I have been a spiritual person all my life. Professionally so.
But also, in the most personal of ways, private and deep, this sense of the world and supreme being who it, that is, absurdly larger than myself, has allowed me a faith, hope, love which are also not based on the mere work of my hands or will at all. It was the wonder of this freedom that invited me into the more, that finally was known, in stillness.
Most of my hobbies as a man are loud. Fast, active, physical and loud. Boxing, gun sports, exercise, cars and motorcycles. Running and some lifting. Action and competition and bodily. I love these things. They are who I am. I live into these things and then live back out of them. They make me more of me. But also, the “noise” of all of these things tire me, fatigue me. More than a physical exertion that simply tires the body. These, on top of all the things me in life (dad of 5 daughters, grandpa of 6, someone who works, someone who worries...etc), pile up in a way that wearies me until I cannot quite catch my breath.
I am a fairly new at meditation. It is a hidden, neglected part of most faiths, even the Christian faith, that was intended to allow the participant to join the divine in a stillness that defies all the noise around us. But it is also a stillness that allows a strength and focus that is impossible to know otherwise. Absolutely, utterly, nowhere possible.
So, 3 simple observations from a man who now meditates:
I can choose to be still.
Amid all the chaos of these days (and I do not presume these days are any more chaotic than any others, per se) I can embrace stillness. I can enter into this. Amid all the things simply me.... relationships and job and play, I can enter this. As I begin to go there, I can know, I can be aware of and even envision, that all the universe around me can is loud and frantic in its energy, in its discord. Personal or otherwise. Collective or individual. Circling. And yet, I can choose to be still. Right there. Exactly there, I can choose to be still with all of this swirling around me. I can choose, with practice, to to quiet all the negative, repeating thoughts inside of me as well; inside my own head as a man, as a male, I can let go all of the swirling secret, private thoughts that I am a failure, that I am not all that I should be. That I don’t measure up. I can enter into that quiet and do something that is a simple kindness to me, knowing the deep stillness where I am as exactly as I should be.
I find my strength within me.
When I meditate, I most often have a sensation of moving down. I get to be gathered back into myself and the feeling of that, for me, is to move down into myself. I feel my body, secure and solid, sitting. Core. Shoulders and arms. Ass and legs, sturdy. Safe. Secure. And from there, from that strength, I move down into myself. No longer fragmented or scattered about for the sake of all I need to do, all I need to be. In this moment, in these breaths, I am just me. In myself. I can, from this sense of still-strength, I can simply be a watcher of me - of my feelings, of my thoughts, of my fears, of my heart’s contentments, and as the simple, strong observer of this me, I can let things go.... I can make more of what I wish to. I can recognize the best parts of me and let go of those things which finally are little of me. And all of that, for me, feels like a squatting down. A settling down. An allowing a downward move into myself that then tends toward lightness, freeness as I end the practice and move into my day. I can re-arrive at this place whenever I choose, even as I do my day. Driving. Readying for bed. Any time that I need to find this strength, to move down.
I'm more present and engaged in my life.
Also, then, I can be the wild animal who crouches in the brush, camouflaged, gathered, hidden for the sake of moving up and out of that stillness to hunt. To live life fully engaged. NOT playing catch-up. NOT always behind the curve. NOT always waging a losing fight. You may rise up and out of the quieted stillness and be altogether aware. Present. We as men typically measure ourselves by all that we achieve, often times at the expense of those relationally in our lives. But, out of stillness, like a big cat who suddenly appears full speed out of crouching, we can do, literary do our lives, purposefully. Not haphazardly. Not accidentally. Not unawares. All the things I love to do that are loud and forceful and driven, I enter these from the strength and focus of stillness. For all those whom I love, from this practice, I love them better, both in knowing who myself to be, but also with some of the fears set aside, literally quieted, I get to love and be a better presence in their lives.
Out of stillness, thoughts emptied out for the expressed purpose to quiet the soul, we come from that, free to choose up the best parts of ourselves. The highest versions of ourselves comes up and out of stillness, not out of the frantic, desperate attempts to keep up. Not out of the endless losing battle to get enough things done. With meditation, I live, love, work, and play much more fully and with greater attention to that which, those who, bring me joy.
Alan is a former Pastor, serving the Lutheran Church for over 25 years. He is now retired from ministry and serving at-risk young men at a residential treatment facility. He enjoys loud things, quiet time, and the love of friends and family. He learned to meditate in January 2020.
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