“We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world.” -Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha)
As we round the bend of the peak of the Summer Arc, there are abundant reminders of the capacity for extremes prevalent in the natural world. There are sweltering hot days, high humidity, and intense thunderstorms with all the attendant elements of pouring rain, hail, wind and lightning. The sun can be blistering to the skin–an ever present reminder of the strength of the solar rays. And in many places there are tornadoes and hurricanes and floods—or droughts where the earth is scorched and cracked.
But we also see this time of year more rainbows than any other season. The waters to which we run for refuge to swim and frolic are more temperate. The evenings are sweet and comforting. The trees are lush and green. The endless days can be gently lazy and the colorful blossoms spectacular presentations of nature’s beauty.
Ultimately, it depends on how we look at it.
Probably more than any other time of year, our perception plays such a big role in terms of how we relate to the weather and climate. And this may bring to mind some questions for exploration: What affects our perception and relationship with ourselves and the world around us? How can we improve our ability to regulate how we interpret and make sense of what is happening internally and externally?
At a recent retreat with the highly revered Dr. Vasant Lad, the founder of the Ayurvedic Institute, he talked about how everything comes down to relationship in life: Relationship first with oneself—our bodies, minds, hearts and spirits. And then there is relationship with others—family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, associates, even strangers. And there is also relationship with the outer world—relating to our experiences, to the environment, to the events that arise and pass.
And within all of these domains there are infinite subsets of relationships: How we connect with various different dynamics and systems, how we cope with difficulties, how we stay warm in the cold and keep cool in the heat (literally– and metaphorically). In the final analysis, it is the essence of life: Relationship. How do I choose to interact with what I experience, see, hear, feel, and touch? What are my choices?
Meditation practice is one of the key ways to work with cultivating healthy relationships. In the development of a practice, meditators become more familiar with themselves. Through the nonjudgmental observation of our mind, we learn about the patterns of our thinking, our mental habits, the subtler qualities of our emotional states, our recurring desires, fears and fantasies. We discover the amazing landscape of our consciousness in all its vast wonder.
Just as yoga and other physical exercises help nurture a deeper sense of presence in the body, meditation practice brings us closer to who we are and how we see ourselves in the world. This process can come about even through a simple mindfulness practice of just a few minutes every day. Over time, with gentle and loving continuity, we can begin to experience a deeper awareness of our strengths and our needs. We can appreciate the possibility of growing closer to our fundamental humanness: Our amazing talents, gifts, idiosyncrasies and even imperfections. We may begin to have more patience with ourselves—and then, ultimately, with others.
For many practitioners, meditation provides the internal space that is so necessary to the healthy growth of any relationship. It fosters greater appreciation and compassion and these qualities begin to manifest in our interactions with all the wonderful and challenging elements of our lives.
Many specialized practices in meditation are focused mostly on relationships themselves. Metta, or Lovingkindness meditations, are opportunities for the practitioner to generate self-compassion and then offer the light of that intention to very specific relationships with others. (For a great discussion and guide to Metta meditations and the cultivation of awakened compassion for ourselves and others, check out Sharon Salzberg’s Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness. There are also guided Metta meditations by Salzberg on Youtube that are terrific.)
Ultimately, our relationship with various experiences in life is something ever changing and in many ways mysterious. Through a meditation practice, we can invite ourselves to explore this mystery with creativity, tenderness and insight. Just as an astronomer discovers the infinite wonders of the celestial world, meditation practitioners are awakened to the amazing skies within.
*For more information about Aurvedic science and philosophy, there are numerous resources, including some fantastic books and lectures, on Dr. Lad’s website: Ayurveda.
Written by Gabriel Woodhouse for bodono.
Gabriel Woodhouse is one of the teachers at Three Jewels which offers free meditation classes every weekday morning and on Friday evenings. Three Jewels functions as a Meditation, Yoga, Dharma, and Outreach Center for the community. More info at: threejewels.org