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Message from Henry: More than One Fruit

If meditation was a one-way ticket to calmness, it would surely still be worth the journey. But instead it’s more – it’s about growth, maturing, expanding and deepening our humanity.

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Meditation can calm the nervous system. It can reduce our bouts of reactivity and help us to respond to life’s challenges, rather than reacting blindly. It’s good for our health, physical and mental, etc.

These are just a few of the many claims typically made by meditation and “Mindfulness” these days – all good things to be wished for.

However, there are other aspects to meditation. First, as meditation helps us to begin to relax our tight grip on ourselves and our views, our hopes, fears, likes and dislikes, there is usually a process of “taking the lid off.”

In other words, aspects of ourselves we tend to keep hidden even from our own awareness may emerge into the light. This is akin to what Jungians call “shadow work.” We’re allowing the “shadow”

– what we don’t know and don’t allow ourselves to know about ourselves – to show itself. The shadow contains things we don’t know and don’t want to know, but these may be both good things and hard, whatever doesn’t fit in what our conscious mind can accept.

If meditation was a one-way ticket to calmness, it would surely still be worth the journey. But instead it’s more – it’s about growth, maturing, expanding and deepening our humanity.

Therefore, difficult things must come up. This is all part of the process – not of relaxing, but of letting go of our restricted, constricted sense of self.

We shouldn’t be surprised to find things getting difficult – unwanted feelings and reactions, old painful memories, regrets, may all come up at times. This is one reason we need a guide. We’re clearing out the closet and there may be the odd skeleton we could use some help with.

Too one-sided a view of meditation practice, for example that it’s only about cultivating calmness, may cause us to end up playing whack-a-mole with our difficult thoughts and feelings. Every time one pops up we try to get rid of it. That may happen if our understanding of this training is too narrow. A guide can help us through the difficult places we run into. He or she can encourage us not to give up even when we feel like it, not to despair, but rather to accept what is going on as part of a bigger process – one of growing into our human fullness. The most generally useful attitude is not one of controlling, but of allowing.

So while it’s great that perhaps as many as 25 million people have now tried meditation in the USA, as some estimates claim, it’s good to remember that meditation offers far more than a strategy for inducing the “relaxation response” or reducing stress (helpful and invaluable though that is too). Stress-reduction is surely a part of its benefits, but there is also the possibility of a radical turn-around in our understanding of what it is to be human – a shift that opens up a new awareness of our inseparability from all other beings, and inevitably leads toward greater kindness, love and joy.

With thanks and love,
Gassho,
Henry

 

Message from Henry is taken from our September 30 Newsletter.
Image Credit: Soldier-dog, by Skeeze, CC0 Public Domain, from Pixabay.com

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