A week ago today, when I headed up to Massachusetts for a 6 day silent meditation retreat, it was an average day in the life. John was at work. Maggie was hanging out with some friends, Shannon was at school.
But one week later, it’s like this.
When one sits in silence for days, doing absolutely nothing, a million things will actually happen. Every thought imaginable will arise, along with some very unimaginable ones. The natural, habitual tendency of the mind is to react. We struggle to shut out the negative thoughts. We allow ourselves to entertain the positive thoughts. We travel back to recall or redesign the past. We project into so many imaginary futures. We let our mind get carried away in either direction.
Every sensation in the body is heightened. There is pain in the knee, or tension in the lower back. There are itches. So many itches. The natural, habitual tendency of the body is to immediately react. We shift and straighten a leg, we wiggle and stretch, we scratch.
Things outside of our bodies beg for our attention. The heating system will clang. Our neighbor will cough, sneeze, swallow too loudly. A scent will waft past. The birds. The rain. The temperature of the room. The natural, habitual response is frustration or agitation. We will get annoyed with our circumstances or ourselves.
But the act of mindfully sitting still and focusing on our breath, invites us to pause before reacting; to notice the thought or the feeling, with interest and curiosity; and to realize, this is simply what is arising right now. This is temporary, fleeting. This is just how it is, right now.
We don’t have to entertain every single thought that arises. Nor do we have to try to stop thinking, or to think better thoughts. We can pause, notice, hold space for whatever arises, accept that it has arisen, and observe it, as it either expands or dissipates. Thoughts, and itches, left unattended will eventually dissolve.
Instead of acting out of habit and trying to fight against what is happening all around us, we can pause. Instead of looking back on the not so distant past, or projecting into unimaginable imaginary futures, we can pause, observe, accept and understand, that this is how it is, right now.
We can spend our time struggling, or we can sit and breathe; not scratching the itch, not entertaining the thought, not trying to change what is. We don’t have to shrink away from it, or rage against it. We can simply hold space and observe, allowing it all to unfold, and to eventually dissolve.
THIS is how it is right now.
This is how it IS right now.
This is how it is RIGHT NOW.
Right now, this is how it is.
The phrase ‘Right now, it’s like this’ is a mantra often taught by Ajahn Sumedho, a Buddhist teacher.