This morning, I was working through a guided meditation with Jeff Warren. Jeff was walking participants through the idea of “the one seat.” As he did so, he said something about the world turning around us. When he said this, my mind went somewhere else. It launched into this thought process about how we go about participating with, engaging in the activity of the cosmos.
Go on a little journey with me…
I have a son. He’s ten years old. We often have conversations about what we can control and what we can’t. For example, he and I play a lot of golf together: I am, after all, still a suburban dad. You can’t control the bounce that the ball takes off the side of the green and into the water. You can’t control the direction of the wind. You can’t control anything except for what you’re doing as you prepare for this swing.
This is actually a little scary, isn’t it?
When we get in touch with the reality around us, our lack of control often confronts us. It’s a big universe out there, and I’m just a speck of dust riding along the current, along the whims of the winds of change. I’m going with the flow.
This is a good thing.
We want to go with the flow.
We want to be flexible.
We want to open ourselves to the ride.
But, sometimes, this means that we are robbing ourselves of agency and engagement as we do so. We start to think of “going with the flow” as if we play no role in our circumstances. We look at the huge, unfathomable, elemental forces of nature, and we do not see any way to participate in the current. The world is happening to us. This, however, is a matter of perspective. All things, of course, are a matter of perspective, and this particular perspective denies us agency in the cosmos. It says to us: you are not a participant in the motion of the universe. Instead, you are, at best, a bystander, and, at worst, a victim.
But this is no way to live. (“Live,” after all, is an active verb, y'all.) Moreover, this isn’t really “going with the flow.” This is not, in Jeff Warren’s words, “the world turning around us.” This sort of mentality and approach to life understands our role as passive. The world isn’t turning around us, we are being flung about by a massive Earth that is being pulled by the gravity of the Sun which is being yanked around by the gravity of the super massive black hole at the center of the Milky Way which is being propelled on a head-on collision with the Andromeda Galaxy…
There is a difference between going with the flow and being tossed and tumbled by the current. It’s the difference between active and passive. I’m a participant in my life. I’m engaged in the making of the world.
How do we make this move? How do we go from passive to active?
Sit outside. Find some birds or some squirrels or whatever wildlife you might be able to see. This is the one time in the history of everything that these elements will be configured in this way in this space and time. How do I participate in that? How do I engage in it? How do I move from being tossed to being engaged? From sitting a top a world spinning out of control to sitting here and witnessing the world spin around me?
The first step is to pay attention.
When we engage with what’s happening around us, we move into an active, engaged space where we can see and accept it all. As Jack Kornfield says:
As we take the one seat we discover our capacity to be unafraid and awake in the midst of all life. We may fear that our heart is not capable of weathering the storms of anger or grief or terror that have been stored up for so long. We may have a fear of accepting all of life, what Zorba the Greek called “the Whole Catastrophe.” But to take the one seat is to discover that we are unshakable. We discover that we can face life fully, with all its suffering and joy, that our heart is great enough to encompass it all.
To reach this unshakability, to find this engagement, we have to pay attention. Paying attention, after all, is active. It requires engagement. So...
Just pay attention...
My life is not something happening to me. It’s happening because of me.