Practice Locally, Love Globally: Survival Guide For Liquid Times

liquid times

On staying sane in times of change. Part III (part I , part II )

When we go through transformative experiences such as an important trip, moving to another country, starting a new career path, becoming a parent, falling in/out of love, – we stop being “somebody”, the one we were before. We enter into a new dimension of ourselves which is unknown and more expansive than the previous one. This expansion is experienced in many levels at the same time (you became a parent and your house is not the same anymore, the empty room is now the room of the baby, you discover your impressive nurturing and loving capacity, and your patience, and how good is your partner in supporting – or not etc.) and comes with this new “identity” of yours.

When it comes about spiritual practice, the expansion beyond one’s known identity is also present, and one finds that deep meditation experiences are always described with the same words: “softness”, “lightness”, “indescribable peace”, “emptiness”, “centered”, “expanded” among experienced meditators. It´s like if everyone gets to the same headspace. As if profound experiences don´t differ much from one person to another. But how come that two different individuals have almost the same inner experience while going deep into meditation? One can say that, framing it in a structural perspective, the “somebody” – the one who meditates – becomes “nobody” – the one who experiences all the possibilities within without identification – and because is nobody, is everyone at the same time. 

Transformation – or change – is present at the level of our mundane life and at the level of our spiritual life too. Many spiritual doctrines teach about how one can become enlightened (a transformational process aiming at “seeing” or “knowing” things as they are) or knowing your true self (Atman), a saint (those of us “who are more perfectly transformed in the image of Christ” defines the “Lumen Gentium” No 50), how to stay closer to God or “to act according to the Light of the Creator” as Kabbalists explain, and so on. And none of these processes occur without experiencing a deep transformation within.

Whether you are moving into another country, experiencing a significant loss, falling in love, in the path of sanctity or spiritual realization, you are changing. Purists may raise a brow at this point since I´m comparing becoming a parent or traveling with the path of spiritual realization, but to me, they differ by visibility (how material or visible is the process of transformation) and calling (distinctions between what is profane and holy are, usually, the place where problems arise, and they are most of the times culturally biased – I´m not trying to say that divinity is not sacred, I´m pointing out toward a certain carefulness that is needed on this matter, especially in a globalized world). The “somebody”, the one who is aware of itself to the point of selfishness, when becomes a parent, is a “nobody”. The entire attention goes to the baby – it can´t be another way! – and all that happens around it.  The spiritual seeker, the “somebody” who seeks inner peace, wisdom or God, becomes a “nobody” in a profound meditation experience, in the Holy Communion or during the Praying time.

Our consciousness and reality are one and the same (check out my previous posts). By understanding all the aspects of our life as different dimensions of one single thing, by bringing up a core, center or unifying space within in which the “somebody” can surrender and become a “nobody”, we won´t feel lost or lacking the point of reference – a feeling that occurs very often when we experience change and transformation, especially in this “liquid modernity” as Bauman named it. On the contrary, we will embrace change, no matter how uncomfortable this change might be, because that´s the foundation of our human experience, that is what all of us (no matter our differences) experience in life. This understanding brings not only wisdom but also a greater compassion toward all living beings. And at the end of the day that counts because we are all having our own doses of fear, uncertainty, loss, gain, judgment, realization, and satisfaction, and we deserve some little peace in between.

Credits for the image @ajaychahal29

I Won´t Lose My Grasping – Note From Consciousness

Awareness of a cat

On staying sane in times of change. Part II.

(part I here)

If there is one thing in which different philosophies, worldviews, spiritual systems, and cosmologies coincide regarding reality is that change is the only certainty in this world. Impermanence – name it in eastern philosophies, change – in other places. However you understand this, it seems that change permeates all our experience in this world. The body, mood, and thoughts change daily, sometimes per minute and even seconds. We change jobs, partners, friends, house, country, and pets. Our body decays, we get old. The nature of reality is that of change.

This understanding is important so we may learn to internally zoom out of things that, at the end of the day, will change. Wink at equanimity here. The attachment to things that change is, ultimately, the source of our suffering in life. Letting go, again. This time it´s not only about our past experiences but also about the future. Of course, it´s never about our future plans or past experiences, but emotions, attachments or “desires out of control”, and judgements about them. Once you release these burdens, you can plan your future more effectively and realistically – we may acknowledge the fact that our plans do not come to a fruition because, many times, we expect either too much or too little about ourselves or about the circumstance. As per your past experiences, you will be able to learn from them and get wisdom out of them for yourself and others. Once you get insights or wisdom, being of service to others follows.

“Cease from practice based on intellectual understanding, pursuing words, and following after speech, and learn the backward step that turns your light inward to illuminate your self. Body and mind of themselves will drop away, and your original face will manifest.” Dogen

If the nature of reality is that of change, what about our own nature? How different are we from reality? We may accept that we don´t differ much from it. We are real, actually. And if so, if we are real, what is left of ourselves when things change? What do we lose or gain about ourselves in this changing game? The question about our deepest identity, the “self” that remains when things change, can be addressed by a more subtle approach. And just to point towards a direction, we can consider that our consciousness – meaning here how we process/understand information delivered by our perception and the response to that awareness – and reality are one and the same. In other words, reality is conscious and consciousness is real. (Physics has something to say about this. You can check out this article and read about how material is the reality, in case you think that it is only and strictly a matter).

The nature of both, reality and consciousness, is one and the same. Our consciousness changes along with our reality, and vice versa. If we think in the so-called spiritual practices, or practices that connect us with ourselves at the consciousness level as meditation does (we thus know what is going on), we realize that they are highly practical: ritualistic and down to earth (quietly enter to the room, sit down, adjust your body, feel comfortable, close your eyes, gently bring your attention at one single point, two fingers-width above the navel, and keep it there… how ethereal is that?). And there is no other way in which can be so since we engage with reality when we are in tune with it, so we go with it, we flow with it, and allow the process of change take place.

This process of change is not only very visible and positive while meditating regularly or maintaining a spiritual practice, but due to other circumstances too – although the experience of change is rougher, I would say.  And so you find yourself one day holding a baby, your baby, for the very first time in your life and one of the things that cross your mind is “how much I love this small body and how fragile it is!”. This temporary thought creates an important feeling within yourself and suddenly you understand, beyond words, that her/his fragility is your fragility too, that you are now responsible of that small body, and that this new understanding brings about transformation, something changes in you and you are not the same anymore. In a way, you are becoming more real.

To be continued…

Credits for the image @sakshi101889