Jon and I have been writing to you all for about a year now. We agreed with each other early on to show up each week for whoever stopped in. Some weeks one of us has to email the other to check up on a “late” post, based on our deadline of Tuesday morning. You can see, for instance, that this week I’m running late. Yes, the world has continued rotating on its axis. Still, I don’t like being late, mostly because I made a commitment to show up.
There’s a basic instruction that I’ve been re-iterating over this past year, in different ways, via different forms, possibly until you’ve gone blue in the face. This week, let’s cut to the chase and boil it down to two words: Show Up.
Show Up is about commitment, and it’s about following through. It’s a simple thing. You determine to keep your eyes clear and your heart open to what’s actually happening right now in this place. And you just do it and do it and do it.
An important part of basic training in meditation is learning how to Show Up, and how to do it well. Interestingly, the tricky element of this involves learning how to accomplish a great big ol’ bunch of NOT Doing. This you must paradoxically begin one step prior to Not Doing, simply by discovering the many, many things you usually do other than Show Up. This can be a rocky road. It requires a huge heart of self-compassion to Show Up to your very current and human self, in order to see your own habitual snarky retorts, habitual puffed up or self-denigrating reactions, your habitual recoiling from the messes you don’t enjoy and your running off toward some habitual escape mechanism or other. Usually we’re very busy seeing how everyone else does these things, which is much easier than observing the same thing in ourselves. Seeing your own habit of focusing on others’ faults is another major part of learning to Show Up.
To put it simply, a proper start is to Show Up to all the ways that you yourself avoid Showing Up.
Just committing to Show Up in this way begins a beautiful alchemical process by which you begin to Show Up more and more, and you naturally start to do less and less of the old not-Showing Up-type activities. Critically Important: You don’t try to stop these thoughts or behaviors; that would be getting ahead of yourself and it’s actually a big step backwards in the Showing Up game. So you don’t try to stop doing anything, you just keep Showing Up. For instance, in a situation of frustration, you might have some old habitual thoughts of escaping or blaming, but you start to notice them in this new way, to really Show Up to seeing this kind of reaction as it is, maybe even feeling like you’re observing someone you’re truly seeing for the first time. Soon enough you start to notice that although these types of thoughts and reactions are still happening, you’re not acting on them. You do nothing instead, and simply show up to the habitual reaction itself. Now you really get to see habit for what it is. You may notice an insane argument against unchangeable historical facts arising in your mind. You might feel words of blame, derision, or self-recrimination rising up to your tongue. You’ll notice a lot of uncomfortable body sensations, like muscle tension or heat. And you do nothing. You just stay with Show Up. You let the internal insanity run its course. And then, something, something brand new, just appears. This is where it gets really interesting.
Having a solid meditation practice where you sit still on a cushion or a chair for a while each day is invaluable for this whole process. I’ll tell you why: if you don’t stop and Show Up, it’s really difficult to see any of this in the first place, and if you don’t give yourself time to do nothing, that moment of the brand new just flies by without your being able to catch onto it, and you find yourself falling back to the old stand-by habitual reactions. This stuff is all flying by so fast, it’s a lost cause unless you agree, you really commit, to slowing down enough so you can actually learn to Show Up.
I could simply say, Show Up, and if you were to follow that precisely and wholeheartedly, then literally, the rest will take care of itself. So I will.