For those of you who read my last newsletter (and even more for those of you who joined me on my quest), you know that I’ve been dedicating the month of August to meditation.
I’ve had a solid asana practice for years. And while I love it, I find that I get much more out of meditation… That is, when I actually do it.
And doing it is hard.
It’s not like asana. It’s not like hey move here, do this, where there’s a lot going on and to think about, with your alignment and your transitions and your breath and everything else. It’s so jam-packed that to get in an extra thought is ridiculous, so it’s fairly easy to clear my mind then.
But sitting down? Still? With no alignment to think about or transitions or where I’m going next or how to make sure I don’t slap the person next to me with my hand during our sun salutes?
Yes, it’s much harder.
I’ve meditated on and off for years, just brushing the surface, mostly. I’ve had a few intense experiences that were mostly brought on by luck, after a large wave of emotion has passed through me and I was able to see the clearing through the brush. It’s these little flashes of inspiration that I’ve been trying to work back towards, being able to find them not only when they decide to find me, but also when I’m searching for them.
But of course it doesn’t work like that. It strikes you when it wants to strike you, regardless, but the more you practice, the more likely it is that it will happen. Right? That’s what I tell myself.
For me, mostly, it’s an exercise in patience. I am not the world’s most patient person. I remember my mom telling me once, when I was a kid, to be patient. Her explanation was that no one actually FELT patient, but it was the actions themselves that made you patient, not the feeling inside.
I held to that notion for a very long time.
My life motto became, “Fake it till you make it,” and I did. I faked every emotion. My happiness was fake, my enthusiasm, my chipperness, my friendliness, my patience – inside I was a mess, and angry, and brimming with fear, but I figured this was how everyone was. Again, it was the actions themselves that were important, not the feelings.
I’ve sense learned how asinine this is. People can be patient, in fact. Not everyone is walking around with rage brimming beneath their smile. Some people are actually, genuinely happy. Some people are actually, genuinely relaxed.
So this is what yoga has taught me. How to find that happiness and relaxation and make it genuine; how to use my breath to calm myself down when I’m feeling impatient.
It doesn’t mean I do it always, or that I have full control over it.
No, that’s why I’m practicing meditation.
Meditation is an art of patience. It’s a practice to go, and sit, and wait, to clear your mind, and sit, and wait, to clear it again, and sit, and wait, and maybe something will happen and maybe it won’t. But the important thing isn’t really that it happens, the important thing is that you stay. That you cultivate patience. That you find stillness and learn to relax into it.
It’s what we really need, in this go-go culture of ours.
With our new puppy, especially, my patience needs a good old kick in the keester to help me get through training stages. Even just yesterday, at puppy class, Mookie wasn’t listening because we were outside, and there were cats and cars and other dogs and we were supposed to be loose leash walking but he wouldn’t even look at us, much less stop biting his leash. I felt that frustration boiling over. I felt the heat and the anger inside me – my lack of patience.
So this is why I sit.
This is why I practice.
This week, whether you’re doing my meditation challenge or not, ask yourself:
- How is my patience?
- Do I feel relaxed and genuinely happy, or is it a show?
- If so, what actions can I take to turn it around? Meditation? Therapy? Yoga?
Remember that sometimes, it gets worse before it gets better. Just even yesterday, as I explored an emotion locked tightly away in my chest, I felt that rush again of anxiety as I struggled to find out the source.
Remember the impermanence. That it does go away. That the only way out is through.
And if you’re joining me on my meditation challenge, let me know how it’s going! I’m at day 9 of consecutive meditations – my longest ever streak – and I’m feeling excited about it!