Recently I heard something from a student I had not heard since I started meditating: “I can’t meditate.”
I said this, or a variation of it, to my teacher countless times at the beginning, my most common one being: “This must be bad for me, it feels terrible!” Not being disrespectful to my student and friend, the memory she triggered made me laugh! My teacher had told me, “You aren’t special, you’re not going to be the only person meditation doesn’t work for, keep meditating.”
Now, that particular direct statement worked on me, as I was prone to masochism and wallowing in suffering at the time, but it was not going to work for this particular student.
It seems no matter how many times I say “thoughts are good” and “thoughts are your experience of stress-habit-energy release,” it does not always make much of a dent in the idea some students have that meditation should be quiet and peaceful every time, or that certain clairvoyant or insightful experiences should happen consistently.
So, I have been pondering how to respond, and my first idea is to go over the process of meditation and make my instructions less intention-filled and shorter. Ha!
Meditation is about a commitment to yourself — to the divine part of yourself that would like more airtime on the physical plane. Meditation, at least the type I teach, is only an intention to allow everything to be exactly as it is for a bit, a practice of letting go. What this does over time is profound, but the progress depends entirely on your own consistent practice, irrespective of how it is going.
That said, certain common turbulent events happen to all of us, so that is why I love teaching, and answering questions, troubleshooting and figuring out how best to approach whatever resistance appears. And everyone has the same one, though each manifestation of resistance looks so different! Such a fun puzzle, the mind.
For my student (and anyone else it may help!):
Simply sit, and set a timer for 20 minutes. Put a journal next to you. When those first five minutes pass and you feel angry at yourself for thinking, take your anger by the hand and bring it to the metaphorical couch in the center of yourself, in your solar plexus. Sit with it.
Say to your anger, “Hello, anger! I have met you many times before! In fact, I saw you the last time I tried to meditate! I don’t understand you well yet. Good to see you. Let us sit.”If the intensity subsides, you may try to listen for your vibration* at this point. See if you can hear it, coming from your heart center.
If thoughts come, that is okay. Say to them, “Hello, thoughts about dinner! Hello, thoughts about my daughter! Hello, thoughts about myself! You are so familiar and I have heard most of you before! Come, sit with me!”You will have several well-known friends with you now. Some may get up and leave, some may dissolve, some may grow and try to keep your attention.
If emotions come up, say to them something like, “Hello, my frustration! I saw you 10 minutes ago in the kitchen! You are still here I see, please sit with me. Hello, my sadness and distress that I am having a hard time with, come sit with me. Let us cry together. I feel compassion for your sadness.”
During the waves of these thoughts and emotions, acknowledge them, and welcome them. Do not try to change them with positive thinking, do not try to analyze why they are there — they just are.
If they are there to teach you something, they will show you on their own, but only if you allow them to be. Just sitting with them, in your solar plexus, in your breathing center, your Hara, they will feel able to be heard. They will speak. They will show you the emotions that come with the thoughts or vice versa. They will eventually take you to the belief systems that brought them up in the first place. Then you may sit with them again.
After your meditation, when the bell sounds, wait. Think back on the past 20 minutes. Take a moment and ask yourself if it would help to write some part of it down and think about it later. Write whatever comes — an adjective, a description of how you feel, or even several pages on what you went through. Then leave it. Return to sit in 12 hours or so and repeat this process.
Outside of meditation, you may consider questioning your experiences, to see if the memories, the thoughts, the beliefs, are true. You may take more time after you meditate to actively work with them, to sit longer if needed and see if you can uncover the root of the friends you know well but have disliked until now. If the thoughts are not true, perhaps wait, see if the truth will surface on its own.
During meditation, just practice your technique. Do not try to do so much, only allow your system to show you what it wants to, exactly as it is, with the intention to allow anything to be exactly as it is.
The best thing about this is that there is only one instruction. Listen when you notice you have wandered. Otherwise, just allow anything that comes up to be as it is. Thoughts, emotions, sensations, movements, visions, smells, outside noises. Everything is a teacher, and when you allow it all to be as it is, then you have a chance to look directly and see clearly.
Eventually your own truth will be the only thing left standing as the old habits, beliefs, and untruths, fall away under your welcoming and open gaze. All from consistently sitting, listening, and allowing.Much love to you all.
*my meditation students receive a sound vibration that becomes theirs over time, which is not a word or meaningful syllable, just something to tune them into their highest self. If you have a mantra or other meditation practice, or are used to watching your breath, please use your preferred method.
Andrea went to school forever, so she is a board certified Internal Medicine Osteopathic doctor, an ayurvedic practitioner and counselor, a meditation teacher, a writer, a student always, a tree-hugger and granola eater, a lover of people and food and animals and plants and rocks and such (not in that order necessarily), and generally spends her time learning how to be the change she wishes to see in the world.