The Draining Away of Mind Pollution
By day three of my kayaking the Inland Passage in Alaska (see The Perspective of Long, Deep Time) I could not only feel the stress drain away from my body. I could sense the “pollution” draining away from my mind. The constant habits of judgement, criticism, complaining so much a part of “life as usual.” I hadn’t noticed how habitual, pervasive and toxic my thought patterns had become (and I do try!) until I could notice their absence. Like how refreshing clear, clean water is if you’ve become accustomed to the sugary sweetness of a soda.
So the practice became settling into the stillness, the calm, the peacefulness of the moment, the open awareness I would practice in mindful meditation anyway, noticing the beauty, the serenity of my experience without making it into anything. The freedom of experiencing the moment, noticing “what I was experiencing while I was experiencing it” and not polluting the moment with any appraisals or evaluations, not even approvals. Simply letting the moment be, and dropping into the being-ness that IS every moment.
To sustain that openness and to protect against the pollution taking over again, I began to practice what I’ve learned to practice on many, many meditation retreats and have come to teach in workshops as well: to Experience – Embody – Express.
1 Find a quiet moment to pause, settle your attention on simply being in the moment (you don’t have to kayak a quiet cove, though very often moments in nature bring us easily to this sense of being) and let yourself enjoy the peacefulness of simply being.
2 Notice any thoughts at all that would distract you from this experience in this moment, even pleasant, approving ones. Quietly say “No, not now.” Simply let yourself be in the moment, and then notice the experience of being in the moment.
3 Notice the sensations of being (not thinking!). Most often a sense of ease, calm, peacefulness, openness. Let yourself embody this experience, noticing (maybe even a little relishing but not evaluating it) the experience of ease and calm in the body. This is our human birthright, this sense of okayness undermeath all of our busy-ness and doing-ness.
4. Sit in this experience for as long as you like (as long as you can), but also send the energy of this experience of being beyond yourself, beyond this moment, most often in the form of gratitude for the experience, gratitude for the life force that sustains these experiences, a caring for other beings that they may also experience this ease.
5. Set the intention to choose to evoke these experience-embody-express moments again and again, regularly. Meditating, spending time in nature, simply pausing at the end of the day. This exercise becomes a pro-active protection against the constancy of the negative judgments that so often pollute, at least distract our thinking and our being in the world.