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Lions Roar : May 2011
SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2011 89 to catch a cold again!” though we can affect our physical and emotional expe- riences, we can’t ultimately determine them; we can’t decree what emotions will arise within us. but we can learn through meditation to change our re- sponses to them. that way we’re spared a trip down a path of suffering we’ve traveled many times before. Recogniz- ing what we can’t control (the feel- ings that arise within us; other people; the weather) helps us have healthier boundaries at work and at home—no more trying to reform everyone all the time. it helps us to stop beating up on ourselves for having perfectly human emotions. it frees energy we expend on trying to control the uncontrollable. you’ll understand how to relate to change better—to accept that it’s inevitable and believe that it’s possible. most of us have a mixed, often para- doxical attitude toward change. some of us don’t think change is possible at all; we believe we’re stuck forever doing things the way we’ve always done them. some of us simultaneously hope for change and fear it. we want to believe that change is possible, because that means that our lives can get better. but we also have trouble accepting change, because we want to hold on perma- nently to what’s pleasurable and posi- tive. we’d like difficulties to be fleeting and comfort to stick around. trying to avoid change is exhausting and stressful. everything is imperma- nent: happiness, sorrow, a great meal, a powerful empire, what we’re feeling, the people around us, ourselves. medi- tation helps us comprehend this fact— perhaps the basic truth of human ex- istence, and the one we humans are most likely to balk at or be oblivious to, especially when it comes to the big- gest change of all: mortality happens, whether we like it or not. we grow old Real happiness continued from page 54 and die. (in the ancient indian epic, the Mahabharata, a wise king is asked to name the most wondrous thing in the universe. “the most wondrous thing in the entire universe,” he says, “is that all around us people are dying and we don’t believe it will happen to us.”) meditation is a tool for helping us accept the profound fact that everything changes all the time. meditating offers a chance to see change in microcosm. Following our breath while observing how thoughts continually ebb and flow can help us re- alize that all elements of our experience are in constant flux. During a meditation session, it’s natural to go through many ups and downs, to encounter both new delights and newly awakened conflicts that have bubbled up from the uncon- scious mind. sometimes you tap into a wellspring of peace. other times you might feel waves of sleepiness, boredom, anxiety, anger, or sadness. snatches of old songs may play in your head; long- buried memories can surface. you may feel wonderful or awful. Daily meditation will remind us that if we look closely at a painful emotion or difficult situation, it’s bound to change; it’s not as solid and unmanageable as it might have seemed. the fear we feel in the morning may be gone by the afternoon. hopelessness may be replaced by a glimmer of optimism. even while a challenging situation is unfolding, it is shifting from moment to moment, varied, alive. what happens during meditation shows us that we’re not trapped, that we have options. then, even if we’re afraid, we can find a way to go on, to keep trying. this is not a pollyanna sentiment that everything will be just fine, according to our wishes or our timetable. Rather it is an awakened understanding that gives us the courage to go into the unknown and the wisdom to remember that as long as we are alive, possibility is alive. we can’t control what thoughts and emotions arise within us, nor can we control the universal truth that everything changes. but we can learn to step back and rest in the awareness of what’s happening. that awareness can be our refuge. ♦