Sunday, July 20, 2014

Living in Community

Community Living with a View.
     Personal dynamics are always shifting, making it impossible to maintain constant harmony in social situations, no matter the people involved. It's easy to understand why some choose to live in caves (or the modern version; a small studio apartment). Yet, cave/studio dwellers may not experience the internal struggle that comes when someone is blocking your way to the teapot in the morning. Keep reading to find out how this predicament might be valuable.

It could be loud chattering, a dismissive encounter, a distracting conversation, or some other unwanted scenario that becomes a stress trigger for someone. "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff (and it's all small stuff)," wouldn't be a best seller if it wasn't commonplace to have strong reactions to inconsequential things. We all do it.

Even under the most ideal conditions, collective living can still challenge my sense of sanity. Opportunities to bump up against the edges of my comfort zone seem limitless. Like many people, my comfort zone tends to expand and contract in accordance to my likes and dislikes. Once the ebb and flow of this equation is made obvious, detaching from personal preferences makes life breathe easier.

Observing habitual reactions during meditation is one thing, but being mindful in the presence of other people is arguably why we meditate in the first place. In meditation we watch thoughts come and go. In social living situations we have the same option, though the mind/ego may prefer the drama of taking every interaction personally.

Community living is showing me where I get stuck (lack of compassion), and how to get unstuck (compassion). In this five month experience, we are all working and living collectively to run a retreat center. I am so thankful we practice yoga and have the option of meditating together. These practices remind us all to live peacefully with ourselves, so we can leave peacefully together. So far, we are doing an amazing job.

The following mantra helps me during challenging social situations: We are all (including myself) doing the best we can in every situation.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Meditation Spaces

A space to meditate.
     In meditation our eyes are generally closed or downcast. Why then is an effort made for the beautification of meditation spaces? What is the purpose of making an altar when our focus is suppose to be inward?

I see the adornment of space as an intention to see beauty in whatever arises in the mind/body during practice. If my mind starts to feel too cluttered during meditation, I can reflect on the simplicity of my surroundings for support in coming back to the present moment.

On days when meditating seems impossible, setting a heartfelt tone for the space tends to change resistance into gratitude.

I have practiced meditation in yurts, halls, domes, and even in a meditation tower. Docks, big rocks, decks, and bedroom floors make perfectly fine practice spaces too. Some believe you should not meditate where you sleep, and never use sleeping pillows as meditation cushions. I have taken this advice, since meditating on a bed tends to bring on a serious case of drowsiness.

Simple altar.
Wherever you can find space to meditate, take a few moments to set a contemplative object (flower, stone, candle, or anything from nature that catches your attention). It's as if these objects continue to hold the physical space, so we can more easily move toward the adventurous journey of introspection. At the end of practice, opening our eyes, we are welcomed back to our surroundings with the loving tone that got us started.