why I hated meditation

I was introduced to meditation in a way that really wasn’t appealing to me. There was this air of spiritual superiority that really made the whole thing seem so. freaking. hypocritical. and the constant lecturing of meditating would make you a more acceptable human being, like me, see?

I had literally dozens of those influences, and most of the cool people who meditated were pretty quiet about it so I didn’t even know.

So, i hated meditation.

i was convinced, i would find a path to God that didn’t include meditation. I’d do any practice you could give a reasonably different name to, and as long as it wasn’t meditation, I was willing to try it.

But, luckily I had some friends who explored meditation, and occassionally I would go to things with them, and I did have some fairly intense initial experiences in meditation. But, the holier-than-thou perception still sullied becoming a commited meditatior, but the good feelings would make me start a practice again, only to stop when the buzz wore off.

When I got sick, I realized this was a battle I was going to have to let go of. and i went into meditation. begrudgingly.

i took Wisdom Heart’s “The Meditation Habit” online. It was slightly still in the same paradigm of meditation I really resisted, but he was diverse enough and had a good balance of spiritual and practical. I got two of the most enormous gems from Wisdom Heart – that every meditation is a good meditation, and that meditation is building the muscle of coming back to center when the mind goes off on tangents. Wow. Those things turned it around for me. I took every class Eric taught and love each dearly.

But I was still stuck in a difficult relationship with meditation. It was an obligation. Even when I looked forward to it, I felt a pressure, a possibility to fail and be disappointed in myself and a big part of my doing it was avoiding that feeling. And I’d be disappointed

Another delightful concept that turned my world around came in the form of Alison Scola talking about “who wants to listen to a whiny penitent asking for stuff?” – I’d mostly been asking to get better at meditation, or back to those peak experiences, but hey, yeah, obviously.

and that coincided with a turn from the desire for an intellectual yearning for God and bliss and union to a devotional practice of deepest appreciation. Needless to say, that changed the game.

Recently, though, my meditation practice began to wane, as much as i adored the time in devotion, as much as it served and nourished every aspect of my being. Somehow I couldn’t get down to the alter – actually, that was a big part of it. My hip. I couldn’t get down and kneel at my little alter, and doing it in a chair wasn’t the same experience so I ditched. But i didn’t want to ditch. So, I had to change.

That’s when I took Ziva meditation. I really love her style, and she has this “meditation as hygiene” philosophy that (kinda) strips out the (overtly) spiritual, but really gets to the physical goods. And I really do believe the hygiene paradigm. Two brief hygiene-based sittings to show up in the world with the presence meditation develops. Totally useful.

So, it separated meditation from my spiritual practice a little bit, allowing me to have a third experience solely devotional in nature, as long or short as time allows. Just a daily dedication to put awakening first, becoming as clean and clear an instrument of Mother’s love, cutting off the sandbags, evolving into ever-deeper love, freedom and relationship.

I’m feeling that especially until my hip is fully recovered, Ziva will keep me practicing. I actually secretly love her….

my spiritual journey

I grew up Catholic and went to Catholic school and church every Sunday, and I liked it well enough, it was “normal.” I had two ideas about God as a very young kid 1) If we all got together in a circle and held hands, what was in the center was God; and 2) There had to be  a planet for each choice in life (if i wanted PB&J and got a salami sandwich, lucky me on some other planet was having PB&J). I couldn’t imagine God could let you hold so deep a desire and not have it be fulfilled. I mean, why even have it? But, in general, it went down like the bible said and God was alternatingly terrifying and comforting and it was all kindof weird, but i got on with it.

Somewhere in high school I got a sense of Jesus as an individual and that deepened my experience of the otherwise rote religious activities I’d engage in from time to time. My junior year I read a card I’ve written about…”the oldest wisdom in the world tells us we can unite with God whilst in the body. for that man is truly born.” … well, obviously! But I’d literally never thought about it before. I’d thought about joining God in heaven and liked that idea well enough and tried to be a good person so i could earn it, but connecting with God whilst in the body? Sign. me. up.

