So, the good news. I’m on day 10 of a 40 day meditation commitment. The bad news? I’ve just figured out that meditation does not make me a nicer person.
Up until today, I was under the illusion that a daily mediation practice would at some stage make me nicer, kinder, more patient, gentler and softer…and probably a saint, or at least enlightened :)
Otherwise – why the fuck are we doing all of this for?
Well, why indeed?
You know, meditation is a funny thing. The benefits can be hard to pinpoint, intangible.
In fact, up until now, I have never been able to sustain a daily meditation practice, although I have been able to stay with a regular home yoga practice for more than 18 months. But with yoga, the benefits are so obvious – I feel fitter, stronger, more flexible, confident and I can maintain my weight better. I feel more connected to my body, mind and spirit with a regular practice, and if I miss some days, my body demands that I make time for it.
But meditation? Sometimes it works, and I feel great – present, connected, filled with light and love and brimming with insights and understanding. Often though, meditation is difficult – monkey mind, restlessness, unable to settle. And even if it does work, I am often even more cranky, more irritable, and unsettled for the rest of the day. Weird, huh?
So, meditation is not something I stick at: rather, it’s something I do spontaneously when I feel the need to rather than as a discipline. Until now :)
A couple of weeks ago, Tanishka (known as The Moon Woman on Facebook) created an open event: a daily Sunrise meditation commitment for the month where every morning we would get up at dawn, meditate for 15 minutes, do 15 minutes of yoga or other stretches, half an hour of physical exercise outside, then journalling of our dreams and insights. I had been wanting to change my morning routine of tea, emails, social media and work (also in social media) but hadn’t known what to replace it with. This sounded perfect!
A few days into this commitment, Kara-Leah Grant from The Yoga Lunchbox and 40 Days of Yoga, launched a 40 day meditation practice. Knowing the magic of a 40 day commitment (completing 40 days of yoga gave me a regular home practice even now, 18 months later), I readily extended my commitment and carried on.
After a few days I noticed that although I was really enjoying the practice in the morning, that was about all I was enjoying. I felt depressed, disordered, frustrated and worthless. And above all, as I complained to my mother,
I wasn’t even enlightened yet!
I was joking (sort of) but still – why did I feel I was riding a stationary bike – all pedalling and going NOWHERE? My first clue came when I read Danielle La Porte’s article: Leaving the Church of Self-Improvement for the Temple of Me where she says:
…spiritual passion can become punishing when it arises from the hollowness of our psyches rather than the fullness of our Souls. Striving from a sense of deficiency only fueled an obsession with self-improvement that kept me running in circles right ’round what I was looking for: the pulsating, nourishing place of my true nature, which is the doorway to fulfilling all my desires.
Mmmm I thought. Interesting.
And then, this morning, on day 10, it hit me. I had woken early, meditated, done some yoga and hit my country road for a walk. The morning was crisp, cloudless, clean and clear, the kind of clear that invited clarity and joy right into my soul. And as I was walking, the understanding came to me that meditation is never going to make me a nicer person. The thing is, meditation is not going to mysteriously transform me into a saint (damn!) or make me into a gentle motherly person like, say, my own mother.
What meditation does is bring clarity. Clarity to see myself as I am, to know myself. Clarity to know what I want and what I don’t want, what’s working and what’s not. Clarity to see all of me, light and dark. I should make this clear – clarity is not the same as comfort. In fact, it’s distinctly uncomfortable. And that’s what I was missing before. It’s not about being comfortable. It’s about being truly connected to yourself and your life. And once you know something, you can’t un-know it, right?
Meditation does not build the ego up; it whittles it down, slice by slice. This process does not feel good, and friends, it makes me cranky as hell some days. But everyday, I turn up. For just 15 minutes a day I do myself the favour of not hiding, not being distracted and not bullshitting myself. And sometimes it’s awesome, and sometimes it’s not. It is what it is.
And this is what I am: I am sharp and discerning, I am a truth see-er, and a truth teller. I take ideas and dreams and make them happen. I am the Practical mystic. I am committed, loyal and hard working. I am also kind, gentle, patient and loving, except for when I am judgmental, impatient, irritable and bad tempered. I am a human being, and I am what I am.
Do you have a regular meditation practice? What has your experience been?