As I was meditating this morning, I attempted to open to the space between inaction and action. I was trying to be present with the emotions and thoughts that steer me towards diversion and what feels like an avoidance of taking action throughout my day. I was trying to embrace the space and energy of how I might choose a different response to my habits. Initially, I thought that it was a matter of opening to the unknown, and leaning into that space instead of creating doubt and confusion which lead to diversion. However, I quickly realized that diversion is action. With that awareness, the space between inaction and action seemed to disappear leaving me with a sense of wondering where the gap really existed.
In her book Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears, Pema Chödrön writes about pausing. As we move throughout our day and lives, she encourages us to simply pause. We take a moment to stop, slow down, and shift our attention to the present moment. In that moment, we have an opportunity to make a choice about whether to buy into our usual habit and conditioning or choose another path. Naturally, it can take time and repetition to train our minds to pause and recognize the gap between reaction and flexing towards change. Resistance can anchor to the illusionary foundation of permanence. Change can rest in opening to flexibility by recognizing and accepting that everything – our mood, our lives, our bodies – are in flux. Impermanence is reality. Our denials can trick us into viewing ourselves, one another, and the world in which we reside as being fixed and rigid.
As someone who has struggled with how to move through the external world of community, I sometimes question my path of solitude as being valid or enough. This does not mean that I don’t strive for a more active life style. But, I also recognize that change starts with acceptance, and acceptance is neutral. We start with where we are, and if we are judging, diminishing, or promoting, we are not accepting. In an effort to ease our doubts and fears, we can easily slip into an inflexible mind and ego. Prejudice is born from inflexibility. We may be familiar with the more obvious mindsets that contribute to alienation, hatred, and cruelty. Patterns of thinking that manifest as racism, intolerance, and discrimination against others. But, what about the more subtle patterns of thoughts? Thoughts that we turn inward towards our own selves. The more subtle prejudices that serve our defense mechanisms in order to avoid facing our lack of confidence in our worth. The bigotries that we reinforce via disempowering our ability and others to change. Our inner world of predefined notions that serve to sabotage genuine power. The rigid mindsets that tell us: change is too hard, not possible, or unlikely and prevent us from opening and embracing the unknown. How often do we cling to the memory of how we were or the last encounter we had with someone whether it was one day, a year, or decades ago? The unknown encourages us to remember that each of us can be seen differently each day and promotes the flexibility that each individual has unlimited potential to change and grow.
Previously, I thought of embracing the unknown as facing a fear of the future. A future that is not predetermined or within our control. Embracing the unknown represented a type of surrender. Now, I realize the true power of accepting the unknown lies in that gap between fixed ideas and behavior and unlimited potential for change. The power of healing and growth rests in our ability to foster open mindedness and flexibility. When we rest in the peace of impermanence, we can empower and open our hearts to what is really here in this moment. We can be mindful and present. If we spend our time attaching to fixed ideas and clinging to how we think things are or how we want them to be, we are stuck. The moment is lost. As human beings, we will lose many moments. For most of us, we will probably lose many, many, many more than we will genuinely experience. However, I have faith that as long as I pursue an open mind, I can open my heart, my awareness, and my being to the now. I can train my mind to be present… at least from time to time. If I allow my prejudices to be acknowledged, I can transform limits into potential, and I can heal.