The space we're in accommodates us in every moment.
More Ramblin' Reflections from Live Stream Topics- From 11/1/21. Here's my Insight Timer profile. Thanks to Klimkin for the beautiful image.
In Monday's live session I talked about the idea of what is prior; more specifically, I suggested posing the question, “which came first?”. The first context I had in mind was that I noticed myself observing an inanimate object and I felt constriction that seemed to be focused on that object, but it was simultaneously very clear to me that this object had nothing to do with the constriction; therefore there must have been something prior, something that came first, which, of course, was my constricted mind. This phenomenon is most obviously generalized to feelings of anger, ill-will, or discontent in a situation where on another day or another time you know for a fact you wouldn't be having these feelings. It was what came first that catalyzed the situation. The question of which came first can be further generalized into more and more subtle aspects of our experience, which you might say is part of the function of meditation. For instance, in meditating on pain you can have a reflection about what is prior to pain. One of the answers is that there is a cohesive, functioning array of tissues, chemical and electrical activity that was there before the pain. These tend to be the conditions both prior to the onset of pain and in much of the region around any current pain. So you could further generalize the question to, what is prior to and adjacent to pain? You can also use this system of inquiry for the positive side of things. One of the most common ideas about this is the idea of Goodwill (Metta). With a mind that is imbued with Goodwill, when we cast our gaze upon random things, we at least won't feel constricted around them and we might even feel delighted. The same goes for the physical level, where you can look for feelings of well-being. This is something we do during breath meditation all the time; we observe the natural refreshing feelings that come with breathing, even just on a purely physical level, and by resting the mind there and on what is adjacent to this prior feeling of goodness, the good feeling and the refreshed tissue and sensations can spread. This can be further generalized and refined using ideas that are generally considered spiritual; some common terms are chi, prana, pneuma, and breath energy. These terms generally describe an interpenetrating energy and one might say they represent something that is prior still. To get into the mood to think about what these things might mean it can be helpful to think about how intricately supported we are by our environment. I realize this does not always feel like the case, especially if we're in a tough situation, abusive relationships, having difficulty keeping food on the table and a roof over our head; but consider the fact of your being able to be here right now reading these words in a temperature that neither freezes nor burns, an atmosphere that has a mixture of gases that nourish our bodily functions, with access to food and water that do likewise, held to this earth, and the ability to think and create and connect with other beings. Truly, this “space” accommodates us in every moment. Consider further that when you direct your attention to something, that thing becomes enhanced in your mind and can actually become healthier. An example is focusing on the breath, which can calm the mind, which can lower blood pressure; the limiting of cortisol in the bloodstream helps with healing, immunity, and the general functioning of the body. Amazing. So, what space are we in, that from some perspectives, the space that our body takes up is made up of more of that space than matter- what is prior here? There are different theories about the true nature of the substrate- perhaps dark matter has something to do with it, strings?... But the ancient traditions that speak of chi, prana, and breath energy don't ask you to capture this in a bottle, in a lab, and analyze it. Instead, we are the laboratory in a way, and part of the results are an appreciation for how we are held, how we are nourished, how often, beyond explanation, we are witness to an undeniable inter-connectivity. Scientists are still trying to figure it out, but I don't think it's too great a leap to say that there is a benevolence to the seemingly impossible situation of life that we're in. If it's too much of a leap to think that it's benevolent, we can at least feel gratitude that it's here at all, and that can go a long way for our well-being. But since there is evidence of our being supported, and therefore the possibility of benevolence, what can we open ourselves to; how might we follow suit and contribute benevolence to what is prior in our own small way?