You’d be forgiven for thinking there were more important things to do, more pressing actions to be taken, than sitting quietly on a meditation cushion. And you’d be right. Sitting meditation is practice. For being in flow with the moment, moving with grace, embodying consciousness in the best way possible, as a primate capable of self-awareness. While doing important stuff, like fighting fires. Grab the hose, aim the water, protect the assets, move back, come around the side, get out, get in and do your job. All under extreme pressure. Professional or volunteers; now that’s action.
Most of us who faced fires in Australia over recent weeks aren’t heroes. We’re just trying to save our lives, families and homes, and helping others when we can. But no matter whether you had to fight ember attacks or full blown fire fronts, or if you were watching the previously unimaginable horror unfold, as monster fires joined up to create a mega-catastrophe on a world changing scale, we’ve all been scarred by this experience. How we deal with it can be a matter of personal choice, but from a therapeutic perspective, if you get time, you could do worse than to sit. Contemplate.
Hone your mind. It helps. Getting to know yourself better, you can come to realise your habits and choose what works for you according to the balance of your desires and values. Or just relax, let the mind melt down the spine like a melting egg of golden butter. Breathe into the centre and up along that spine, lifting each part as if it were carried by a silver rope hanging down from the heavens. Let that breath go through the top of your head, lifting it also and tilting it slightly forwards, so that your chin is tucked a little. Look 45 degrees to the floor. Let thoughts float away like clouds in the sky. Don’t judge them, it’s a waste of time and undermines the self you want to be. Breathe in, up the spine, and let go as you exhale. Repeat.
Sitting in meditation affords you time to check in with yourself and give you time to recognise if you are carrying some self-defeating patterns. Also to melt them away a little each time, or to support better ones. We practise in every sit, as well as throughout the day. This is a clarifying of the mind that is also self-care, because sitting in meditation can help you ensure that you’re not getting too wound up in cycles of action and reaction, by putting your daily experiences into a more expansive framework. Just like the monk who learns that the same amount of salt in the wound feels very different when you identify with the expanse of the lake and not just the limited confines of the personal mind, we can become more than an action/reaction machine.
Sore? Let that pain dissolve into the entire energetic matrix within which we incarnate: the earth. Rest in that exact place where you are for a while. This will remind you of how much you can be as well as help you do stuff better. This includes fire fighters and frustrated parents, baristas and climate scientists. It could also help activists entering upon the shores of burnout, or just plain exhausted by the fight against a corporate and political class that is supposed to be serving us but is serving its own interests instead. The forces of climate denial are varied and very well funded. This makes the current mainstream story unpalatable, at best, and criminal, in terms of the environmental damage being wreaked upon the planet right now. We must feel this, if we are to identify with our larger being, the one that dissolved into the lake, and be true citizens of the earth, along with all our kin, without whom we cannot survive, let alone flourish. Air comes from forests and seas (remember this sometimes with your breath). To be fully alive, we must be fully alive with the earth. That’s expanded consciousness. That means something.