Why It Is So Hard to Simply Be
In 1654, Blaise Pascal wrote "All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone." And apparently little has changed because in 2014, a study at the University of Virginia found that people would rather administer themselves with electric shock than sit quietly for 6 to 15 minutes. Most people in the modern world are uncomfortable simply existing. After years of overloads of experience, changes to expectations, constant demands, and non-stop sensory stimuli, our cells are brimming with stored stresses. While stress chemistry (cortisol, adrenaline, etc) evolved for early man to help us get out of an urgent situations and then leave our system after the threat was over, because of the bombardment of modern life, we are now marinating in the stuff. It's no wonder we do will do anything not to be with ourselves–we reach for phones, cigarettes, cookies, electric shock apparently, anything distracting. Many of our behaviors are simply coping mechanisms for this stress. However learning to enjoy being with oneself is the foundation for enjoying anything, our relationships, our work, our life. Nothing can truly be joyful without this foundation. I believe the difficulty simply being is why so many people are afraid of meditation or think they cannot do it as they figure meditation is akin to this torture of sitting with one's thoughts. However, it is the opposite. In meditation we endeavor to go beyond thought. And meditation can be effortless. Nishkam Karma Yoga, which is the style of meditation I teach, is defined as "union by action hardly done." In fact, to do this style correctly, effortlessness is essential. Meditation is training oneself to Be. We cannot think our way to that state. We can't think, "Be present" and Be any more than we can think "Go to sleep" and fall asleep. It doesn't work as thinking sends our mind to the surface. This state must be allowed. That learning to allow is meditation. The more we practice this state of Being in meditation, the more in that state we are while awake without even trying. This is how, ever so slowly, joy starts to slip its way in, even when sitting quietly in a room alone.