Here’s what happened this morning:
Meditation completed, I padded out to the kitchen to enjoy a morning tea with Devi.
Sunlight filters through the wisteria. Steam rises from teacups. Awareness of breath, stillness, ahhhhhh—and then she asks,
“When do you want to schedule a call with Mark Z?”
With that simple question, my meditative calm cracks, my breathing speeds up, emotions intensify. My shanti is in shambles. Why?
Because Mark Z is our financial advisor.
And, for me, money is a trigger.
I have a well-worn neural pathway that leads from the thought of money to ancient images of struggle and stress.
It’s a pattern. Think money—feel anxious. Talk about money—become irrational.
It’s not a pattern I want to perpetuate.
What about you?
Are there patterns that you’d like to let go of, but that don’t seem to let go of you?
Why do patterns hold on?
The first reason is this: the patterns that limit us weren’t always limiting. They were adaptive.
If we grew up in a threatening environment, learning how to fly under the radar was adaptive. Playing small and keeping quiet protected us.
The patterns that persist used to protect us. Whatever the pattern is—eating, yelling, hiding, the list is endless—it protected us, and it worked.
But our lives have changed.
We’ve matured. The world we live in is not that of our childhood. But the pattern persists.
So, really, why do patterns persist?
Because it doesn’t have any other choice; it can only do what it does.
The pattern is not self-aware. It cannot turn around in consciousness and witness itself. It needs us to do that.
And as long as we are unconsciously identified with the pattern, we can’t witness it.
Un-observed patterns continue to generate thoughts, speech, actions and results that conform with the needs of the pattern. Not the needs of our life-as-a-whole.
The pattern cannot conceive of our life-as-a-whole. Its horizon of awareness is limited, focused on its own emotional needs and its job of protection.
So, as long as we don’t witness the patterns, its limited horizon of awareness will continue to run our lives—at least in certain areas.
Building our witnessing capacity is the key that opens the door of freedom.
Through the practice of meditation, we build witnessing capacity. As we practice, we observe how the mind drifts from the object of meditation and re-attaches itself to the familiar patterns of thought and emotion.
It’s quite a shock to see the persistent way that attention wanders—with frightening redundancy—back to the same worries, obsessions and day dreams.
But, rather than becoming lost in that identification, we return our attention to the object of meditation.
Rather than allow the mind to drift into habitual patterns of thought and emotion, we re-center gently, gently, gently on the object of meditation.
When we do this simple attentional shift, what are we really doing?
We’re cultivating witnessing capacity.
As witnessing capacity develops, identification with patterns releases.
The consciousness and energy that has been unconsciously invested in fueling the patterns is freed.
That’s the moment of letting go. And in that letting go, we re-discover our self as freedom, as consciousness.
It’s a revelation that turns our life around: we are not patterns of consciousness.
We are, fundamentally, consciousness itself. Consciousness that can let go, rest, and then renew itself.
With each meditation, we become more and more capable of witnessing the patterns, and more and more able to rest in the un-patterned presence that is the source of creativity, compassion and new life.
Then, whatever question life poses (even one about Mark Z), we can respond, not according to some outmoded pattern, but with wisdom, love and joy.
Remember a pattern.
Turn toward it with compassion.
Breathe, witness, and let go.
What are you aware of now?
Share in the comments.
Love & Shanti,
Author: Eric Klein
Editor: Toby Israel
Image: Author’s Own