“Mindfulness – the miracle by which we master and restore ourselves…”

“Mindfulness is the miracle by which we master and restore ourselves…it can call back in a flash our dispersed mind and restore it to wholeness so that we can live each minute of life.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh

At the beginning of the year, I began to explore the topic of resistance. And since I found a name for this little gremlin, it’s been fairly relentless in its efforts to muck up my mojo and creativity, despite my attempts to go with the flow. I’ve embarked upon a number of creative pursuits, such as my improv theater class. I thought that practicing saying “yes…!” to scenes for eight weeks would help root out resistance. It worked. For a bit. Then class was over….and the many blog entries in my head about the experience failed to write themselves.

I recently attended an amazing conference in San Francisco that pretty much blew my mind in terms of what people are doing to renew the enthusiasm of organizations, such that they are “inspiring enough to invite the full passion, imagination, and initiative of the broadest mix of people.” Be still, my beating heart! And yet, there’s this nagging sensation. The writing – it’s not flowing.

Later this week, I will explore the opposite end of the spectrum, attending the World Domination Summit, where people discuss how they dominate the world by living remarkable lives. Most of the attendees are entrepreneurs, free-lancers, bloggers and non-conformists who aren’t waiting for organizations to change, but seizing the life they want here and now.

I need some flow, baby, because we’ve got some serious writing to do!

So last night, I found myself with a group of friends, exploring a chapter from Tara Brach’s book, Radical Acceptance. We explored two guided meditations – “The Power of Yes,” and “Embracing Life with a Smile.” The Power of Yes allowed us to explore the tension we create in our minds and bodies when we actively resist an emotion, our lives, a situation, and then release that tension by saying yes to it with unconditional friendliness.

Try it for yourself. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, and imagine a current situation that elicits a strong negative reaction. If you live in the Washington, DC area, just close your eyes and think derecho and Pepco and metro. It’s crazy-making in this town, I tell you. So go ahead. Summon up all of your self-righteous indignation. Your anger. Your lungs yearning to breathe free of heat and humidity in an air-conditioned home with a working refrigerator. Mentally note how you hold tension in your body as you go through this exercise of reliving Monday morning’s commute, with the downed trees still in roadways and sidewalks from Friday, traffic lights dark. Say “no” to it all with full-blown resistance.

Tree fell; free firewood; you haul.

Tree fell; free firewood; you haul. by cizauskas, on Flickr

Then, what would happen if you said “yes” to your experience. Yes, to the heat, to the lack of power, to the promise of restored power by July 6 – a full week after the storm. Yes to metro’s fair hikes, without requisite service delivery enhancements. Yes to the emotions. Yes to the experience. What happens now to the unpleasantness, to the tension in your body, as you say yes? Does it become more diffuse?

Our practice of saying yes is not limited to our immediate experience. We can say yes to the whole life we are living. Yes to our friendships, to our parenting, to our physical appearance, to our personality, to our work, to our spiritual path. However, because we are usually shooting for perfection, when we step back to take a look at ‘how we’re doing,’ we often feel as if our life isn’t turning out quite right.”
-Tara Brach in Radical Acceptance

Oh, hello, resistance. There you are.

Then what happens, if you imagine a smile in your mind? A small shadow of a smile in the corner of your eyes. Perhaps a small twist of the mouth. A relaxing of your jaw. What happens as you assume the half-smile of the Buddha, or the Mona Lisa? Breathe and let the smile drift down into your chest, spreading into your heart.

Buddha Mona Lisa by JKleeman, on Flickr

In my group, as we went through the guided meditation, all of us shifted our posture, how we held tension in our bodies, how we perceived the world and our reactions to it. Resistance began to melt away. Smiles slowly twisted up the corner of our eyes, our lips and settled into our hearts. And many of us decided that this was a practice that we wanted to employ more in our lives. For the insights, the peace, the flow that it brings.

There is something wonderfully bold and liberating about saying yes to our entire imperfect and messy life. With even a glimmer of that possibility, joy rushes in. Yet, when we’ve been striving [with perfectionism] for a lifetime, the habits don’t easily release their grip. When mistrust and skepticism creep in, we might be tempted to back down from embracing our life unconditionally. It takes practice, learning to bounce back each time we’re dragged down by what seems to be wrong. But…when we stop comparing ourselves to some assumed standard of perfection…this very life we are living right now can be tasted and explored, honored and appreciated fully. When we put down ideas of what life should be like, we are free to wholeheartedly say yes to our life as it is.” – Tara Brach in Radical Acceptance

You might even say that we’re ready for world domination by living a remarkable life.

Nameste, my friends. Thank you for reminding me about the abundance of life.

Guided meditation links:
Tara Brach’s guided mediations
Appropriate Response, Guided Meditations by Pamela Weiss

Photo credits:
Buddha by timniblett, on Flickr

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