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are several aspects to meditation that are part of establishing
friendship with yourself. One is mindfulness. Mindfulness is keeping
track, or keeping a pulse, of being there, in a nonjudgmental way. There
is no good or bad. Everything is allowed to be. Among other things,
mindfulness is a stabilizing or pacifying influence. The panic of
everyday life and every expectation laid on life can subside. This is a
huge relief. It is called the discovery of peace.
peace in the practice of meditation involves slowing down. Physically,
you call a halt. You park your body somewhere, and you stay put. Your
mind may continue to race for a while, maybe for a long time, but you
of the mind racing. Awareness is being in a bigger space, recognizing
that there is always an environment around our thoughts and feelings.
When you begin to sense that atmosphere, there is both intelligence, or
sharpness, and relaxation. You begin to see things much more precisely
and your native intelligence begins to awaken.
more aware is a very courageous thing to do. You allow yourself to look
honestly at your experience. And that solid sense of self—of who you
are—is revealed as being not so solid. You begin to experience gaps,
holes in your suit of armor. You realize that you are really more like
Swiss cheese than Cheddar.
you are there, just there, without trying to hold everything solidly
together, you also begin to find that you don’t need to sustain a
storyline about yourself and your life. Who is it for anyway? You can
afford to relax with yourself, get to know yourself. You don’t have to
put on makeup for yourself; you don’t have to put on a smile. You can
leave the mental toupee on the shelf and like yourself just as you are.
is something genuinely good about being you. You may not like every
little thing about yourself, but overall you have an honest heart and
you can connect with it through the practice of meditation. You have the
courage to face yourself. From that connection with yourself and from
actually liking yourself without conditions, you begin to see how
brilliant and available life can be when it is without preconceptions or
you open yourself to yourself, you become more aware of the world
you’re living in. The development of awareness here is a bit like having
cataracts removed, or getting a hearing aid; you didn’t know your
vision was so obscured until you finally see a brilliant yellow daffodil
in the field. You couldn’t hear the first bird of spring singing in the
meadow. You couldn’t taste the bitter onion flavor of chives by the
stream. You didn’t see the face of your beloved, until you ran right
into him. Then suddenly you begin to feel your world. You begin to understand love in an entirely new way.
that point, as you become more open, you also may begin to see where
you’re stuck, how you’re often living in a hall of mirrors that you
create for yourself. You see your speed and how that has produced panic.
We may actually recognize and experience ourselves as the monkey
bouncing off the walls in our house of mirrors. What you’re bouncing off
of is often simply the reflections that you project. When you bounce
off yourself, this can take the form of self-hatred or it can be twisted
into some kind of false arrogance and pride. Unfortunately, your
dearest friends, lovers, relatives, and partners are often the mirrors
you project your reflections onto most intensely.
demand a lot from intimacy, often more than it can possibly deliver. We
ask ourselves and our closest friends to confirm us by reflecting some
things and not others. Essentially, we ask, “Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest one of all?” And we expect the answer, “You, my love!” This a burden to others and to us, and ultimately it doesn’t work. The mirrors crack.
you want to live in a hall of mirrors, this is a disaster. If you’re
willing to find a true relationship with yourself and others, this is
welcome relief from your self-imposed isolation. It reveals the
tremendous space that is there when the myth of satisfaction is seen to
be a fraud.
the course of time, if we are committed to meditation as an ongoing
practice, then it can provide us with this honest feedback. Although we
might try to filter information, if we sit long enough, reality wells up
in us and breaks through. This is inevitable, because it is just
discovering what is there and we can’t block what is there forever.
Facing reality is not creating something new. It’s allowing a barrier to
dissolve. It unlocks in us the power of loving-kindness and is the
beginning of real warmth toward ourselves and others.
tremendous energy that we try to block and control to keep everything
safe and neat in our stories about ourselves and our lives. Making
friends with ourselves is messier and less predictable than keeping up
the storylines. It may also be more obviously painful. But it’s a great
deal more fun, more spontaneous, more loving, and, in the end, more
productive. We realize that we are capable of a real relationship with
our world and with those in it.
is ultimately beautiful, and wise people often say that it is sacred.
We all have experiences of sacredness, if we don’t reject them or take
them for granted. Sometimes there is a big “ahhh!” when we fall in love
with another human being, when a painting evokes a deep response in us,
or when something of monumental beauty appears before us, something
breathtaking. And there are many smaller moments of simple everyday
illumination and wonder: rain falling on the roof, a baby’s cry, a
friend’s touch, an autumn leaf falling at our feet. Mindfulness and
awareness encourage us to acknowledge what we already know, what we
already see, but which frightens us a little. In that way, making
friends with ourselves is a doorway into a much bigger world, one that
is marked by many moments of wakefulness and the potential to genuinely
love ourselves and our world and those in it.
friends with oneself is, at times, tough stuff. Some days are better
than others, but the path continues. I say this as a monkey with an
iPhone who usually refuses to leave my house except to harvest bananas.
On these outings in the jungle, I have heard and seen a few things about
life beyond the cage, and they have been offered here. Although I still
live within my hall of mirrors, sometimes I see the first evening star,
and that provides the inspiration to guide my journey.
Rose Gimian is a freelance editor and writer who has edited many of
Chögyam Trungpa’s books, including Smile at Fear. Gimian’s proverbial
bananas are 2-percent, half-caf, single-source lattes, served with extra
foam and sugar-free caramel agave syrup.
Click here to learn more about meditation at the our special How to Meditate Spotlight page.