A friend of mine recently introduced me to a weekly Buddhist meditation group. The attendees get together, and we have two silent twenty-minute sitting meditation sessions with a ten-minute walking meditation between them. After the second sitting meditation, we recite some Buddhist philosophies and have an open discussion.
Meditation isn’t something that is natural to me. I’m a high-strung, hot-headed, anxiety-carrying, self-doubting dude. My brain never stops obsessing over minutiae of all the things in my life, over possible outcomes of different scenarios, over money and bills, over the wrongs of the world, over all the things I need to do. I also constantly berate myself inwardly for not living up to the high standards, especially moral ones, that I have placed for myself. Attempting to be “quiet” inside is a challenge.
I’ve been told that you can’t control having thoughts during meditation, but that when you catch yourself thinking about something in particular, you acknowledge to yourself that you had the thought, but not entertain that thought. You must let it go. It has been described to me as watching a train come to a stop in front of you. You know it’s there, but you don’t have to board.
Last Sunday night, one such thought came to me during the first meditation session. The thought was six simple words: “I am. I can. I shall.” While I was supposed to be thinking of nothing, I was writing this blog post in my head. But I will gladly accept inspiration whenever and wherever it comes, so I don’t mind having boarded this train.
As I mentioned above, I’m an individual plagued by serious self-doubt, and self-affirming statements are an uncommon occurrence. But there it was. I am. I can. I shall.
I wrote a poem in 2009, which was a bit of wishful thinking in rhyming form, and even as I was writing it, I wondered whether it was something I could actually enact myself, actually make real.
Peace from all the voices,
Peace from crushing noise,
Peace from inner rumbling
That mania employs-
I seek way through the river,
I’ve turbulence inside.
I yield too much to chaos;
Within, my thoughts collide.
I pray to God and Buddha,
To divinities that may be,
To help me find the hidden path
To a peaceful reverie,
To be placid as still water,
To rest when things seem grim,
To endure as does the oak
Despite the weather’s whim.
As a rock amidst the rapids,
Though buffeted, still prevailing;
It’s time I learned to simply live
With all that Life’s entailing.
Too long at war inside my mind
(Often war begets no peace),
I become as stone and waters pass
‘Til the voices simply cease….
Lines from this poem also ran through my head while meditating.
There was a time after my separation from my wife when I would constantly wallow in depression, and I would try to pull myself out of it by repeating the word “endure” to myself. It was like a lifeline that I threw to myself. I’m not in the state I was at that period of my life anymore. So perhaps it’s time I had a new mantra, not one to help me simply survive, but one to help me grow.
Will I ever find a greater level of inner peace, be in a better mental place with reduced anxiety and fear and greater self-assurance? Will I be the better person I strive to be?
I suppose my meditating mind already answered that.
I am. I can. I shall.