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Hey Jeff
Space is the Place
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Space is the Place

Openness as an antidote to suffering.
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This is a column called “Hey Jeff”, where I share a meditation in response to someone’s unique situation or challenge or curiosity.

In this month’s instalment, I respond to Judy’s question about openness. Below is Judy’s note, shared with permission.

Jeff


Judy: Hi Jeff. I struggle to understand what you mean when you say to be "Open". I have heard this term from other meditation teachers as well, and I don't really know what it means. Would you do a session on this topic? Thanks.

A beautiful illustration of figure-ground reversal by our friends at The Muse Collaborative

Hi Judy, great question. To help with the experience of openness, that is, what you “do” on the inside, it is easiest to share a meditation with that intention.

And … I’ll riff on it a bit too, since the subject points to the deep end of how meditation can transform us, and gives me great joy to reflect upon.

Openness (for me) is another way to talk about equanimity, which is the skill of not interfering with anything happening in our direct in-the-moment experience. 

The opposite of equanimity is you hear a loud sound, and your body tenses. Or a challenging emotion comes up, and you just don’t have the bandwidth to go there right now (understandably), so you try to quash it down, or distract yourself in some way. Or you’re having a great time with a friend, and you don’t want it to end, so you sort of hold on to the moment, dragging your feet.

Both pushing away and holding on are forms of resistance, and resistance is uncomfortable. In meditation-speak, it’s part of suffering.

Openness can be an antidote to that suffering. It’s a way to not carry the pain of the moment – or the pleasure of the moment – with us into the future. We reset to the pain or pleasure of the actual moment, and this is far more manageable than the gigantic energy suck of fighting and agonizing with things that aren’t here.

Opening means letting experience be just what it is. 

Simple, but not easy. Not easy because we often don’t notice the many subtle ways we interfere with experience. And even if we do notice them, most of us never explicitly learn how to smooth them out.

Meditation is a life-long training in exactly this. 

Over time, as we open again and again, something wild can begin to happen. Openness itself begins to increase in authority, and thoughts and feelings and even sensory input begin to decrease in authority. It’s what’s known in perceptual psychology as a figure-ground reversal. That which was once in the background is now in the foreground. So fixated were we on the content of our experience, we never noticed the open space of awareness where it was all happening. Now we notice it more and more. 

Design by our friends at The Muse Collaborative

The understanding that comes online is: I am that space. Whatever the heck else I may be, I am also the open spacious ease within which everything is coming and going. 

And … Space is the Place! Space has no problems. Space is pure acceptance. Space always accepts what’s in it – it doesn’t suddenly seize up and push out some bit of life it doesn’t like. Space can’t get scratched by a cloud, or thumped by a boot, or threatened by an angry word. Space can’t even die, no more than the space inside a building dies once the building is demolished. 

What a relief!

What then?

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Home Base with Jeff Warren
Hey Jeff
Welcome to Hey Jeff, where I make customized meditations based on your requests. I love creating meditations that respond to a particular challenge or situation, a specific opportunity or curiosity. This column is for paid subscribers only.
Authors
Jeff Warren