by Chantal Leven
This morning as I entered my meditation I could not find peace. What I found was ‘busyness’, anxiety, and an inability to settle. I know that it is part of the meditative experience to be with ‘what is’, not with what I think it should be.
I should be grateful because, for many years, I could not meditate. The mere act of sitting down and being quiet with myself would freak me out. I had an intense urge to get up and move. Don’t get me wrong, I began practicing yoga faithfully when I was 25 years old. Moving and breathing spoke to me. Movement with intention and mindfulness brought me home to myself. Yoga was, in fact, my first ‘home coming’. But I could never meditate.
It was only a few years back, when I was dealing with Epstein Barr and Lyme Disease and had attended a healing retreat with Lama Migmar, the Harvard University Buddhist chaplain, that I began being able to sit with myself and follow my breath. The process had been initiating through the Buddhist practice of mindfulness.
What spoke to me the most about this practice was the focus on the heart. I had been listening to Pema Chodron, another incredible Buddhist teacher, a couple years prior to that, and had learned about the 4 Noble Truths, the first being about the practice of mindfulness with loving kindness.
Loving kindness is the practice of looking at yourself and bringing kindness and compassion to what you see. All of us come into this world as a ’perfect energy bundle’. We are born out of pure energy. Because no one is perfect and people around us have their limitations, they impart on us their emotions, beliefs and even, at times, their trauma. We, as children, are like psychic sponges. We take in everything without having the ability to discern whether or not what we get is good for us. We internalize what we see, hear and feel around us and it becomes part of our ‘ego’ mind, which then becomes part of our make up.
In all of us there is the ‘healthy ego’, the ‘wounded ego’, and consciousness. We all need the healthy ego to live our life. We need to be able to get up in the morning and make plans for the day. We all come here on this planet with a very unique set of skills and need to be able to use those skills to, hopefully, better the world.
Our wounded ego, on the other hand, is the part of us that resulted in the collection of our parents and environment’s limitations. We have seen and heard at times how ‘bad’ we were, and by internalizing this conversation we begin telling ourselves, without anyone’s help, how limited we are, how incapable we are, how selfish we are… you get the gist! The wounded ego was created based on past hurts and beliefs that have limited our ability to truly believe that we can be, do or have anything we want.
When we meditate we get to feel, hear, and sometimes see all that. We get to feel how uncomfortable we are in sitting with ourselves because we feel pressured to ‘do something’. Or we feel anxiety, frustration, or stress, and then our mind really tells us that we would be better off getting up and doing the exact thing that we are thinking about. Even though, at times, it can be appropriate to go ahead and do that thing that runs inside our head and take action, the problem is that when we listen and become reactive to all of the ‘prompts’ from our mind, without ever questioning what it says, we become like puppets on a string. Like they say in yoga, the mind is like a drunken monkey and we get bounced around a lot.
The process of meditation helps us discern the truth from the lies. We get to see, hear and feel the unfoldment of that inner conversation and see the impact that it has on our mind-body system. We get to see whether or not we are living in the moment, or if we are living in the past or the future, and if the nature of our inner dialogue creates good or bad feelings. The field of neuro-science has demonstrated that from the body’s perspective what we think creates an inner reality that doesn’t have to match the outer reality. What we think becomes the reality that we experience in our body at the moment we think it. If we think good thoughts we feel good. And if we think bad thoughts we feel bad. It is that simple.
So how do we get to come back home? Through the process of sitting and watching all this incredible activity and bringing kindness and compassion to what we see and feel. This helps us see that our thoughts and feelings are not who we are. The part of us that is the ‘witness consciousness’ is aware of our thoughts and feelings and is aware of the impact that they have on our mind-body system. And at the moment we become aware of that, we begin freeing ourselves from the bondage of our wounded ego. We come back home inside who we are in the moment.
That is what brought me to yoga and it is what continues to motivate me to develop a mindfulness practice. It feels good to be home, whenever I can get there, to open my heart, body and mind and relax into the moment and remember that I am ‘spirit embodied’ and not my monkey mind.
Deepak Chopra and Oprah offer, from time to time, a 21 day meditation series, and for the past 10 days they have been offering a series on gratitude. I highly recommend it. It is not too late to hop on and get your free connection to your heart’s consciousness.
Let me know how it goes for you. Until the next time we connect.
May you be happy
May you be free of suffering
May you be joyful free from the roots of suffering
May you live in equanimity, free of attachment and aversion.