Tomorrow is Bodhi Harmony’s birthday (the son who first came to live with us). The theme of my classes last week and continuing a little longer has been “calm abiding,” taking the concept from Yoga and the Quest for the True Self by Steve Cope, one of my first yoga teachers. In thinking about writing about calm abiding or if you prefer, an alternate term that several have told me works better for them, “relaxed presence,” interestingly that day of Bodhi’s birth came to mind.
It was a beautiful Sunday, the first really nice, warm day, shorts-weather. Nikki went into labor very early in the morning. There was a lot that happened that day, of course, (though hardly any eating or peeing on my part!) but MY experience was that it was essentially 19 hours of meditation, lending my calm abiding, relaxed presence to Nikki. She found it to be helpful and even our home birth midwife noticed it. That experience points to an answer to a question that I’ve been holding in my consciousness for a few weeks. The question is partly a doubt, possibly my main inner “demon,” but also an inner challenge: “Is the experience of Peace/the Divine/Love Inside only of personal benefit?” i.e. “Is all this inner work I’m doing only benefitting my (little) self?” On that day, at least, I think my ability to stay present and focused and calm was of benefit to another in a very tangible way.
I mention this question/doubt because if we are going to yoga class (or practicing yoga anywhere), or meditating, and making effort in the direction of calm abiding/relaxed presence, one of the tangible results we will get (and yes, it may take a little while) is exactly what we are aiming at, and if we experience more relaxed presence, we ourselves FEEL better; we are in a very real way more comfortable in our skin and in Life. BUT, maybe due to my Aquarian qualities or for whatever reason, I don’t and won’t feel satisfied and fulfilled in Life if I am the only one to benefit; if “only” (small) I is better for having been here. The world seems to be full of such people, and as far as I can tell, it makes for more harming of the world.
If you are reading my writing, and especially if you’ve been on a spiritual Path for at least 5 years (but this is good for everyone), to help stay motivated on it, I invite you to reflect, as I’m sure you do regularly, on how you would be now if you hadn’t made a choice to be on some kind of conscious Path, especially how much calm abiding or relaxed presence would you be experiencing now if you had not made the conscious choices that you have. And since you might be wondering like I am, is there any benefit of it to anyone besides yourself, then you might enjoy reflecting on that question as well.
Occasional but regular reflection is important on the Path, of course, since it so often feels like two steps forward, one step back (or more!), and sometimes we seem to be (are) seriously back-sliding, but in the end, if we are sincere and disciplined and have Divine Grace, we definitely are moving forward. The growth on the Path IS incremental and small in the short-term, but over years, 5, 10 and more, the changes become much more obvious.
When we start to entertain the idea of calm abiding/relaxed presence, sadly and probably the first thing we are going to have to face is the harsh (and sometimes startling) fact of the opposite, and possibly how MUCH of the time we are experiencing it! If you have ever meditated, then same thing, you are immediately confronted with the incredible busyness and pain in the mind and emotions. That’s a problem if we want to be free of suffering but is not actually the biggest problem. A bigger problem would be seeing the pain in our own mind and not doing anything about it. If you have the question (any BIG question like “What’s Life all about?” or “Who am I?” etc.) and if you have “taken the red pill” (to find out the answer) like in The Matrix, then you just have to keep going and “see how far down the rabbit hole you go.” Thinking of/aiming for calm abiding means the inevitability of seeing, facing, going through its opposite, BUT that’s NOT the End, just an inevitable part of the process.
Everyone experiences dark times, but they don’t necessarily mean that we have failed or that we are doing something wrong. I imagine you have already experienced that they serve/have served/are serving to make us stronger and clearer and MORE able to be of meaningful service in the world. In fact, some of you know that I never wanted to have a child and from the time Nikki told me she was pregnant (and yes, we were “trying”) till the time Bodhi arrived late that evening in the pool in our home yoga room, I went “crazy,” meaning my mind was uncontrollably running in repetitive, dark circles as it fought a losing battle with Reality. The positive outcome of that painful experience was that by my repeated offering of my self to the Divine and coming back to focusing on my mantra, but mostly by GRACE, I was able to get, for the first time, some space from my mind. I finally had the experience that I am not my mind, just as all of my yoga practice on the mat had given me the tangible experience that I am not my body. I WISH I could have gotten that experience and realization without all the pain, but maybe that’s not the way the Universe works. (Right?)
In the end, chaos/“craziness”/non-calm abiding/tense resistance is not incompatible with calm abiding/relaxed presence, but in fact the former helps to reveal the latter. The existence and experience of relaxed presence does not require the outside world to be relaxed and calm! The eye of the hurricane does not require that
ALL of the winds of the hurricane come to a standstill for IT to be calm. The calm abiding, relaxedly present part of ourself is ALWAYS there, in and as the Center, and is always “on;” just we are not (yet) aware of that fact. Relaxed presence is ABLE to (and does) hold and contain itself and its opposite!
I pray that you all have the strength and patience and self-compassion and sense of humor to face yourself and your Life with courage to find Peace in the dualities of your Life and to bring your peace to others!