Thursday, November 08, 2012

Sit. Repeat.

A year ago November 1st I began meditating. Slowly at first, just 5 minutes a day, adding a minute at the 1st of the month. When I got to 10, I added 2. Now I’m “comfortably” at 20 minutes. The 1st of January I’ll revisit, maybe 20 minutes twice a day. We’ll see. It’s a lifelong practice after all.

I put comfortably in quotes because meditation is never comfortable. You sit and hope this time MAYBE, just maybe, you’ll get through it without having to scratch your nose, adjust your cushion, pull a wedgie out of your ass, make a grocery list in your head before bringing yourself back to the present with the word “thinking”.** This time maybe you’ll be in the now, even if it’s only for a few seconds.

It’s frustrating, but the rewards are great. And I’ve learned a few things. . .

1. It’s Okay.
The most important wisdom I’ve obtained is that it’s okay. It’s *ALL* okay. It’s okay to scratch your nose, it’s okay to think of all the things you could be doing instead of sitting. The idea of meditating is NOT to empty your mind, just the opposite. Allow those thoughts to come up. Glance at them objectively, without judgment, as if they were leaves in the wind. Then let them go. Bring yourself back to the present moment. Again, and again, and again. With practice, this becomes easier. Some days you’ll have piles of leaves, others just a few. There will always be leaves. And that’s okay. Your leaves are your practice.

What’s great is this “okay” realization translates directly into your life as well. It *IS* okay. It’s all okay. Who you are, right now, in this moment, is okay. It’s who and where you’re supposed to be. Start from where you are. Work from that. Because it’s your practice. As Pema Chödrön says:
“The desire to change is fundamentally a form of aggression toward yourself. Our hangups, unfortunately or fortunately, contain our wealth. Our neurosis and our wisdom are made out of the same material. If you throw out your neurosis, you also throw out your wisdom.”
2. Every Day.
For it to become easier, you must meditate every day. Every. Single. Day. Three times a week won’t work, twice a week, every other day. Nope. You’ve got to get on the cushion. You’ve got to sit. Then sit. Then sit again. Of course, if something comes up preventing you from sitting, that’s okay. Just get back to it tomorrow. Meditation is not about beating yourself up for missing a day. It’s about ALLOWING yourself to be yourself.

3. Self Acceptance.
The most profound change I’ve realized is true, deep love and respect for the person I am. Right now. Meditation slowly but surely removed that imaginary person with the clipboard I used to envision standing behind me and marking a big, red “X” every time I fell on my face. Sure I still beat myself up, but I’ve gained an awareness of self hatred when and as it happens. I’m sometimes, not always, able to recognize it, observe it for what it is without judgment, then let it go. Just like the leaves. I say sometimes because again, this is a practice. A lifelong practice.

Remember, all beliefs are just thoughts. 
And thoughts are not facts.

4. Awareness.
Meditating daily carries over into the rest of your life, becomes a part of who you are, and can affect how you observe and interact with the world. This is major because eventually, it’s like you’re meditating while walking around. Sometimes :)

Let me explain. During meditation your thoughts bubble up, swirl around like leaves. You allow it, observe it, then let it go, bringing your mind back to the now. You can do this in your life as well.

For example, I’ve found myself angry in traffic and sometimes now I’m able to catch it. I stop, observe, “Wow, you’re really pissed. What’s that about?” I allow the anger to bubble up in all its ferocity. I feel it, really feel it. Feel how sucky it makes my body and mind. Then I breathe it out, letting it dissipate. Where before I would just blindly feel rage before covering it up with either a cigarette, a loud catchy song on the radio, or a trip to Starbucks, or maybe a drink when I got home, now I’m able, sometimes, to actually feel emotions flow through me. I’m not holding onto anything.

I’m groundless and it feels great. Like those dreams where you fly. It never lasts for very long, but when it does I feel like I can conquer anything. Meditation has opened me up so rather than stuffing feelings down blindly, I can sometimes (not always) allow them to just flow through.

Again, I say sometimes because like life meditation is a PRACTICE. If you rage and head for a double cinnamon dolce, it’s okay. Because maybe next time you’ll be more aware. Every single minute you are is a victory. But if you don’t, that’s not defeat. Just another opportunity to practice.

5. Slow Down The Car.
Meditation awakens you to positive, joyful moments as well. Where before I might inhale a piece of cake, now, SOMETIMES, I’m really awake to how it tastes. I savor the moment rather than living in fast forward.

Most of my life has been spent in fast forward: what will I do this weekend; where will we spend the holidays; where do I see myself in five years; what do you want for your birthday; where should we go on vacation? Always looking ahead so you’re blind to what’s in front of you.

Meditation can’t slow down time, but it has slowed my sense of time. It’s made me more aware of the now. This moment. Right now. I’m typing these words, right now, and hopefully, you’re reading them. Not to get too “Cosmos” on your ass, but that’s all we have. The right now. Meditation, sitting, has helped me to appreciate the precious gift of that.

6. Warriors Come Out and Play.
You’d think with a year of meditating under my belt I’d be this free and easy floaty hippy guru. Nope. Here’s the hard truth: meditation isn’t easy. It’s built for true spiritual warriors, beings with the courage to tackle all the shit from their past they’ve been previously too fearful, unwilling, or unable to face.

Of course every person’s life journey is different, but for me, meditation brought up a ton of crap I’d been ignoring. I’d been stuffing memories, feelings, raw emotions, so far down into myself for so long. By just sitting and getting quiet, after a while my psyche realized it was okay to open that door, release that seal, turn that key. All these horrible feelings decided it would finally be okay to unravel themselves and come to the surface. Like a space bag with the vacuum released. Or a stuffed closet that someone opens by mistake. A real shitstorm.

At first, there were a few weeks of calm, but then the real work began. All that old stuff came up and I had to feel it all over again before letting it go. And it really sucked. I had nightmares. I got physically sick. Some nights it felt like the flu, vomiting up all these old feelings and memories I’d buried. I cried some nights and some nights punched the cushion I was so pissed off. It totally, completely, sucked. I wanted to give up, and did for a few nights. But I always came back. Because in the end, feeling emotions FEELS better than stuffing them. It really does. If you have the balls to do it.

Again, meditation is not about changing who you are, but about becoming more awake to ALL life’s experiences big or small, positive or negative. It’s about being able to face and handle all of life with a peaceful smile and a warm heart.

I sit here 1 year later profoundly changed. I’m still the same person, but I see things differently. What I know is no matter what, I will continue to sit. For a very long time. Every day. No matter what. Namaste.

**  There are many methods of meditation. I used Pema Chödrön’s, When Things Fall Apart. Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn is another great resource.

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