Enter Joseph Campbell and the power of myth series with bill moyers (sorry for no capitals) and most specifically a wall carving of ‘the three faces of god’ – a central full face and two profiles to either side of it, one male and one female.  He described that if you focus on the central face, you can take it all in, but if you look left or right, you really can’t stop looking between them. Your attention simply can’t be full. Or at least that’s how I heard him.

Next up was the Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ wherein they describe the seven tests of the Christ which Jesus took. In the first one, upon Jesus’ arrival at the temple he is shown to his quarters, told the test will begin tomorrow, and left alone. enter two people from a secret door who plead with him to follow them – that the elders of the temple know he will succeed and are jealous and plotting to kill him. He sorta laughs them off – “uhm, thanks for coming, guys, but fear doesn’t motivate me, so the chances of me following you -even to save my own life – are nil. have a good day, though!”

This brought that figure of the Christ into the realm of not just an individual, but an individual who, as a matter of character, makes good choices. Always chooses God. Wholeness. Love.

Yeah, I was hooked. Thus followed hundreds of books and the occasional movie (the first, “Mindwalk” and “brief history of time” then things like ‘what the bleep’ and ‘i heart huckabees’ many years later) and the slow acquisition of practices, from A Course In Miracles to yoga to (under duress) meditation (maybe that’s the next story)

Spirituality was in my top 5 priorities all of my life. And then in the top 3. It wasn’t until my health became my #1 focus and priority for long enough that I could get it flexible enough to transition and make spirituality #1. That’s the greatest gift this illness gave me. Priorities and practices to tend to my own garden as an expression of life itself. Yes, please.

I read a bumper sticker once: “If God is your co-pilot, you’re in the wrong seat”

 

making roses out of lemonade

Now, that *would* be a trick.

I’ve had a whole lot of luck during my illness. Even considering an illness may be bad luck in general even if it’s actually wildly beneficial. So, yes, getting sick focused my life in the most wonderful way possible. It has sucked to varying degrees every. damn. day. but all in all it got my life on the right track in a focused way and keeps me there with some pretty clear guidelines. Sounds a lot like a teacher, right?

Last summer, Swami Yogeshananda gave a series of talks about his time serving some of the great saints of Vedanta. Often he would tell stories of them reprimanding him or other young monks, or each other, and I remember thinking, “I would last about 5 minutes with a teacher like that.”

And, once again, I’m forced to eat my words with a dose of irony and a little cosmic humor.

God put my teacher on the inside. Genius. I can’t get away.

And my inner teacher has been completely amazing focusing my life on practices and habits that allow me to live a very normal lifestyle, if at half-speed. And, while that sounds like a bummer, once you get there you realize it’s a huge luxury. But, I digress…

I’m 10 days out from total hip replacement surgery. I’m pretty psyched. I haven’t been able to tie my own left shoe for over 5 years. I sortof feel like my body has been preparing me for this for a long time. I like a metaphor, so I really see this as an opportunity to restructure myself from my most central and powerful construction. Gene (my tai chi teacher) talks about the eight harmonies, and the hips are 1st harmony. without them, the whole system’s off kilter.

I recognize I’ve held central beliefs that it doesn’t surprise me one bit that it eroded the mechanisms related to it. I’m hardly alone in all the “i’m not good enough” “I’m too this” or “I’m too that” “they don’t like me” blah blah blah beliefs that sabotage so many otherwise brilliant and wonderful people. We are all flawed, but we all also have the fullness of God within us, so- silly to play small.

I don’t know what my future holds. I know that my very favorite thing is being in conversation about the glory of Life Itself unfolding all around us. All these other conversations (whether about groceries or religion) pale in comparison. My next favorite thing is probably laughing. But, again, I digress…

I am excited about rebuilding my being and presence, straight from first harmony. Balanced, integral foundations, firmly rooted in my own wholeness and the wholeness of all life. Taking my hips and dantien as the three faces of god wall carving that first turned me on to the mystical journey. Wow. I like that. Quite a bit. Just took that whole idea I was hoping to describe to a whole new level. I’ll need to save that for another day.

not the way I’d like

I am an imperfect human. I’ve got some lovely qualities and some real doozies, just like everybody else. I’d often aspired to become a more perfected being, accentuating my positive traits and diminishing my flaws. Many years ago I recognized the inherent yin/yang within each of us – and the necessity of the wholeness of our being. I quit trying to erase the dark side and only be light. But, boy is it uncomfortable when the dark side is rising.

