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Gaining Inner Strength: Learning to Choose

by Diana Autumn

My Relationship with Myself

In choosing Cafh, I had made a significant choice in my life. It was a choice that would give my life a direction and a reason for being. Cafh had given me a path, but it was up to me to walk it. I had to back up this choice continuously and strengthen it by choices I made every day. I knew what I wanted, for I had freely chosen it. But it was the daily choices that took strength and attention. Little by little, choice by choice, I was to develop the self-discipline needed.

Cafh has offered me many tools to help me make choices that are in harmony with my life goal. One of the most essential tools for me, for over 30 years, has been the Meditation Exercise. I was drawn to it and eagerly learned how to do it, but to do it regularly was another challenge. My mind and body seemed to work together to sabotage my efforts. What I experienced first were not insights and peace, but the need to control the "wild horses" of my body and mind.

Let me tell you a little bit about how I finally let myself into the meditation, instead of fighting it! First, my friend the body had to be put into service. The body was so used to finding the most comfortable position and moving around as it liked that to have to sit straight and still for 15 minutes seemed as hard as running a marathon. First it was all out rebellion: an undeniable need to go to the bathroom, a pain so intense that it demanded attention, or a persistent itch. This daily effort showed me how staying still was demanding for my undisciplined body, because it was used to doing what it found most comfortable.

Moreover, I found that a restless body was just the most visible aspect of my very restless mind. No sooner had I begun to discipline my body by constantly reining in its movements and demands than I got a glimpse of what was going on inside my mind. The torrent of thought that I had previously accepted as "business as usual" suddenly appeared to me to be almost chaotic. What had happened? Was I getting worse, or had I just started to notice? And worse yet, my mind was always coming up with perfectly logical reasons for doing something other than meditate. I could write a book about all my excuses, rationalizations and procrastination-I became an expert!!

For me then, the very first step in doing the meditation exercise was simply to sit, to make that 15 minutes available and then do it. Every time I was able to carry this out and begin to focus my mind, I became stronger. The progress has always been imperceptible, but there came a time when the 15 minutes of meditation was a routine, and then a half hour became the norm. Slowly, I was developing the discipline I needed to do what I really wanted to do. That felt (and still feels) like a really great accomplishment!

After I had let my higher self take charge of the mind each morning so that I could sit to meditate, I had to face my habitual thoughts. I discovered they were actually not usually chaotic, but just scattered and without focus. Out walking one morning at sunrise, I saw a good image of my undisciplined thought. In the sky was a flock of crows rising up from their night's roost and making their way to their morning feeding grounds. Cawing and flapping their wings, they appeared to be a disjointed, bickering and complaining group heading in a general direction. Then high above them I saw migrating geese flying in formation, disciplined and centered on their purpose. I could see the focus and efficiency of their V formation. Each bird was in its position, part of a unified effort to go in a determined direction. This was the focus and efficiency I wanted for my thoughts.

Each morning my meditation gave me practice in focusing my thoughts. The next step was to take this focus to my daily life. I found I was starting to pay attention to my habitual thoughts and be aware of what I was thinking, instead of just allowing my mind to run on auto-pilot. While in this unconscious mode, my thoughts were akin to the bickering and cranky flock of crows: scattered and unfocused. I was starting to reassert that I was the one in charge.

To become aware of my habitual thoughts, I engaged in a practice called "stopping." At intervals throughout the day, I would mentally stop and take a "snapshot" of what I was thinking. Putting these snapshots together gave me an idea of what I was habitually thinking. It was a dismal picture and a rude awakening to see how I was using my mental energy. I realized there was a certain force and vibration in my thoughts that were not very uplifting. I needed to do something. I was not only wasting my own energy, but I was adversely affecting the environment. Some of my habitual thoughts were like hazardous waste: leaching into the atmosphere around me.

One pattern of thinking that I continuously observed was complaining. Before taking notice, I hadn't realized how pervasive this habit was. Now I could see that very little suited me and I had plenty of ideas about how things could be different. When encountering a few inconveniences, my mind would generate complaints, always looking for someone or something else to blame other than myself. No cereal for breakfast? Someone else should do something about this. Economic problems? Look how others behave. Aches, pains and the discomforts of just living were also a rich source of dissatisfaction, at least when I was in that habitual mode of thinking.

In truth, I realized that things weren't that bad, and I really wasn't that dissatisfied. I was just used to complaining. I needed to continue working on disciplining my mind. I needed to silence my habitual thoughts of complaining and focus my thoughts on what I chose. This would take time and discipline, requiring of me strength of purpose. I had to truly believe that this effort would make a difference. With this conviction I was ready to wage the battles I needed to in order to tame my unruly mind. I didn't want to ignore all concerns, but I had to distinguish between what was a genuine concern and what was a complaint. When I became aware of a complaint surfacing, I worked on replacing it with a more positive thought.

It would have been easier to give up. But I thought it was important. Why be ruled by my unruly mind? I had been introduced to the inner frontier of my mind and feelings and was learning to focus their forces in a direction I had consciously chosen. As I continued to practice, I gained strength, the strength I needed to take on some more entrenched patterns of thought and feeling. I realized I was engaged in a process. I couldn't expect to get there all at once, or that there would ever be an end to my efforts. But the journey had begun, and as I went about my daily life, becoming aware of my thoughts, I was getting ready to meet more formidable challenges.

If you would like an introduction to the exercise of the Discursive Meditation, what follows is my experience with the technique. Happy meditating!

The Discursive Meditation

The Discursive Meditation is a conversation with the highest self. Often when we are searching for an answer to a question, we know the answer. However, we are unable to access that answer because we limit ourselves to conventional answers and to ways in which we are conditioned to respond. If we can take the time to quiet our minds, in this stillness we will be able to access our highest self, which perhaps will have the answer we are looking for.

The Discursive Meditation exercise is 15 minutes and consists of three 5-minute steps. It helps to find a quiet spot and a regular time in which to do it. Sit with your back straight, feet on the floor, and your hands folded on your lap.

The first step is called the Invocation. In the Invocation we invoke the Divine within and humbly ask for help. Just presenting a frustration, a shortcoming, or a doubt in simple terms can be helpful. We need to be honest with ourselves about what the question really is. We need to empty ourselves of any answers that easily appear in our minds. The recognition that we need help becomes apparent as we remain in the Invocation.

In the second step, called Waiting, we wait for a response in silence. This gives us the opportunity to observe the movements of our mind. Instead of following the thoughts, we just observe them and let them go. One thought is usually followed by another, so we let them go one after the other.

The answer comes in the final step, called Response. In this step, the Divine speaks to us. Perhaps we get an answer that we knew we knew, but were unable to retrieve from our habitual thoughts and responses. Other times we receive an answer we did not realize we knew, and it feels like it came from a deep, Divine source.

The Discursive Meditation exercise ends by saying, "Peace."

For an example of a Discursive Meditation exercise, click here

Other articles in the series "The Peace of a Meaningful Life" by Diana Autumn are