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.
If you’ve been trying it you realize how much being “in the Now” is a challenge in itself. Today I realized how much not being in the Now affects our perception of others. It occurred to me today that it is really easy when we relate to each other to relate not to their current state, but to our history with this person (including all the hurts and pains they have cost us?) This is an issue because if we are only present with someone as their history, we never really allow the person to be who they are now – devoid of our polarized lens. We hold on to our past impressions and often miss any changes that have occurred.
The yogis describe this polarized lens as samskara – our latent impressions of things based on conditioning and past experience. Our goal as seekers is to let go of this impressions so we can see our lives (including ourselves and others) clearly. Is this even possible? According to A Course In Miracles (ACIM), and according to yogic teaching, we would have let go of those impressions to really be present with what is real. ACIM calls this forgiveness – the recognition that all that we see is projection/perception and that we have an opportunity to make a decision to shift our perceptions of things. According to ACIM a miracle is simply a shift in perception and there “is no order of difficulty in miracles.” Yoga would refer to this as detachment – letting go of the story, so to speak.
I saw a great example of this today – an argument where the two people couldn’t hear each other because they were obviously talking to the their past perceptions of each other. I know I often do that – especially with those who have offended or hurt me. It is a protective mechanism, but it often gets in the way of approaching others with love. ACIM says “All healing is release from the past.” It also says that we must learn to see the innocence in each other rather than the guilt. Those past perceptions are essentially the guilt that we place on each other, aren’t they? They are also the burdens we place on every interaction, and on our own energy fields in holding on to all of that stuff. Letting go of the past – forgiving – helps us to be fully present with each other as we are Now rather than as we were. Being open to someone’s current possibility also releases them from the burden/prison of our expectations.