Breathing In– Breathing Out
You would probably like Roger. That’s not his real name but he is a real person. He does not live anywhere around Shepherdstown but I have known him for many years. He is handsome and intelligent, highly visible and respected in his community. He has a wonderful wife and several great kids who have mostly been a source of consolation to him. In spite of all that though, he feels empty and disinclined to spiritual things and he used to react to my jottings with the word “unreal”. Meditation strikes him as a luxury for which people like him do not have the time .It all leaves him flat even as he finds life mostly monotonous.
Maybe you know someone like Roger?
Roger’s problem is that he is suffering, unbeknownst to him, from a spiritual malady known as “desolation”. It is a curious coupling of yearning hunger with disinclination to eat. It can become like the wallpaper, right in front of us, yet too familiar to be noticed. At his church Roger is given many sermons on how to change his behavior but too few on how to change himself. Like many people he is uncertain if he can trust his inner authority.
Roger’s solution is to escape into activity. An adviser once told him that even if all his responsibilities were lifted, he could turn pumping gas into a 24/7 treadmill. He has cyclical periods of burnout but he does not take the remedy which is to avoid burnout in the first place. The most readily accessible spiritual way to do this is to adopt a practice of daily meditation.
As impractical as meditation may seem to many, the fact is that it is very practical. True, it won’t put food on the table, but it will help Roger to do so with grace. True, it won’t pay the tuition, but it will help Roger gather the money with serenity. It won’t make his dreams come true, but it will provide energy and confidence for pursuing them. Meditation colors our inner hue. It affects our inner disposition, which changes our outlook, and leads to different choices and wiser decisions. It also excavates a space within us where patience grows for the things we cannot change. As people around us notice a subtle shift in our demeanor, they change too. Our apparent enemy now feels more accepted in our presence and so becomes softer toward us. Our loved ones feel more noticed and so become less complaining. Our inner child is getting more attention and so throws fewer tempests in the teapot of our soul. We become less desirous of so many things and so become less restless and more peaceful. Life just looks better; the same life that wore us down before.
As our practice proceeds we find ourselves changing. Our interests shift to ones that are more uplifting, our compassion for others blossoms, our consciousness becomes more global, silence becomes a friend ,the edge comes off our faults as awareness increases, and nature begins to speak to us. In sum, we become more whole.
Of course meditation loves to work in tandem with a healthy lifestyle. It can all seem daunting. Faithful practice though will lead organically to the motivation we need for the rest.
(Bill O’Brien is a spiritual mentor and teacher in Shepherdstown. email@example.com )