In the last post I offered a guided meditation exercise I call the Dance of the Seven Veils (not to be confused with Salome!) I hope you gave it a try. If so, you will remember that it is a letting go exercise, recognizing and releasing our attachment to the burdensome and blinding veils of who we believe ourselves to be. At the end of each veil being released was the phrase: To the degree that it defines you, it confines you. Let it go.
Anyone who studies Buddhism will recognize that this is a practice in understanding the nature of no separate self. For others, this might sound like a wrenching process to be avoided at all costs!
But good news on both counts: at the end, after coming home to the joyous openness and radiant lightness of being without all those self-limiting descriptors, we don the veils again.
Yet how different the veils now feel as we lift them into the light within us. They are no longer heavy, knotted, and sodden with emotion, but diaphanous, and we can imagine dancing with them.
For that’s what this life can be: a dance with all that arises in our awareness.
But it takes practice to cultivate awareness. And that’s what we do in meditation. We cultivate awareness of the felt sense of being alive, noticing the natural rise and fall of our breath, the overall energetic aliveness of being, the direct experiences of sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. We also notice thoughts and emotions as they arise. Such noticing allows us to hold them lightly instead of getting entangled in them.
Cultivating awareness, we gently return our attention to the felt sense of being present, here and now, relaxing and releasing tension, and letting compassionate awareness open us to the possibility of dancing with all that arises. Our veils of thought and emotion in this way cease to be burdens that encumber and blind us. When held lightly, they give us a joyous way of dancing with life. (If you don’t like dancing, you might find another way of thinking about how to be in a lighter and more joyful relationship with your various patterns of thoughts.)
With meditation practice, we access our ability to radiate infinite light of awareness and lovingkindness, metta, for ourselves, for those we are concerned about, and for all beings. This activates delight. With this practice, we discover that such delight is not something on the horizon to chase after nor something we can purchase. It’s the ability to be present and hold all that arises in an open and loving embrace.
Learning how to cultivate that way of relating, to dance with life rather than slog through it, that’s what we are doing in our practice of meditation. No matter what form of meditation we practice, that is what we are cultivating.
You may be familiar with one awareness practice called ‘noting’. A thought arises during meditation and when we realize we’re thinking, instead of scolding ourselves or getting further entangled, we simply note ‘thinking’ or we get more specific and note ‘worry’ or ‘planning’ or ‘memory’ to further define the nature of the thoughts. And then we return to awareness of physical sensation, most likely the breath.
Using our veil metaphor, we can do the same, but be even more specific. When a thought arises, we use one word to identify the veil it is woven into. So if the thought is putting ourselves down or puffing ourselves up, we can simply say ‘identity’. If it’s a thought about a person, we label it their name and see the veil we have about them. Or it may be an event, a topic of interest, or concern. Whatever it is, we choose a one-word label for that veil. Anything more and we become entangled in the veil.
Once we have given it a name, we access the light of awareness and compassion and shine it on that veil. Keep shining the light and allow the threads of the veil to soften, to loosen, to float up and perhaps away.
Then we return to the breath, to the felt sense of being alive in this moment, and we feel the infinite light of loving-kindness pour through us.
You may have few thoughts or many, it doesn’t matter. But each time you become aware of a thought, find the one word for the veil it is woven into, and shine the light of awareness and compassion, again and again.
If you want, you can do an exercise using this technique and jot down any veil labels that come up. Afterward, you can look and see if there is a pattern there. For example, you might see that the common thread in all the veil labels was worry. You might notice where in the body you feel the tightness of that worry. Doing whatever is skillful to relax and release that tension may help to soften your relationship with what you are worried about. You can also type ‘worry’ or the word that came up for you into the search bar in the right column on this site, and read through any of the blog posts that come up. There are hundreds of posts on all kinds of inner experiences. Give it a try!
And keep your meditation practice alive. Trust that you are cultivating awareness and compassion that will lighten and brighten your life over time. Please don’t measure it. Let go of expectations. There is no place to get to. This is it! Treat this moment with kindness and curiosity. It will reward you with delight.