In some form or another, we meditate to alleviate the suffering in our lives that we already experience. Some anxiety, some pain or discomfort leads us to seek out some way to escape from it all. We begin practising meditation with an automatic unconscious perspective of “in order to make this ‘bad experience’ go away”. But the irony is, that this ‘in order to’ mindset itself is what often creates the suffering we so desperately seek to cure.
Paradoxically the solution is to begin to relate to the experience we are having from a position of ‘leaning in’ rather than ‘leaning out’. By allowing ourselves to come into relationship with the experience and find peace with it, instead of ‘without’, ‘in spite of’ or ‘once it’s gone’, we free ourselves from the limiting perspective that keeps us feeling so oppressed in the company of unpleasant sensations. Just because something is unpleasant doesn’t mean it must automatically lead to suffering. Just because something is pleasant doesn’t mean it leads to well-being. There are countless examples we all know that prove this to be the case. Continuous consumption of alcohol, junk food and video games doesn’t lead to happiness and well-being. The pain, strain and effort of exercise, or jumping into cold ocean waves does not lead to suffering. The equation is not this simple.
It would seem more likely to be the case that how we relate to the experience we are having, whatever it is, is more likely to condition the degree to which we suffer.
By learning to lean into our experience with a guiding mantra such as “peace with anxiety” or “peace with sadness” or even “peace with joy” we can begin to find that elusive quality of equanimity that allows us to hold whatever it is we are experiencing, in a spacious and accepting way. We lose the need to ‘get rid of’ the anxiety or ‘negative’ feelings we originally thought to be the source of our suffering and instead learn how to be with them in a harmonious and peaceful way.
To truly find peace and well-being in our lives we must be willing to question the very premise under which we’ve been operating for most of it. Because if therein lied the answer, surely we would have found it by now. We must begin to let go of the ‘either/or’ mentality in which we are so used to dividing our experience and learn to allow peace and anxiety to co-exist. We cannot assume that peace will come only once we’ve gotten rid of all our enemies. Even if that were desirable and I’m not convinced it would be, inevitably there will be some new experience that we began to look on with judgement and hatred. If we choose to cultivate an aggressive spirit towards our experience here today we will always find a new enemy no matter where we go. True peace will never come from war and judgement. So let’s begin here now with this simple mantra “peace with anxiety”, not “without”.
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