HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 19, 2017 – 12:00am
A few days ago, I saw a post from a book on Facebook that read, “To the enlightened mind, what is and what should be are one and the same.” This spoke to me in a deep way.
I was going to copy and paste and share it on social media until I realized that it was a quote from a book I had actually written years ago.
I was stunned. I read it again. It occurred to me in a painful way that I am now nowhere near that frame of mind I used to be in. The realization shook me.
I remember how I was when I wrote my first book. I was calm, quite settled with myself, and my Zen meditation practice was solid. I would wake up in a heightened state of awareness and aliveness. The wisdom of the world opened up to me. And I understood it in a heartfelt way. My heart was open like a lotus.
At that time, I would sit on my meditation pillows on my mat almost every day. It was a habit. I felt like a mountain. I felt solid! I was the direction, the way people look at mountains. I was not the one seeking it. I was constant, sure as a guiding star to myself in my own life’s travel.
These days, I am not as calm as I ought to be. I get easily confused, angry and agitated. Social media and the pressures of life push and pull me in all directions, disturbing my peace. Trolls, the political situation, personal problems, the vicissitudes of life drive me up the wall. I lose my center and my clarity so easily and feel that my life is being lived, led and rearranged according to an agenda not of my doing or planning. I find myself living in other people’s worlds, whereas I used to feel that I lived in a world I had fashioned myself.
One of the things I learned in Zen meditation is the ability to simply observe things without getting caught up in them, or being attached emotionally, intellectually, or in any other manner. I could watch my thoughts come and go and suspend my opinions and biases about them. They were simply clouds passing by. They didn’t stay. Everything was transient.
Not having an opinion, or preferences, or any emotional interest or bond with personal issues and how the world should be could be very liberating. It was like being the eternal blue sky above the changing weather below.
With enough meditation practice, I could look at myself in the third person and watch myself the way I would observe other phenomena or events as they arise and leave. I had discovered what meditators call the “witness” — one who can look at the world and oneself without interest or ego, and just watch.
It is like looking at the world fresh and new with no cynicism or prior judgment. Everything is there but without labels. There is that freedom to experience things as though for the very first time.
I once asked my teacher what would happen if I stopped meditating. She said that everything I had learned or experienced while in such a state would become a memory and eventually become meaningless.
I started meditating again when the new year began. I am slowly gaining back some of what I thought I had lost. I am slowly learning again to not always comment or engage in arguments on social media. I am learning to turn away and not engage. In the process, I am going back to the direction of wholeness and balance. I am gaining back my equilibrium.
Zen is pure unadulterated awareness. The Zen mind is without artifice. It sees purely. And strangely enough, a natural compassion can arise from one’s own depths. How can it not when judgment is set aside?
As I observe myself these days, I feel a kindness slowly taking over. Whatever I am right now, with all my mess and shortcomings, I know I am in the state of the art of who I am. I am in the here and now. Everyone always is. We are always doing our best at the present moment, considering everything. Only hindsight can point out if we are doing better or worse compared to any other point in our lives. But at this moment, we are simply unfolding as best we can.
We simply “are who we are,” right now. And maybe be that’s how we ought to be.