Still, experience teaches me that I really have no idea what is positive and what is negative. I often mis-perceive them. Retrospect often offers a completely different take than the moment. I came to desire authenticity in the moment, and evolving towards ever deeper experience and expression of love, freedom and relationship. That I wouldn’t judge myself. That as something wells up within me, I experience it fully and express it as necessary. We have to tell our stories, I’m learning.

Recently, a straw was added to my metaphorical camel’s load and I broke. I broke something that in truth has been pretty hobbled together anyway, but breaking things is messy and uncomfortable. Maybe I could’ve broken more gracefully, certainly I could’ve broken more kindly. But, I broke it. And the person couldn’t believe I could over-react to a straw like that.

And I feel like a jerk, but every atom of my body is like, “yeah, that had to break.”

and i’m not much for pretending.

Plenty of people have told me to eff-off in my life, and I’ve expressed plenty of times, too. I personally feel that someone telling me to eff-off is infinitely preferable to passive non-engagement and amorphous emotional puzzles. But, that’s just me. Plenty of people *really prefer* the silent version. They feel the vocal version is mean or crude or simply unacceptable.

They’ve got a point, don’t get me wrong. Just like people who prefer country music and pistachio ice cream. It’s just not for me. With all three – it’s actually not possible for me. I’ve tried.  And I don’t want to judge people who love those things, I simply don’t have it in me. Especially if I care.

I’ve had a relationship in my life that has caused literally nothing but pain for both of us. My perception has received a veritable truckload of small ‘eff off’s – and honest to goodness I’m pretty sure that person didn’t intend a single one. I, on the other hand have said a few, really difficultly timed ones.

Certain foods have made me ill and I’ve had to completely eliminate them from my diet. Sometimes, after a long enough spell, I can re-introduce the food with different results. Luckily, none of the food has gotten offended and refused to come back. That may happen with a person (finding the elimination pretty offensive) but the need for elimination is clear. I just have to take my chances.

This is a long and meandering post about feeling guilty about cutting out a relationship that has caused me and my family a lot of trouble and pain, even though the person is a lovely enough person if I’m completely unattached to their methods and outcomes. But even a miniscule attachment causes me such frustration that it’s not worth continuing to try. Much like I didn’t continue to try to eat corn once I figured out I had a sensitivity. Obviously, I’m conflicted, but literally my health has already started to improve. It’s weird, this life we live. It’s hard not to be able to be a model of kind and effective behaviour, indeed to be a full-on jerk. But sometimes it’s just what the doctor ordered.

Imagine that…

Cleaning out the gutters is messy business, but clean gutters let the water flow and I am all about the flowing, so I am happy to endure whatever gets that going.

Yesterday my Tai Chi teacher gave me a massage, and much like when he worked on my elbows and let loose a trauma from my college days, this time he worked on my shoulders and as he did I had some realizations. One from my teenage days and one from early motherhood, when i would contort myself around the car seat to soothe my crying baby.

I’ve been willing to contort my own experience to (in my own estimation) aid someone else’s. Not quite healthy. And I’ve done it a lot. I have gotten pretty good at sitting with my own pain, but I have pretty limited capacity to sit with someone else’s. I move into fixing, reframing, whathaveyou. I think now is the time that I get to learn this lesson – how to be with someone in pain without my own stories about it. Just to be present. Compassionate. Present some more. But not take it on as my own responsibility. Measure my own worth by my ability to defuse someone else’s pain.

May be totally obvious to nearly everyone else on earth, but these lessons are dripping out for me one by one and my greatest wish is to integrate them as I’ve got the opportunity. None of it is comfortable, none of it makes me proud or happy. It makes me see that I’ve had a whole lot of weird compensation measures to try to make sense of my life, and quite frankly, i’m extremely excited to release them, uncomfortable though they may be.

