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Why Breathe When You Really Want To Scream?

A couple of years ago I read an essay by a woman who expressed her dismay over her friends who had taken up meditation and yoga. Borrring!!!

She wrote a short, humorous monologue about loving her highs and lows, the roller coaster ride(s) of her emotions. She liked her periodic crying jags and her out of control reactions to things. Unlike all these other sheep she had no desire to curb her unbridled spontaneity.

Clearly, her once fun friends had turned into a bunch of aliens that she no longer understood or wanted to be around. Why, she wanted to know would you want to be around people who never raised their voices, didn’t mumble “bleep bleep” to drivers that cut them off and never seemed to get angry or rageful anymore?  Why breathe when you really, really want to scream? Why, why, why?

I can’t remember the exact moment when I decided to try meditating yet again. I had been shamefully unsuccessful the hundred other times I had tried it. But this time I promised myself I would give it six months and give it my all. And I would write about it as I went along. If nothing else, I could write about trying to quiet my mind—unimaginable.

I embraced mindfulness with intense zeal, joining meditation groups, buying a shelf full of books and tapes. I went to conferences and meditated with the likes of Jon Kabat Zinn, and Jack Kornfield. I was for lack of a better word, a groupie—and a huge pain in the ass.

I drooled praise that was fraught with magic and fantasy. I had found the “it” I had been searching for and went just short of stating that meditation had saved my life. I rarely mentioned the discipline and effort it took to keep my butt down on a matt for a minimum of 30 minutes a day. I gave all the power to the thing instead of myself.

I was a little disappointed when I learned that my “gurus” were mere mortals. Contrary to what I had believed they were still prone to human emotion, cussed (rarely but still) got impatient when drivers in front of them didn’t notice the green light—They didn’t have life completely down either.

Sitting in a room with fifty closed eyed ohm-ing and breathing strangers isn’t all that comfortable. I admit I peeked during many of those early 30-45 minute meditation sessions—they were brutal. I was curious to see if everyone looked like they were in a state of quiet, nothingness. Some were squirming restlessly, others yawning and believe it or not, a bunch were snoring away. I was most envious of them since I can barely sleep lying down.

Initially and as I had been taught to believe, I thought I had to stop thinking. This is impossible! People, meditation does not mean shutting off your mind in the true sense of the word. It means, sitting still physically long enough to hear your thoughts. I didn’t know this.  A gentle and experienced leader explained how simple it really was. The advice: Don’t try to empty your mind of anything! Leave it alone.

In the quiet I learn about myself. In the quiet I feel sadness, joy, loss, panic and a myriad of other emotions. I didn’t have to do a thing except watch each feeling come and go. Pure and simple.

I told myself that I would stop after the initial six months if I still didn’t get it. I had heard miraculous stories about the reduction in back pain, the lessening of anxiety, the gradual slow down of the nervous system and an over all sense of greater well being. I wanted that in my life.

Six months turned into two years of a disciplined sitting practice. It changed me. It wasn’t magic. My life didn’t become something other than it was or is. I may have become a little more boring, which was initially confusing to friends and family. Many people noticed the change. I’m nicer. I’m quieter both inside and out. I like myself better.

I am lazy about my meditation practice these days—far lazier than I should be given what I know and how much it really helps me quiet my high-octane mind. But meditation is kind to me because even when I lapse, I don’t lose what I gained. Meditation is a good friend to me and I to her—we feel compelled to keep in touch but don’t judge when we don’t.


Image credit: diego_cervo / 123RF Stock Photo

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