Notes from a Wild Serenity Class ∞

Welcome the Wild Self

The theme for tonight was welcoming our wildness and going into serenity.

Tonight we focused on accepting in-between states as gateways into meditation. The aim of the class was to learn to accept emotional and energetic states within ourselves that we would ordinarily judge as incompatible with meditation.

The old idea was that in order to meditate, you give up on life, or give up on most of life.
But do we really have to flatten our mood, or fake an attitude of holiness in order to meditate?
Do we have to take Valium or make meditation into a medication?

A Welcoming Attitude

If we are going to meditate every day, then we need to be able to catch ourselves as we are, accept ourselves in whatever wild, tired, angry, irritated, joyous, lonely, loving, excited, exhausted state we find ourselves. If we have the attitude, "I can't meditate, because I am tired/wired/restless/speedy/distracted, then there may never be time to meditate.

If meditation is to be integrative and healing, then we must allow all parts of ourselves, all the aspects of our being, to come into awareness to be unified. If we do not welcome every part of ourselves into the safe space of meditation, then where and when will we ever get to integrate? We will remain fragmented personalities.

When people close their eyes to meditate, they do not magically and instantly become less neurotic than the generally are – on the contrary, they may become more rejecting than usual, more split-off. If we persist in allowing meditation to be rejecting, then meditation will actually become a tool of repression.

Our bad moods and awful feelings are often power-packed, and full of useful energy. Duke Ellington, the great big-band leader who was widely accepted as one of the greatest jazz composers and performers, said, "
I merely took the energy it takes to pout and wrote some blues." [Source: Strength to Love, 1963.]

So let's explode this repressive attitude and develop the spirit of welcoming.

How do we catch ourselves wherever we are?
How do we accept rather than repress wild moods during meditation?
How do we meet ourselves in whatever combination of moods and energies we find ourselves?
How do we allow the impact of our jobs, friends, loved ones, families, and yearnings to give energy to our meditation?

Songwriters, singers, bands do this. They take a mood, take a snapshot of a feeling, and celebrate it. Expand it. Explore the nuances. Celebrate it. Then wrap it up, all in three minutes. That's what a popular song is.

Then Lorin said something such as: "Think of a dozen moods you have been in. A hundred moods. What is the best you have ever felt in your life? What is the worst you have ever felt, the most suicidal? What is the most enlightened you have felt? What is the most loving you have ever felt? What is the angriest you have been?" He went on in this manner until everyone was totally confused and had absolutely no idea of what was going on.

One exercise was to ask people to name the emotions they were feeling:

Names of emotions


Each of these emotions and moods is an energy state – a way we are feeling in response to the world. These energies are to be savored, as a configuration never to be repeated, a unique configuration of the universe. Then Lorin had everyone get up and walk away from their meditation spot, and feel the craving to sit down and be safe, and also to welcome the feeling of the inner rebel, the feeling of "I don't wanna meditate. I don't want to be calm. I don't want to constrain myself. I don't want to sit still."

Notice this energy in you, the rebel, the contrary one, and honor it. Honor him or her. Welcome the rebel into your awareness.

At this, everyone felt even
more confused than before, setting a new record for calm chaos.

Then Lorin said, "OK, let's sit down and say within ourselves, whisper to ourselves,

I welcome all of who I am into this space.
I welcome ALL of who I am.

People talked about all sorts of experiences they've had, of great perplexity and great enlightenment.

great love

wonderful feelings in the body

mysterious delights of skinny dipping . . .

The ancient text of the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra emerges from a householders tradition, a meditation discipline developed by and for people who live in the world, have jobs, families, love people, have sex, and are individuals. * see also Vijnana Bhairava, and
From Lorin's translation of the vijnana bhairava tantra:

from The Radiant Sutras

One day The Goddess sang to her lover Bhairava,

Beloved and radiant Lord of the space before birth,
Revealer of essence,
Slayer of the ignorance that binds us,

You, who in play have created this universe
and permeated all forms in it with never-ending truth.
I have been wondering.

I have been listening to the songs of creation,
I have heard the sacred sutras being sung,
and yet still I am curious.

What is this delight-filled universe
into which we find ourselves born?
What is this mysterious awareness shimmering
everywhere within it?

Throughout time, 99% of meditation teachers we know about have been male
monks who are celibate and live in religious orders. Their daily lives are utterly different than ours. Monks have a great privilege – they get to just meditate and memorize scriptures all day – but they are restricted also. The deal society made with monks is, "You have to cut yourself off from sex, possessions, love, ambition, creativity, and individuality. And oh, your inner rebel – kill him." Monks have done a fantastic job of preserving the ancient wisdom traditions – it's astonishing – but at the same time, they twist everything. Monks actually believe that detachment IS THE PATH. Whereas, that is only ONE aspect of the monk's path. Monks are VERY attached to their robes, their religion, their tradition, their rules, their identity as monks. VERY attached and dependent.

As "householders" - a weird name for the 99% of us who are NOT male monks from the meditation traditions of Asia - we have to invent and reinvent our path.

To make meditation work for us everyday – no matter what mood, what emotion, what predicament we are in – we have to give up the fixed ideas of holiness and "what is meditative" and develop a totally hospitable, gracious sense of welcoming.

Homework for the week is to study "hospitality." That divine quality we see when an animal greets us, or we greet an animal we love. When a person greets another person, whether she be a waitress in a restaurant, a friend, an acquaintance. There is a sacred quality we call hospitality that IS enlightenment, it IS "I welcome all parts of myself into this space."

You can learn about this inner attitude, which will bless your meditation, by studying the quality in people around you, wherever you go.

Bonus homework: Notice a mood of yours and find a song or piece of music that speaks to that emotion, speaks from
inside it, or supports you in tolerating it.