I’ve had enough experience to be able to see these things coming and begrudgingly welcome them. Thankfully, my husband has been so magnificently supportive of all of these little steps I’ve had a safe enough space to be ok despite the pain, even when it includes him. That’s remarkable and I am so very grateful. But, it’s still uncomfortable.  But ever-so valuable.

With this surgery coming up, I’ve got a lot of time to integrate the lessons i’ve been acquiring, physically (what i’ve learned about standing, walking, breathing and moving), emotionally (taking off the masks and holding them up to the light), mentally (disengaging from the stories I could distract myself with indefinitely) and spiritually (surrender, trust, and the privilege of being alive at this time). It’s weird to be excited about discomfort, but I am. Because I know the only way out is through.

I also know that what looks like an abyss is often just an oil slick, seems like it may go on forever but it’s not very deep at all, just daunting. And my experience teaches me that the bravery to face things pays off (with peace between the ears – a treasure beyond measure).

Emergence

There is something exciting about being in a bad place. Emergencies lead to emergence. No mud, no lotus. Lots of aphorisms tell us that this is a time of great opportunity. And while the poor little sapling is feeling terribly uncomfortable in that quickly-growing-impossibly-too-small shell, the sapling can’t draw up plans to break free. It just has to be and wait and keep on holding the vision of freedom.

I’m not in a bad place by any objective measure. I’m in quite a remarkably good place. I am blessed to have a happy, healthy family, food and shelter and increasing health. None of this is intended as complaint, simply a documentation of process. Often I’m in an excited mood, eager about evolution and peace and the awakening of our species and planet. And, today, that’s all still there, too, it just is accompanied by a certain discomfort, foreboding and … well, there’s simply no other word for it than “gunk.”

But, I feel the gunk coming loose. I feel a shift in my identification with gunky things that I thought were my cross to bear. I am extremely conflicted about leaving things i’ve been hopeful about (relationships, supplements, styles of exercise) but that haven’t worked for me by any reliable measure. I am ready to let them go, but there is a grief process I seem to need to go through as well. It’s cool. I’m ready for it. I’m typically not one to balk at discomfort.

Lots of people are, and they are certainly entitled to take their own path. I think it was Vivekananda who said: though each may take a different path, all are on their way. And while I know I often seem prescriptive (something I am definitely willing to release), I truly and wholeheartedly encourage everyone to do what s/he wants to do. That’s how I purchase my own freedom, and even when the costs are high I know it is worth it.

I’ve gotten a lot of flack about the tight-knit-ness of my family, and I’ve gone to great lengths to try to spread our wings. Most endeavors in that regard have been spectacular disasters. And now, with this surgery coming up I can give myself permission to allow us to be who we are naturally. It’s not like we hide in the house and refuse to go out (although that IS what I intend to do at least through Thanksgiving). I’ve been trying to get us “out there” more to appease people who judge me. But the truth is, the connections we’ve forged in the last several years are absolutely marvelous and were completely unexpected. I am tired of trying to engineer community, when I can be like Einstein:

Although I am a typical loner in my daily life, my awareness of belonging to the invisible community of those who strive for truth, beauty, and justice has prevented me from feelings of isolation.

Yeah. That feels right to me. We may not see our dearest friends too often, they are there, and I am here, and that is enough.

funny how things go

Ebbs and flows… ebbs and flows… inhales and exhales… dichotemy and the paradoxes of life. It’s a pattern we all know deeply, yet for some reason it still often surprises me.

I’m pretty excited because I’m going to be getting a new left hip on october 10th. I haven’t been able to tie my own shoes in maybe 5 years, so I imagine something old will become new again. I’m excited for the prospect, although it doesn’t cure the autoimmune disease, so it’s not like I’ll come home “fixed.” But I do expect to appreciate what gains I do make.

