Making space

I remember years ago, after I had been consistently meditating for some weeks, getting into an argument with my husband. As I was loudly and energetically extolling the reasons why I was right and he was delusional, a calm – almost bemused – voice in the back of my head commented “You know, you could just stop this now if you decided to.” Ah the wisdom of the Witness Consciousness and the magic of meditation.

What was I arguing about before this little incident occurred? Truthfully I’ve not a clue. The only thing I remember is that voice in my head, because that was the one moment when I was truly present. Prior to that moment I was most likely acting out of emotion: anger, resentment, self-righteousness, fear – all the things that make it impossible to communicate effectively. In that moment when my Observing Self came online, though, I was there. And being there I was able to see the absurdity of being carried away by my emotions.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that emotions are bad. It’s just that they’re not terribly reliable or effective lenses for viewing the world. When we are in our emotional selves we’re not usually thinking from a place of wisdom. But if this dual consciousness is online, we can see ourselves through a clearer lens and make choices about how to respond. It is possible, for example to step into the space between someone’s action toward you and your response and in that space, make the choice about how to respond. How many times have we said: “I couldn’t help [my actions], s/he made me mad.” Really what we should be saying is, “She did something to which I chose to respond with anger.” It just happened so fast that you gave up control over your actions, and then blamed the other person for your choice.

Meditation helps us to find that space in which to make the choice not to give ourselves over to the whims of others, the space to take responsibility for our own emotional states and responses and stop blaming other people for our emotions. In that space is where the real work begins – the work of chosing who you are going to be when you can’t pass the blame anymore.

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