Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Fourth Constant

Everyone has heard the expression that the only two constants in life are death and taxes.  They're the only two things you can always, always, always be sure to count on.  The older you get, the more you also hear the little pearl of wisdom that change is the only constant in life.  People usually tell you this when you feel you're at the 'end of an era,' like the end of college or a relationship.

Those three things are pretty well embedded into our consciousness, I think, so much so that they're cliche.  I think there's one more constant (at least - anyone else think of any?) that often gets overlooked.

You always have yourself.

It's so unbelievably simple (and potentially hokey sounding) so it makes sense that we take it for granted.

I have so many friends and family right now that are going through huge life changes - getting married, getting engaged, breaking up, moving in, having babies, having parents divorce and remarry, losing family members - every single friend of mine that I can think of is going through or has gone through one of these staggering life changes over the last year or so.  Change is such an unbelievable constant in our lives that it's easy to get swept up in those external changes in circumstance and forget about the other side of the coin.  No matter what happens in your life, you're alone in the beginning, you're alone in the end, and you always have yourself through the crazy middle.

A lot of people might find it morbid or depressing - the total aloneness of birth and death - but it can (and I think should) be comforting and empowering.  It doesn't mean that you don't open yourself up to love or that you don't ever get married, but it just means you should never take yourself for granted as a source of comfort, strength, and love.

This is one of the main reasons why a mediation practice is so powerful.  I don't even mean a seated-in-lotus meditation necessarily - any kind of communal time with yourself is so important and powerful.  Any activity where you're alone and you're in that space that's somewhere between zoning out and finding that elusive quiet, present, focused mind, whether it be yoga, running, knitting, swimming, journaling, even walking to the subway or doing the dishes.  However lofty or mundane, those moments of quiet and self communion are so precious because whether we realize it or not, we're connecting more deeply with ourself.

I'm about to experience this on a very small scale.  For the last three Sundays, Marc has been my faithful running partner.  With his help, 7 and 8 miles felt like a normal day's run, and this past Sunday's 10K felt like a breeze.  It was the farthest he had ever run before, and I shattered my previous 10K record from 2008 by 15 minutes.  Running with Marc, we pace each other, talk to each other, encourage each other, inspire each other, and basically make running easy and enjoyable.

This coming Sunday, however, he'll be working when I tackle my longest distance yet - 9 miles.  I'll be going it totally alone, and I'm extremely nervous that I won't be able to do it.  I tried to help encourage myself this morning by running my 4 miles without a podcast or music (or Marc, who was working).  It went really well and I found myself thinking about all of this (running is the best blogging brainstorm) and how I so often doubt that I'll be okay on my own at something where I've decided I need a security blanket or someone to hold my hand.  We disempower ourselves so quickly and so easily, and it's amazing how quickly we declare ourselves to be dependent on someone or something outside of ourselves.

It's all an illusion.  I can run 9 miles by myself.  People survive breakups.  Young parents survive new parenthood.  We live on after our loved ones pass away.  Meditation in any form makes it so much easier to always know you can count on yourself as your ultimate rock and support.

There's a quote from a book I've talked about a lot in this blog, The Joy of Living, that sums up much more eloquently and succinctly the point I'm trying to make:

"The only difference between meditation and social interaction is that the friend you're gradually coming to know is yourself."

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