Homeopathy teaches we have a wound, a wall, and a mask. Essential wounding, conscious or unconscious, drives us to build a wall to protect the vulnerability, and then to put a mask on the wall so as to make it less obvious as a compensation. Those masks add to our sense of identity and inherently maintain a certain defensiveness about it.

The dismantling of these masks and identities requires the release of the defensiveness, and a level of honesty about the original wounds along with determination to find the resources to address the wound for actual healing. This has been a pretty slow process for me, and a repetitive one. I’ve found the repetition frustrating at times, but washing machines go round and round because that’s how you get clothes clean.

For example, I’ve been clear my whole life that my mother never wanted children. I was her fifth. I hold several tender spots about this, ranging from explicit clarity about not having been wanted (but here it is and we’ll deal with it) to profound frustration in a world where authorities mandate individual choices and individuals capitulate for whatever reason (in this case, the Catholic Church).  I have moved in and out of equanimity with these feelings over the years, contemplated areas of relevance in the unfolding of my own life, and try to teach my children the lessons i’ve gleaned. And even this example is a fractal of enormous problems culturally. How many of the children born are actually wanted? Right? We have millions of people desperate for a baby, and others who have been raped and forced to bear the child – and millions of examples in between.

We are such a flawed humanity. Our educational system doesn’t teach us how to develop health and wellness, it teaches us how to do what we’re told (and what we’re told has very little to do with our whole person development). We exercise our pre-frontal coretex without regard for the emotional container that holds it- and increasingly little attention is paid to even physical development as schools cut gym and recess more and more. And then even when they DO offer these opportunities for physical activity, the “educational” components can be destructive (think bad form sit-ups in gym class and ruthless bullies on the playground – and don’t even get me started on school lunch).

Will we ever get our shit together and provide an education in wholeness and wellness for our youth? When I experience how much my childhood set the stage for illness and isolation – and I had a pretty darned good childhood compared to so, so many children.  What can I do to support them? what can WE do?

Something, I hope. It will be interesting…

 

out of body

I’ve been focusing on embodiment a lot lately, and yet yesterday I spent a good portion of the day outside of my body. It’s funny, since I spend a lot of time focusing on embodiment. Actually, it’s not funny. It is a little frustration, but given that I know I have all kinds of patterns that don’t serve me, I have to appreciate when they come up so that I can sit with them and address them as my most evolved self.

but, sometimes, i’m just a scared kid trying to dance for approval.

which is ridiculous because 1) sometimes I’m aware of it and still can’t seem to alter the pattern, 2)I’m 50 years old and, 3) I’m a terrible dancer.

I remember the first time my attention left the present moment. I was in second grade. I was remarkably unhappy on that day, and i shifted. I just went into my imagination and placated myself with some imaginary thoughts. I remember that the teacher didn’t single me out but something that she said jolted me back into attention. I was fascinated that I had been “somewhere else” and still able to sit in my chair. As you might expect, I started doing it often. I think it got to a point where I was rarely “where I was” – if ever.

Yesterday, my friend Melba had to remind me to breathe like 10 times. and i still only gave halfassed breaths when she reminded me. Um, excuse me, i thought i was trying to teach this stuff. I felt like such a failure! such a fraud!

Until I remembered that I’m not trying to teach anything. I decided to begin creating a body of work extolling the virtues of the breath as a way of keeping myself in the breath, because I understand the benefits, I want the benefits, and talking about the benefits keeps the breath a major priority in my life. And I did it to trick myself. To force my own hand into making this stuff a priority, because when it’s not a priority I abandon it (because I have a relatively short attention span) and in the abandonment, I slowly (or sometimes not-so-slowly) degrade into a more anxious, awkward and ungrounded version of myself.

Yesterday, in my inability to ground myself in my breath and thereby in my environment, I proved to myself the need for this work. Without it I revert to old coping mechanisms about appearances and avoidance of discomfort. (ok, anyone who has met me as an adult will question this “avoidance of discomfort” bit. I typically barge head-on into discomfort – but that is in part because of lessons learned the old way).

