment. It is a love that is profound and vast, and at the same time universal and accessible. It’s always there, and it can hold anything in its spaciousness, timelessness and abundance. It’s not that this love offsets the pain; instead, it holds it and includes it all. It’s like we learn to hold ourselves from within. We also learn that there is always a place to go to with whatever we are experiencing. It’s home, it has always been; we just have to remember the way more often, and learn, in the end, that we have always known it.