I hold an open meditation (for anyone who wants to come) on Wed. and Sunday mornings. My office is in a very old building…the ceiling leaks at times, the heat is unpredictable, the entire building shakes when the train goes by twice a day, the firehouse (which is a two buildings down) blows the noon whistle, which is so loud that if someone is talking with me, they have to pause because I cannot hear them…I love my office anyway….it is like a comfortable and comforting old sweater.
I always come in at least 1/2 hr before the meditation to turn up the heat, but yesterday, as I opened my office door, I was met with a very warm room. This happens sometimes…for no apparent reason and just as unpredictably it cools off. The meditation started at 9:30 and it still felt boiling hot …
When I have a fearful, anxious thought, I get a surge of heat running through me. There must be a biological reason for this…maybe it is part of the fight or flight thing…we get all heated up so we can escape?…anyway, I sat (silently, hands on lap, eyes closed in what appeared to be a very peaceful posture) and thought, “Everyone here must be really hot too. What should I do…this is terrible. Should I open a window? Go downstairs to the Coop and see if they can turn down the heat?”…I felt hotter. Then I thought, “Maybe it’s just me having a hot flash.” I felt even hotter and more agitated.
Suddenly it occurred to me that while I couldn’t change the heat in that moment, I could change my mind. I said to myself, “Just imagine it being 65 degrees. See if you can cool yourself off.” I tried… my mind raced back, “No! It is too hot in here. People are suffering! Do something!”…then back to, “it is 65 degree and I am cool”…within a few minutes, I started to cool down. By the end of the meditation, I was warm but comfortable and no one had fainted. I felt calm and peaceful.
Our minds tend to blow things so far out of proportion…tell us that everything is a crisis that must be dealt with NOW! I can corral those crazy thoughts that race around like wild little monkeys trying to get my attention. It is not always easy. …it is a discipline. But what a gift to start to grasp. It may be impossible, in the moment, to change outside circumstances but my inner life, my attitude and my thoughts are always my responsibility…..and always mine to change. One of the great books is Viktor Frankl’s, “Man’s Search for Meaning.” I used to carry it with me. He lived through the unthinkable but wrote these words;
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”