So, my failure and fraudulence, instead of breaking my resolve has only steeled it. And it reminded me, this work isn’t for “people who need to slow down”. It is for me.

pre-meditation/post-meditation

I don’t teach meditation. I’m not particularly good at it, and there are many excellent teachers. I shift styles, and I know that is frowned upon but it’s my best shot at consistency, and really the sitting is what i’m after. The spiritual benefits come when i least expect them (which is, i think, the point) and only when I fully release myself, which is challenging for me. My body is requiring a whole new re-development of how i engage in the world. It’s exciting, and I feel it is the product of getting better at listening, little by little. I’m accepting my body as my guide – I’m not sure to where, but I am trusting that it is encoded with my essential unfoldment. My mind has been trying to take me all over creation and I am exhausted. I’m trusting my body now. I’m giving it the next 5 years without question. If, at the end of 5 years I find my body has led me astray, maybe I’ll check back into strategizing shit. I’m thinking odds on that are pretty low.

But, this space leading into meditation is wide open. Tucker sees design companies trying to shortcut the design process all the time. skipping the steps that makes the thing organically viable. No, no, no.. .that takes to long. let’s dive right in and just see how it goes. and sometimes it goes big (rarely for long), but you can tell the stuff that’s had it’s process. And frankly, the process is FUN. the exploration is infinitely creative and variable, directions can be followed and abandoned as suits the buoyancy of the thing. So, I want to explore PRE-meditation – from the state of “i think this is valuable” to the tiny skills and choices that prepare the body and mind to be able to sit for 10+ minutes and fully plug into that which is essential and be restored by it.

And then, after you develop that capacity, and you start to feel the freedom that comes from meditative practice, having cultivated it in bits and habits, you can bring it off the cushion more naturally than someone who went LIFE. Successfully sitting in meditation. LIFE. Bringing it into our day, into our choices, into our habits, into our breath (i mean, we’re breathing anyway). This, too, is important and goes undiscussed in general meditation circles. or at least the ones i’ve sat with.

I want to live in meditation. i want to live in cocreative partnership with nature, receiving and expressing Life Itself with and through every iota i come into contact as the ever-unfolding present moment of pure unconditional love. I know it’s a big goal, but what other goal could possibly compare?

once upon a time…

Lake Angelus, Michigan is one of the most beautiful places in the world. It certainly was to me. I used to answer the phone, “paradise, may I help you?” I had 700 glorious square feet and a porch to end all porches.

People came to that porch from far and wide. It was a rare night that some surprise visitor didn’t show up, usually several. You couldn’t blame them, it was on the breezy side of the lake.. a little storybook house down a stone path and a series of steps. and I always had a lot of wine. and beer. and scotch. and fruit and cheese and bread. and maybe my autoimmune disease makes more sense now. At least I had fun. So much fun there.

Lake Angelus is on my mind because I’m ready to move again, and I have no idea where, but I am trying to spend time basking in my favorite places I’ve lived and what has made them great. I’ve lived in some great places.

Bloomfield Court in Birmingham was an absolutely cherishable time, too, for so many different reasons. The lovely and powerful Gaile Stallsmith moved in one day. I was on the phone with Reggie and said, “a beer commercial just pulled up” as Gaile in her Mazda convertable, followed by a Uhaul truck and about 10 ponytailed men in various luxury sportscars pulled down the narrow street. Near the end of my time there I made a great friend in the building across the street (I hadn’t even known there were other rentals on the street) and we had so much fun with the neighbors. I could walk to my job at The Community House. I listened to Under The Table And Dreaming on a constant loop, drinking wine i bought by the case with a revolving door of lovely young women that building seemed to attract, and my very quiet upstairs gentleman neighbor.

And while it wasn’t my best year, living in the carriage house on Division street in ann arbor was, architecturally speaking, divine. Sortof. It’s one of those things that if i could own that house now, with just a bit of work I could easily make it into my dream house. I seem to love brick and windows.

That’s what the monastery holds for me. Standing in the brick library with the windows and fireplace, or the main hall. these rooms impact me physically with active gladness. My current house doesn’t do that. It has some lovely aspects, but we’re ready to feel more markers of “home” in our next location.