Every morning a new day is created

A simple poem, suggested by the sky at dawn this morning. Even as the days shorten, and darkness seems to encroach more, the light at dawn is beautiful. There are moments of light and strength, even at those times when we seem to struggle.

Every morning the world is created…

If it is in your nature to be happy..

And if your spirit  carries within it

the thorn that is heavier than lead….

there is still somewhere deep within you

a beast shouting that the earth

is exactly what it wanted

each pond with its blazing lilies is a prayer heard and answered

lavishly, every morning,

whether or not you have ever dared to be happy,

whether or not you have ever dared to pray.

Mary Oliver

…. and the self is continually changing…

Some similar reflections, this time from a neuroscientific point of view:

Now we come to perhaps the single greatest source of suffering  –  the apparent self. Look into your own experience. When you take things personally –  or hunger for approval –  what happens? You suffer. When you identify with something as “me” or try to possess something as “mine,” you set yourself up for suffering, since all things are frail and will inevitably pass away. When you stand apart from other people and the world as “I,” you feel separate and vulnerable  – and suffer. On the other hand, when you relax the subtle sense of contraction at the very nub of “me” –  when you’re immersed in the flow of life rather than standing apart from it, when ego and egotism fade to the background  –  then you feel more peaceful and fulfilled. 

The experiences of self you just had — that it has many aspects, is just part of the whole person, is continually changing, and varies according to conditions — depend on the physical substrates of self in your brain. Thoughts, feelings, images, and so on exist as patterns of information represented by patterns of neural structure and activity. In the same way, the various aspects of the apparent self – and the intimate and powerful experience of being a self – exist as patterns in the mind and brain. The many aspects of self are based on structures and processes spread throughout the brain and nervous system, and embedded in the body’s interactions with the world.….In sum, from a neurological standpoint, the everyday sense of being a unified self is an utter illusion: the apparently coherent and solid “I” is actually built from many subsystems and sub-subsystems over the course of development, with no fixed center, and the most fundamental basis of the sense of “I”  –  subjectivity  –  emerges in the field of interactions the body has with the world.

Rich Hansen, Buddha’s Brain : The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom

Life is full of transitions; we are always moving on….

What story are you telling yourself about your life?

As humans we seem to have a deep desire to settle down – in a sense to make a home – where we feel safe, and where we can, in some way, define ourselves. We like to have a narrative of stability, which unfolds sometimes without conscious reflection –  an implicit psychological imperative to hold onto a continuity across time and space. Therefore, we unconsciously stretch out a subjective thread across our experiences, telling our story in terms of coherence and unity – seeing certain periods as deviations or moments we got lost – and this continuity gives us an “identity”.  Indeed, in Western societies, one of the first questions a person tends to get asked is “What do you do?” – meaning, “What is your job?”  – as that allows everyone present to define themselves in terms of something ongoing, and thus gives a kind of identity or something to hold a story together. Continuity is important to us, we do not like any sense of dislocation. We like stories that flow; they seem to give us some sort of comfort.

However, even though we like continuity, I increasingly wonder whether it would not be better to tell our stories as ones of ongoing movement, of continual transitions, and practice being comfortable with that. Last week I was involved in a workshop on Mindfulness as part of a Counselling Conference held in Geneva on the theme of transitions. And as I listened to the talks I was struck by how much of our life is actually changing,  all the time,  in big and little ways.  Life brings innumerable goodbyes, as even on a daily level we can be reminded of little ways that we or others have changed. We are always making little adjustments, little departures. We have to say goodbye to life phases, to certain life patterns, to some memories we have let define us. And because we prefer a narrative of settling down, of attachment to a place or to ideas about ourselves, it is inevitable that departures cause anxiety. But if we come to see that life consists of change, and each change contains a promise of something new, then we can work with our anxieties from a new perspective. Defining ourselves as people who change, and seeing this fluidity as part of our story, allows us rest more easily with the inevitable changes which happen and not see them as a threat to who we are.

The real art of conducting consists in transitions – Gustav Mahler. In our normal narrative we prefer to talk about continuity. This quote  prompts us to go even further. Not only can we become comfortable with change, but maybe even find a richness in the in-between moments, the gaps between sounds, those moments in our lives when we feel a little bit on shaky ground  or the spaces in our lives when we can feel nothing is happening. Sometimes, we understand things better through their absence or we only appreciate something when we are forced to examine it more closely. Maybe the moments of change which produce anxiety,  are the moments which help us to live our lives more consciously, as we reflect on what we have allowed define us. They may be hard, but if we trust that something rich is happening, we may find more strength to go those periods when everything familiar seems far away.

Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through.  Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.

Anais Nin

Early morning thoughts…for the day that begins…

Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience.  It isn’t more complicated than that. 

 

It is opening to or receiving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to it or rejecting it.

Sylvia Boorstein

Not reducing ourselves to our worries

Like most of the great spiritual masters of our universe, Jesus taught from the conviction that we human beings are victims of a tragic case of mistaken identity. The person I normally take myself to be –  that busy, anxious little ‘I’ so preoccupied with its goals, fears, desires, and issues — is never even remotely the whole of who I am, and to seek the fulfillment of my life at this level means to miss out on the bigger life. This is why, according to his teaching, the one who tries to keep his ‘life’ (i.e., the small one) will lose it, and the one who is willing to lose it will find the real thing.

Cynthia Bourgeault, Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening

What happens today is not a deviation from life

The Buddhist teachings are fabulous at simply working with what’s happening as your path of awakening, rather than treating your life experiences as some kind of deviation from what is supposed to be happening. The more difficulties you have, in fact, the greater opportunity there is to let them transform you. The difficult things provoke all your irritations and bring your habitual patterns to the surface. And that becomes the moment of truth. You have the choice to launch into the lousy habitual patterns you already have, or to stay with the rawness and discomfort of the situation and let it transform you, on the spot.

Pema Chodron