Five minutes ago, I watched ADD zoom by. It felt like a temporary possession, a jangly animation in my limbs, mixed with an urge to fixate on some triviality when I knew I had more important priorities. I felt the ADD coming, felt it in me, and then I felt it leave. I never acted from it. What I once considered to be my default factory setting, today I was able to experience as something more like an optional behaviour.
Last week, as a result of not getting enough sleep, I watched hypomania zoom by. It arrived in the late afternoon, a cracked-out enthusiasm and aggression. This was a slow zoom; took a few hours to work its way through. But it never took me over.
I’m at the point in my meditation practice where this happens quite a bit. Every time it fills me with wonder. It’s like: “did that just happen? Is this really possible?” Yes. This kind of freedom – from your mood, your urge, your diagnosis, your behavioural response – is possible. The energies of my old conditions continue to appear, except, more and more, I have room to choose whether or not I want to step into them.
Of course, it’s far from perfect. One of three different outcomes tends to happen.
The first is the energies or moods come, and I helplessly act from them. Either I don’t notice them at all – I’m totally identified – or I do notice them, but I still let them take me over. Maybe they’re too strong, or maybe I want to feel I have no choice. I think a lot of us experience this kind of split-attention, where we kind of know we’re not acting in a neutral or balanced way, and yet we go along with it anyway. Because it’s hard not to. Because we feel entitled to these feelings and actions. Because we kind of still don’t believe another way is possible. You could say the habit of not reacting isn’t deep enough yet.
The above scenarios used to happen 90% of the time. After almost twenty years of meditation, they now happen maybe 30% of the time. At least, with the big obvious energies. I have no doubt there are all kinds of subtle distortions I’m not aware of, fixations and identifications I still act from. That’s fine. It’s a long process this life, this practice.
The second thing that can happen is I do notice the conditioning, and I’m able to let it go by. I say “Hey previous identity, I guess you’re not me after all.” Just a passing mind-body state, a temporary derangement that never quite locks in.
The third thing that can happen is the most interesting. This is when I’m able to play with the patterns or energies – inhabit them, take them for a ride – except now without losing my centre. So: channel the anger, channel the slow nurturing depression, channel the ADHD-fuelled creativity. As something I am choosing to do, because, why not? It’s what’s here, may as well enjoy it. This is especially fun with hypomania, although I have to be careful, it’s easy to get seduced. When seduction threatens, when I feel I’m losing my centre … then I step back to ground.
What is ground?
Ha! Like anyone has ever been able to adequately explain that. Here’s what I can say. When I’m knowingly present with a tree – seeing it but not thinking about it, or analyzing it – I am in ground. Thoughts can come – “Oh that’s a tree, I wonder when the first buds of spring will arrive?” etc – but the thoughts are not who I am. Who I am is awareness itself. The gaps between thoughts, the whole frame around the thoughts, the space in which the thoughts rise and fall away. Ditto with other senses and sensations.
So: awareness is ground. Being present is ground. Presence is ground. It’s not remotely special – all of us are in and out of presence all the time. But noticing its value is special. The more often we notice, the more often we come back.
It’s Waking Up month at the CEC. For me, today, waking up is our human capacity to learn to live in – and from – ground.
Go HERE to learn about the other CEC sits happening this month, every Monday night.
Consciousness Explorers Club sits are sliding scale – information about that below. Our format is short chat, followed by a 35-minute guided sit, then some group sharing. About one hour total.
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