Guest post originally written for BayArt.Org
I recently started going to a meditation group. Having attended an 8-week Mindfulness Course in the past, and then subsequently sought out a weekly Mindful Yoga group at my local Buddhist Centre, I knew that these activities had the potential to have me floating around in the world (at least for an afternoon) in a serene, compassionate and appreciative state. I was very disappointed when my Mindful Yoga class was discontinued, as I knew it did me good. And, at a time when I was recovering from depression, it was helpful to have this positive space in my week that I felt motivated enough to get out from under the blanket for.
So recently, when I discovered that a new community meditation centre was opening in my town, and it wouldn’t cost me the earth to attend, and I had a friend who had already been and confirmed it wasn’t scary, I decided I would take myself along and see if I could recapture those calming and restorative feelings that Mindful Yoga had inspired in me.
The first session went well. I was totally ‘In The Zone’, and came away feeling calm and grateful and better than when I arrived. The following three weeks were not quite so successful. The second week I was feeling tense about a particular situation – a person in my life who I can’t quite fathom. Though I really do like this person, they can veer wildly between delightful, warm, antagonistic and spiky – I never know what I’m going to get. This uncertainty and wrong-footedness instills in me no small measure of stress. But then I roundly berate myself for feeling this way about someone I have a lot of time for. Me being me, I always blame myself for any negative feelings I come away with after spending time with them.
On week three of my meditation group, I woke thinking:
“Oh it is meditation day. That’s good, hopefully that will make me feel better about this situation that I am stressed about. Hold on a minute, this is the same set of issues I was stressed about this time last week? And it is all related to this same person? This is clearly bad for my peace of mind. Perhaps I need to remove this tension from my life?”
I went to my meditation session, and my worry about these negative feelings, coupled with two cups of strong coffee beforehand, manifested in a very distracted, fidgety and unsatisfactory meditation experience. I described it to the session leader that day as trying to wrestle with an over-excited puppy (to which, needless to say, you’d be well advised never to give caffeine).
And then there was the next week. As I woke, before heading out to my meditation session, I once again thought:
“Hmmm, interesting. Again this week, the topic in the forefront of my mind is this same person, this same awkward scenario that I seem unable to resolve, this same negative influence on my daily thoughts. This really isn’t good enough. I need for this situation to change”
Deciding against drinking any caffeine before my meditation did help calming me during the session to some degree. But still this person was on my mind, as they continued to be all afternoon. Focusing intently on their influence on my day, my thoughts, my ability to successfully meditate. How was I going to change this?
This morning the answer came to me. I cannot change this person and so must find a way to deal with them in the way that they are. They are not bad people, just different to me and different in how they relate to others. The thing that needs to change is my response to them. I am giving them too much air-time in my head. And, I really should know better (what with all my mindfulness training and such). They have me feeling uptight, tense, nervous. The anticipation of how our next encounter will pan out has me on tenterhooks the whole time. How about instead I just stop focusing on it so intently? Each week, by summoning these feelings before every meditation session I am setting myself up to be distracted, stressed and disrupted.
Though this person does inspire these feelings in me, they themselves have little to no part in that response, and quite possibly much of the negative feelings are of my own invention. So, instead, I need to reduce my focus, reduce the amount of energy and angst I point toward this situation and just let it be what it is, a blip, a temporary feeling of discomfort that will pass. And in 5 years, probably 5 months, perhaps even 5 weeks will no longer be a concern in my life.
I read yesterday some words by one of my favourite inspirational writers Jeff Foster, who said:
Today, try this:
If you feel sad or afraid, or feel a tension in your body, just for a moment stop trying to “let go.” Forget about “raising your vibration” too! Instead, simply be with the discomfort. Get curious about it. Soften around it. Breathe into it. Give it space, room, some time. Forget about understanding, “releasing,” or “fixing” it today and just allow it to be here for as long as it needs to be here. Let it stay if it wants to stay. Let it go if it wants to go! Let it come back if it wants to come back. Treat it like a welcome guest in the vast Rest Home of your being, a beloved child that truly belongs.
And he has a really good point. This feeling clearly wants to be here right now within me. Instead of fighting it, berating it, trying to wrestle it to the ground, I should just let it be what it is. Let it sit there if it wants to, needs to, be curious about it but not ruled by it. The more energy I give it, the more energy it has, the bigger monster it becomes. Instead, it can sit next to me if that is where it wants to be right now, and I will just sit with it, safe in the knowledge that it is a temporary companion, who will get up and leave when ready.
It often fascinates me to witness my own thought processes develop, and then the sudden realisations – that honestly have been there all along – but just sometimes need a few words from someone else to make me think:
“Well of course! I knew that already. And rest …..”.
Thank you Jeff. As ever, an endlessly positive influence in my life :-)
Copyright © 2017 · Words & Images · Forty and Everything After