Daily Archives: April 17, 2012

N is for Neutral

In yoga, I learned to always “return to neutral.” This means before moving into the next pose, on the other leg or other side for example, that you return to neutral, to center, to rest. This is in part for safety, to slow you down, keep you from speeding too fast into the next pose and possibly hurting yourself.

Neutral is also related to “mind the gap,” observing the space between thoughts and experience, the awareness that comes before the thought, before judgement–vast space. In shamatha meditation, we are taught to notice the moment between breaths–not breathing in or out, but rather the space of rest between. Neutral is the moment, the space that is unattached to hope or fear.

Neutral is unbiased, neither positive or negative, center, middle, moderate, unattached, not supporting or favoring, having no color, no judgement, no side, uncommitted, calm, detached, patient, indifferent, inert, relaxed, easy, unconcerned, undisturbed, gentle, inscrutable, satisfied, serene, still, unemotional, unmoved, untroubled, equitable, and impartial.

Neutral is not being triggered by events or caught up in emotions or distracted by thoughts. Neutral is peaceful abiding, calm awareness, the acceptance of reality, what is as it is. It is non-attachment, overcoming desire, letting go and letting be.

Neutral is a concept of meditation and mindfulness, “the sacred pause” that Tara Brach speaks of in this video, this guided meditation. “It gives us a chance to come home to our hearts again.”

Three Truths and One Wish

shambhala mountain center book and gift shop

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now. ~Chinese Proverb

1. Truth: I am a writer. This has been the precious secret I have carried and kept for the past 38 years. As I say on my Artist Jill about page, “For so long, I kept this a secret, locked in a box in the very, very center of my heart. It was a tiny bird that I fed lovingly, kept it warm holding it close, tight in my hands, whispering all my secrets to it, but utterly unable to let it fly.”

The retreat this weekend allowed me to claim this, my self as a writer, step into it fully, embody it. It was my moment to take my seat, make a vow, devote myself. At Shambhala Mountain Center with Susan Piver is the most sacred and holy way I could do so, in a weekend filled with bravery, open hearts, meditation and writing practice. I will forever think of my writing life in terms of before this retreat and after.

me in an aspen grove on the way to the stupa

When Susan looked me in the eye and said such open-hearted, kind things about my writing, when I got feedback from my accomplices there, when I made a room full of people cry with the raw honesty of my words–I felt a confidence about my writing that has been a long time coming. I felt peace, clarity, stillness, and was able to take risks, without hesitation. I was able to see the totality of this practice–that at first, alone with the words and space, I notice things, understand, explore my curiosity, and experience basic goodness, and then when I share my writing, dedicate the merit, offer the finished pieces in the hope it might benefit others, I serve, and somehow, even if in only a small way, there is less suffering in the world.

my feet on the floor of the great stupa of dharmakaya

2. Truth: I don’t need permission. For a long time, I waited for this. I thought I had to be granted the right to write, or that I had to earn it, prove myself, gain credentials or pass some entrance exam, pay a fee, apply for a passport to be able to live a writing life. What I realize now is I don’t need the go ahead, nod, nudge, okay from any external source. I simply need to be who I already am, to manifest what is already there, whole and unbroken. I didn’t have to change at all, just step into, sink into what was there already, has always been there, or rather what has always been here.

heart-shaped moss in front of shambhala lodge

3. Truth: All I had to do was start. Eric told me yesterday, “you’ve done more writing since starting your blog than you have in years.” He’s right, and all I did differently than before is to start. There is no magic, no complicated series of steps. Instead of waiting for something to happen, all I had to do was happen. Begin right where I was, write before I was ready. “Waiting is the fear, starting is the fearlessness, ” (Susan Piver). All I had to do was relax, soften, and begin–one breath at a time, one word at a time, open my heart and meet reality, what is, as it is, right where I stood.

One wish: Whatever you are waiting for, wishing for, that you can let go of the waiting and the fear, let go of whatever obstacle you have placed in your own way and begin. That you realize you are already whole, already good. You are precious, just as you are, brilliant. Don’t hesitate to let your light shine, dear reader. You have no idea who you’ll help out of the dark, and in the meantime, you’ll be lighting your own way.

Cheer up. It’s okay. You’re perfect.