On a recent stormy day, I sat to meditate, and felt the warmth, safety, and relative calm that my home provided. It occurred to me that, on one level, each time we meditate, we are cultivating calm in the midst of a storm.
There are two types of storm states. Some storminess may be associated with outer conditions, such as the behavior of people around us, or particular situations that may be challenging, difficult or even dangerous. Some of these outer storms are mildly ruffling, while others can feel as if they are going to blow us over.
Then there are the storms associated with inner conditions that manifest as various forms of greed, hatred, and delusion within our own being. These too range from mild disturbances to raging mind and heart states that completely take over our ecosystem.
Like storminess, calmness also comes in two main types. One is the calm of a heart and mind that is settled, and unified around a particular object. This calm is known as samadhi. Samadhi provides a temporary shelter from storms that we all experience in our daily lives.
We use the quiet and stillness of formal meditation practice to cultivate this type of calm in the heart and mind. To the degree that samadhi has been developed, we’ll be able to access it, to some degree, depending on the intensity of inner and outer conditions, and use it to support steadiness of the body and mind when needed. This type of calm prevents us from being blown away by the inner and outer storms of life.
And yet, we are not always able to control inner or outer conditions. Storms arise without warning due to conditions that can’t be fully known. We can’t always rely on the calm of samadhi to protect us. In this circumstance, keeping enough distance from the storm is the preferred approach.
For this, we need the calm or steadiness of mindfulness and equanimity. Mindfulness allows us to clearly know what is happening, and to maintain an even heart and mind in relation to it. In this way, we will not be overwhelmed by any storm, and may stay connected with it so as to be fully present in the experience and potentially supportive to others and the situation at hand.
None of us can prevent the normal and abnormal storms that occur in daily life. Whether the storms are generated by external conditions like wind, rain, and snow, or internal conditions within ourselves or members of our community, buoyed by both calm samadhi and mindfulness, we can learn to relate to these storms with wisdom and compassion.
With calm and mindfulness as allies, skillful action may be taken to meet the storms of life, either by fully engaging with the situation and others that are in it, or by being very still and letting the storm blow itself out.
- Chas DiCapua, January 2021