Exploring how Silence and the Contemplative Way infuse into our ordinary everyday active lives, how Awareness manifests itself, and how we respond to the call to surrender to the divinity within.

Monday, 29 December 2014

Polarity - Centredness and Collywobbles

Contemplation recommended for severe cases.

I have been having a mild to moderate dose of the Collywobbles over the past week or so! This is a combination of many factors including Christmas joy, overindulging, social gatherings, lack of routine, little or no precious quiet time, and the ongoing internal noise which flares up from time to time and becomes a little louder. I am looking forward to a reprieve over the next few hopefully uneventful, unplanned days. Guilty at times of swinging from being slightly slothful to overactive, the longing to return to a sense of balance and centredness is very strong.

So what gives us the collywobbles? Loneliness or too much company, feeling under or over-confident, misunderstanding others or being misunderstood, hunger or overindulging, planning ahead expectantly or with dread, being too busy or being a sloth, being too externalised or too self-absorbed, being a fun-addict or being too serious. All these polarities swing from one extreme to the other, and we usually experience both ends at some stage. Collywobbles also come about by worrying about the future, difficulties in relationships, financial strains, starting a new job or a new project, going on a trip, hosting and entertaining, stepping out to perform on-stage, doing an exam, weddings and funerals, birthdays and anniversaries, having a holiday, and basically anything that brings you out of your normal routine. Collywobbles also arise unexpectedly, and perhaps cause a deeper feeling of crisis, when life itself initiates uninvited change through job losses, relationship break-ups, bereavements, illnesses, accidents, or other significant life events.

It happens to all of us. We can become nervous, anxious, angry, resentful, demanding, controlling, silent, defeatist, clingy, despairing, or just have a million thoughts buzzing around in our heads. We can even get headaches, bodyaches, and an urge to withdraw or crawl under the covers for a few hours. How do we return to a state of balance in spite of being collywobbled?

It's really important to know where or what helps you to become centred. For me, I seem to find quiet time alone, writing, reading inspiring material, and being in nature to be natural antidotes to the Collywobbles, and where my Spirit finds rest. I also practice Meditation, T'ai Chi and Qi Gong, though I am guilty at times of foregoing these reliable practices when life speeds up or becomes very challenging and demanding. Isn't it amazing how we can neglect the very practices which are especially beneficial at such demanding times, favouring instead to revert to the old habitual patterns of worry, anxiety, mentally figuring it all out, or whatever our preferred brand of "fixing the situation" involves.

Meditation (e.g. Mindfulness, Loving Kindness, and Centering Prayer taught by Fr. Thomas Keating) and meditative movement such as Qi Gong, T'ai Chi, Yoga, Aikido and Dance, really help to ground us, to lift and change our energy. We get out of our heads. For some, going for a long walk, sitting by the sea, engaging in a favourite hobby or activity, playing/listening to music, sharing your heart with a good friend or family member, or enjoying a lovely meal with people you feel comfortable with, all act as centering activities. Everyone feels natural in some environment.

Having the Collywobbles brings with it an insatiable need to understand what caused them and above all, to fix them and return to being centred at all costs. This urgency can make us prematurely judge others as being to blame for our discomfort. We replay conversations in our heads, we imagine outcomes hoped for in the future, we think back over past errors and difficulties. We are not here.

Contemplation tells us that all of this activity is related to our external self, as Thomas Merton called it. It reminds us of the wisdom that this activity does not impact our inner Self. It reminds us also that whatever is presenting to us is ultimately desiring freedom, rest and balance. Contemplation pulls us back into the realisation that there is divine Presence in all and every circumstance, and our lives are divinely led.

Do not rush yourself out of the Collywobbles. They too carry untold wisdom. In them, we find our limits and our weak points in our external self, and in the external world. They humble us to know we are very little. Their intensity arises a prayer within us seeking to relax back into our true and inner Self. They open the door to inner surrender. They make us stop. The very nature of the external world is restlessness and change, and if unexamined, can busy us compulsively.

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart!
I have overcome the world
John 16:33.

Each new dose of Collywobbles reminds me that I have become over-engaged with the external world to the detriment of my real Self. I need to turn inwards to Contemplation. For me, Contemplative practice is like an anchor - the anchor of home, right here in this moment. In terms of the Collywobbles, this anchor might simply be to Allow them. Anchoring might look like this:

Notice you have a dose of the Collywobbles/Anxiety/Anger/Grief/External focus.
Realise you are in a bit of a mental spin. Let this awareness really sink in. Investigate it. Interview it.
Come into a place of somehow allowing the Collywobbles.
Come into your body. Follow your breath and connect physically or energetically with your belly.
This is what is present, for now. This is allowing the reality of now.
Let Presence also be present.

Allowing the Collywobbles, opens more space around them, calms your mental energy, and strengthens the objective Observer capacity within you. This is one of the main trainings in Mindfulness. Once you practice taking a step back from the intensity of the content of the Collywobbles, you can see them more like mental or energetic knots. The act of allowing them, or even very reluctantly admitting their presence, begins to unravel the knots and allows the containment to free up. We do not even need to know what it's all about, only that we feel knotted up, and we are admitting to that. Allowing the reality of the current moment to be as it is, turns our focus from the external to the internal, and we become receptive to Presence, and pave the way for any wisdom or insights. This contemplative practice of anchoring, allowing, and becoming aware of Presence becomes an ongoing meditation practice. It brings us back to our centre.

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” 
Lao Tzu

Apart from the Collywobbles causing at times some very intense mental and emotional discomfort, in the contemplative tradition, contradictions and situations in flux are natural. They present opportunities which challenge us to surrender to divinity even deeper places within us which distract us, or keep our focus away from our true nature. It is the dying off of the old parts of us, of our external habits and of the places we go in crisis. More and more, we may find ourselves in situations which are as yet incomplete, in progress, or unresolved. Contemplative experiences cultivate tolerance for these in-between times and spaces, encouraging us to persevere and be patient until a situation becomes resolved, or we finally know what is the next action required of us. Somehow, this too is allowed. Polarities are never who you really are. They arise. They pass. The true inner Self is centred. Contemplation pulls us inward to recognise the constancy of God's gentle unravelling of us into our true nature.

My Kingdom is not of this world.
John 18.36

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