My dog (and best friend) Russell Clive learned to surf this summer. I mean, not really, but good enough. He learned to stand on a pool floatie and not freak out. Which is a big accomplishment for a rescue dog who left claw marks on my shoulders the first time I tried to get him into a swimming pool.
I tried to tell him that if he stopped fighting/thrashing/freaking out in the water, he’d easily float. If he was patient, he would learn to appreciate surfing. And maybe even enjoy himself.
This is exactly like Meditation. In my Meditation classes this summer, we’ve been working with the concept of ‘creating a relationship with Silence.’ First, we looked at Silence as a way of appreciating beauty (practice it here) and then we discovered Silence as a way of bringing meaning to an object or experience (practice it here). Now, we examine our level of patience with Silence.
Patience is a ridiculous concept. I have very little of it. If I want something to happen, I’m pretty great at making it happen immediately… so why should I wait?
I do appreciate, however, that creating a relationship with Silence, just like teaching a dog who is scared of water to enjoy surfing, takes patience. When I first started Meditating, but mind was a racehorse. Too many thoughts and emotions racing around in my head; too little time to approach each thought with the attention it demanded. Developing a patient relationship with inner silence is scary. I have to approach it, as Richard Rohr suggests, a little bit at a time.
“…Be patient with silence. It gives a little, and then it gives a more if you do not abuse the first little. It’s like floating in water; once you stop fighting it, you float even better.” –Richard Rohr, Silent Compassion
This relationship with Silence has merit– people who meditate report higher levels of personal satisfaction, lower levels of anxiety, improved sleep, and happier moods. Read more here. Most of all, it just feels good. It is a relief not to have to resist the moment (i.e. the exact definition of stress) and just observe the moment.
‘Observing the moment’ is another way of developing an ‘inner witness.’ This witness is really good at stepping back, drying off, and saying, ‘Hey, just relax. Once you stop fighting, you’ll float more easily.’
A more pronounced Inner Witness is one result of Meditation and yoga. My Inner Witness has a tough job: reminding me that I can have emotions without being overwhelmed by them. Remember this challenge? That when I’m feeling depressed, it won’t last forever. And when I’m feeling anxious, it won’t last forever. (This post reminds us: nothing lasts forever.) And that if I can have a little bit of patience, Silence will comfort me little by little.
This week’s Meditation Challenge:
- Find a sticky note. Write ‘Patience’ on it.
- Turn off music, find a quiet place to sit, and place the sticky note right in front of you.
- Set a timer for 5 minutes.
- Leave the Silence Open-Ended. When your inner witness screams at you or your emotions are really loud, gently open your eyes, and read the word “Patience” silently to yourself. Start again.
- Take the sticky note with you when you leave the house. Stick it to your steering wheel. Stick it on your computer. Stick it on your phone. Be patient with yourself and allow silence to give itself to you.
Try this Meditation Challenge for a week and see what changes. Be Patient with it.
“So be patient with silence. It gives a little, and then it gives a more if you do not abuse the first little. It’s like floating in water; once you stop fighting it, you float even better.” –Richard Rohr