Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Encountering Dementia and the Power of Now

Last Monday evening our meditation circle gathered once again.  Phyllis, who has returned from the beach, is warmly welcomed with a round of hugs. Soon we are settled.

We take a couple of moments to sit and breathe, initiating the transition from busy, everyday mind to meditative mind.  We listen to Eckhart Tolle, speaking with his soft German accent, as he introduces us to The Power Of Now.

The reading is sharply poignant after visiting my father-in-law last night.  This dear man appears to be succumbing to dementia.  In his mind, work-related pressures from many years ago are entangled with what he believes his deceased wife is doing to spite him. As his jumbled narrative unwinds, we strain to find a thread we can follow.  

What was it Tolle said about being overtaken by our thoughts?

The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly.  If used wrongly, it becomes very destructive.  It's not so much that you use your mind wrongly; you usually don't use it at all, it  uses you.  The instrument has taken you over.  It's almost as if you are possessed without knowing it, and  so you take the possessing entity to be yourself.

He's not talking about our aging parents.  He's talking about us!

After listening, we don't have much to say.  Everyone seems to realize the extent to which we've been taken over by our run-away thoughts.  We chuckle when he says, "Not to be able to stop thinking is a dreadful condition, but since we all suffer from it, we think it's normal." (!)

After seeing my father-in-law, the humor sinks like a stone into a mucky-bottomed pond.  

So we practice engaging the witness. We imagine sitting on the shore, inviting familiar emotions to wash over us and noting our habitual response to say, sadness. We invite the feeling, noticing how it feels in our bodies. My sadness feels like a damp quilt pressing on my my heart, sodden.  A pull in my throat, presaging tears.

To our surprise we find we can handle the physical sensation!  Then, we witness the tendency of our minds to take it one step further -- to embellish with a (very engaging) story or to assign blame (that SOB!). We discover first-hand that it's our thoughts about the sadness that escalate anxiety.

We experiment -- allowing our feelings and observing what the mind wants to throw onto the ash heap in my throat.  The thinker wants to re-ignite the old grievance, the familiar story, the incessant (poor me) monologue.  We practice containing the sadness in the glowing orange bowl in our low bellies.   And then we let it roll out to sea on the next wave.

Ah, the witness offers relief.  Eckhart says,

The beginning of freedom is the realization that you are not the possessing entity -- the thinker. Knowing this enables you to observe the entity.  The moment you start watching the thinker, a higher level of consciousness becomes activated.  You then begin to realize that there is a vast realm of intelligence beyond thought, that thought is only a tiny aspect of that intelligence.  You also realize that all the things that truly matter -- beauty, love, creativity, joy, inner peace -- arise from beyond the mind.  You begin to awaken.

My inner witness is smiling at how Spirit arranged my week.  Tolle's prescient words on Monday provide a context for my experience with my father in law on Wednesday.  I notice how my mind needs some frame of reference, someplace to categorize this new distress.

Out beyond the mind, beyond that need, in that vast realm of intelligence beyond thought, my larger self floats on a wave of compassion.  Faced once again with the great mystery of being, I choose trust.

All are welcome to join our meditation circle when we meet next on Monday, October 21, 2013.  The fee is $10.  Find details under Workshops above.

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