21 Mar Spring Awakening
This is a mantra that I have been repeating each morning and evening this week. I’m on week three of the ten week “Presence Process” as outlined in Michael Brown’s book of the same name. I have been meditating in different ways for the past two years so I was somewhat prepared to engage in this practice in a robust way, and though I have not been as focused or as committed as I had hoped, the results have been fairly profound. I just happened to have start the process right when spring was rearing it’s early head and all last week as I focused on my mantra, the meadow behind my house came alive with budding trees and plants.
When I spend time in the meadow I think of it as a meditation on being present and aware. I try to see the plants and insects from new perspectives each day. Every few weeks I begin to think that I will run out of things to shoot, especially during the winter when everything dies off, and then I always find something I haven’t noticed, or I am able to make an image out of something I have been trying to capture. Sometimes the light ends up being just right. For years I have been intrigued by this dead tree. Finally on a cloudy morning last week the light was right.
I first heard about the presence process from Dr. John Sklar. He studied with Dr. Sarno and reached out to me during our kickstarter campaign last year, offering to help us with our film. In our first conversation he stressed how important it was to him that our exploration of mind body issues also touch on the spiritual aspect of healing. Having been on the journey to make the film for over a decade I understood what he was talking about. In fact I had just gotten back from a trip to St. Louis to film with Prince Ea who focuses on the spiritual as he talks a lot about the relationship between stress and the way in which we approach the world.
It was a few months later Dr. Sklar suggested that I get “The Presence Process”. I meant to do it, but it fell through the cracks. Then when my flight to see Dr. Sklar was cancelled he once again suggested the book so I ordered it. I have been very busy so it sat on my desk for a while. Finally I picked it up on the way out the door for another trip. The author, Michael Brown, makes it clear that the book is written with the intent of reaching the unconscious mind even more than the conscious intellect. For this reason it’s a bit difficult to focus on. However, I was able to read the first half of the book while on a plane. This gave me the time to really focus on it. When I got home from my trip I resolved to start the process.
While on the trip I picked up a cough so I was a bit under the weather but pressed forward with the mediation practice anyway. I also decided to combine it with a round of the master cleanse. That night the illness kicked in and I had a heavy fever and a migraine. Thankfully I quickly realized that I had fallen into one of my patterns of pushing myself beyond my comfort zone in an unhealthy way and after a day and a half I let the cleanse fall to the wayside. However, I was quite ill for the first five days, which made it extra difficult to focus. The mantra that week was, “I choose to experience this moment”. I did what I could to stay focused on my breath as I silently repeated the mantra. As usual I was barraged with other thoughts but I did what I could to observe them rather than embrace them, and on most days I was able to follow my breath and the mantra by the end of the 15 minute session.
The book takes the position that we have an inner presence that exists beyond the realm of our social conditioning as well as the learned -and inherited- patterns of behavior that define our lives. The author explains that the ten week presence process is designed to help us to connect with this presence and disengage from the negative patterns of our lives that keep us trapped in time. While week one works towards helping us to be more present, and less confined by thoughts of the past the future, week two is geared towards recognizing how we react to situations out of habit rather than reason. “I acknowledge my reflections in the world” is the week 2 mantra. Brown refers to those people or events that we react to unconsciously, usually in negative ways, as reflections. The week is focused on acknowledging the reactions so that we might realize that we don’t have to react unconsciously, but instead respond in a more conscious manner.
Each one week session is designed to bring us further down the path of understanding and awareness. Again, I have not been a perfect devotee of the process. However, as I worked through acknowledging my reactions to my experiences I found myself becoming much more aware of how I was reacting. While I still had reactions I was observing them more than simply reacting. By the third week when I was repeating “I respond consciously to all my experiences”, I found it to be much more accurate than it might have been three weeks earlier.