Chilling out the Rice

rose blossoms.cmpA few weeks ago, I wrote an op-ed piece for my college newspaper urging the school to have a more transparent discussion on divestment from fossil fuels. Concluding that piece, I called global warming, “the greatest problem in human history”. Okay, I confess, perhaps I did employ a bit of hyperbole aimed at shaking listeners out of their complacency. There is actually a much deeper problem which I’ll address in a bit.

Even when the sky seems to be falling in our world, it’s important not to lose our bearings by focusing exclusively on everything that is wrong, reminding ourselves – every day, perhaps every hour, perhaps every minute, every breath – that which is good, healthy, and conducive to hope, and connecting our own life energy to the goodness consciously. After all, we are part of this world too, and we must have done something amazing to be born here. It didn’t happen by accident. Nothing does.

Anthropogenic climate change is part of our world now and that’s not going to change anytime soon. But there are always opportunities to create peace and health within ourselves and in the world. The key is always awareness – remembering our potential even as our mind sometimes plays tricks on us.

At my weekly QiGong class , I stood with half dozen early arrivals in a large circle, relishing the exquisite silence of standing meditation before doing internal cultivation exercises. I practice a style of QiGong that builds energy in the “dan-tien” or lower energy center of the body. This weekly ritual has made a huge difference in both my physical and emotional health, and hence, has increased both the quality and quantity of energy I have available to share with my patients at CommuniChi, and the world.

So as I am settling into the silence, Kitty walks in. She is about my mother’s age and I know her hearing isn’t good. Suddenly I remember that I am standing in her spot. Although Kitty has already taken up a spot on the far side of the circle, I realize that she won’t be able to hear the teacher when he offers instruction. Spontaneously, I decide to move to another place on the circle, thinking Kitty will notice and move to her spot. But she doesn’t take my hint and the circle is looking very lopsided. I felt as if I had unnecessarily disturbed the tranquility of the circle.

Suddenly, I begin to feel warm. “Am I really that self-conscious?”, I think to myself, as the unmistakable sensation of being flushed in the face dawns on me. Years of meditation on the non inherently existent self hasn’t put even a scratch in my seemingly solid ego. After probably fifteen to thirty seconds of self-centered brain chatter, I settle into my routine and drift into a more spacious awareness when suddenly I realize, I’m really uncomfortably hot and need to remove my jacket. Only then do I see the electric heater a short distance behind me.

So here’s that deeper problem I alluded to early on – we think we are correctly perceiving reality but instead, we perceive reality through a veil of mental conditioning. In my case, my deeply ingrained self-centered view point, combined with mental inattention, caused me to project personal embarrassment onto a situation when really, I was primarily experiencing a physical temperature sensation. In short, we are often so distracted by our inner chatter and our deeply conditioned beliefs that we rarely step out of the boxed up world of self-limiting concepts that we languish inside.

How do we step out and experience freedom? We need to remove the veils of conditioning with the piercing rays of wisdom. And how do we achieve that? We need to learn how to focus the mind, to learn how to listen with all of our senses correctly. And for that, we need to know how to cultivate inner silence. Acupuncture, meditation, even taking a walk in the forest brings some silence to the mind. But it takes practice, and something else: ethical discipline. To the extent that we cause harm to others – whether it’s squashing a bug, or speaking unkindly to someone, or even thinking unkindly about the driver who cuts us off in traffic – these create karmic ripples that build that box we live in, separating us from life, and obstructing us from our ultimate goal of happiness.

We can all achieve a state of complete happiness and peace. In some traditions of Buddhism, this is called nirvana (Sanskrit) or nibanna (Pali). But we need not think that this refers to some exotic mystical state which is far away somewhere in South Asia, or up in some remote cave in the Himalayas. In fact, the literal meaning of nibanna was once explained to me as “to chill out the rice”. After cooking a pot of rice, you don’t eat it immediately, but wait for it to cool slightly in order not to burn the tongue.

So if your inner world if feeling a bit overheated, or if you feel oppressed by the sometimes gloomy mainstream media news, or whatever mental-emotional load you are carrying, remember to chill out. Let us know if we can help with that.  Make an Appointment.


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