In the previous post I described a practice where we come back to all of the senses as opposed to just one thing. This is what I call rebalancing the ecology of the heart. I also think of this as sort of an inner justice. Parts of us that have been ignored, being in our body, acknowledging our senses, for example, now they are getting their equity, they are part of our experience. Our thinking mind, which is used to getting so much attention, which leads to so much imbalance through labeling and prejudices and judgements and believing in our thoughts, is also just one part of our experience.
So we’re rebalancing that by seeing that thoughts are fine, in fact they’re beautiful. They’re little butterflies, little birds, they’re part of nature. Thoughts are not bad, but they’re happening in a bigger space of staying in touch with the senses. It might feel a little weird at first to not give them as much attention, but as we spread out that attention into our body we realize that the thoughts are okay, they’re part of something bigger.
The senses are incredible because they connect us to the elements, to nature around us. They are how we are part of nature. We can feel this when we open to our senses. “Oh my gosh, if I don’t listen to all my big ideas, and I just feel, I am part of all of this!”
So, that is an instruction on how to rebalance the ecology of the heart. I recommend you actually do this out in nature too. It’s a lot easier if you can go into a forest or a park. Remember when you were a kid and you would just pick up a pine cone or grass and you smell it?
You can really connect with your senses so easily. Many of you have probably heard of forest bathing. In Japan they have a whole culture around it. They’ve even studied its benefits. When you go into nature, and the ionized air and the minerals and the environment, you have very similar responses actually to what happens when people meditate.
I and the many students I’ve shared this with find it really helpful, so do try to get into a natural environment, whether it’s a park or a forest when you can.
Longchenpa, a great meditation master in Tibet, said that the spontaneous forms of nature are supportive to realizing our nature. They are not right angles, they just evolved in this incredibly fluid way. Some of the human forms, even though they may be expressions out of nature, are sometimes expressions that are little out of balance with the fluidity and being a part of things, especially the boxes that we live in that close us off from the outside. That’s not all bad, it’s really nice to have a home, but my point is just to remember that those natural environments are nurturing.
This practice is a great way of working with thoughts! What is happening is when you have so much occlusion in the awareness of the senses, everything that moves, including your thoughts, becomes a reminder that there is more going on than the thoughts. It flips the foreground-background, it switches the negative space.
I think, honestly, just my opinion, for many of us in the modern world, these kinds of meditations are actually easier for us than some of the more regimented types. Although those can be awesome, and they are good to learn and train in, they can build good skills, I have found having taught thousands of people how to meditate over the last couple of decades, that most people struggle really hard with too much tension, trying too hard and beating up on themselves.
A meditation like this is just one of many ways to open it up and then we discover that we don’t have to work so hard. It’s also intimating this quality of being and that our meditation can be more natural and less of struggle, less of an enactment, like “I’m doing this as opposed to that”, it’s less dualistic.
The cool thing about the senses is they only happen right now. So as long as we’re connecting, it’s like “Well, here I am.” It’s good, it’s very kind. And I do think it is nurturing. Honestly, I think when we do this practice a little more, the notion I talked about of inner justice or inner balance, because we’re living in a time where there is such a possibility for outer social justice improving and our society is evolving, and that was part of my aspiration at the beginning, that we could all love more perfectly and nurture everyone’s goodness, with no exceptions, just helping each other be the best we can be.
This idea of rebalancing the inside so that our thoughts, when our thoughts get too big and we tell ourselves stories like “That’s what that is!” or “That’s who they are!” or “That’s who I am!” and we believe what we think, it is an imbalanced relationship with our total experience. It’s just an opinion. Then, of course, as we know, a few hours pass and we have different thoughts. Maybe we’re just as pissed off but we think differently. It changes.
I find that sometimes, just like in the environmental movement, often in social justice movements, there is “I need to see results right now. NOW! Otherwise nothing is valuable.” While there certainly is a place for certain kinds of activism and people are drawn to different activities and different approaches, my feeling is that the nurturing quality that supports gradual development and evolution, both inner and outer, is not always served by a results driven way of viewing our culture.
So it’s not to say there shouldn’t be results, I’m not putting that down, that is actually really important. I think one of the things that is so cool about this kind of meditation is that it’s not anti-thought, and we’re not putting down action, either, but it’s learning how to not put so much imbalance on thought.
My premise is the reason the five poisons got out of hand is that thoughts blew up and then our lack of a sense of being a part of nature got lost because we focused on just what we wanted to do with or to nature and in doing that we became imbalanced. That is why we’re in the trouble we’re in.
So, this is something that we can actually do to rebalance inside.
This post is part of an ongoing series:
Ecology of the Heart Part 1
Ecology of the Heart Part 2
Ecology of the Heart Part 3
Ecology of the Heart Part 4
Ecology of the Heart Part 5
Ecology of the Heart Part 6
Ecology of the Heart Part 7
Ecology of the Heart Part 8
Ecology of the Heart Part 9
Ecology of the Heart Part 10