I get this questions a lot: I’m being aware, but now what? No what do I do with this?
Well, for me, I had to start to learn how to slow down. I had to start to learn how to not be so consumed by what was next, that I wasn’t present with what is. I had to learn to allow what was arising to exist, even if I didn’t like it. I had to learn not to distract myself just because I didn’t want to deal with something. And I’ll say again, I had to learn how to slow down. I had to recognize that being on autopilot wasn’t serving me, and that I’d been using it as a tool for coping and trying to maintain a sense of safety and control in a world I otherwise felt was really scary.
I so wish I knew then what I know now. And when I say “then” I mean a teenager and early in my 20s. Now here’s the paradox – I love the life that I had. And even when I was confused and unfulfilled and unaware, I still had a great life. It’s just hard to separate out the choices I made out of fear, cause I made a lot of choices out of fear.
I knew I was in that space, I was in cognitive dissonance, which by the way, was my favorite word I learned in grad school. That means you are out of alignment with my head and my heart, and I think it was my favorite word because it is something I often experienced! But I didn’t know what to do with it. And that was the first of many times that I felt a lack of alignment between how I felt and what I did. And whenever I was at that crossroads, I let go of my feelings and went with my head. I thought going with what was logical was the right choice. And I’ve learned that logic, while may be right on paper, is not always going to bring your heart peace.
It took me years to learn what to do with my cognitive dissonance…I mean – do you know what I’m talking about? Do you know what this feels like? What do you normally do when this happens?
Well, I can tell you that I finally have the solution. This is where meditation comes in… meditation is the practice that allows us to sit with what is and practice a new response pattern to it.
I teach in the way I wish I could’ve learned, and how I teach meditation is no different. When I first started learning meditation, I thought I was going to die. Literally. Sitting still for 10 minutes was the longest 10 minutes in my life and I don’t think I’d ever sat for that long…like ever. And the good news is, I didn’t die. I got through it. And even still, years of learning meditation, it took me time to learn how to integrate and actually relate to it as something that would benefit me.
I used to think that meditation meant I was supposed to have a clear mind, that I was going to feel peaceful and calm, and that I would feel all zen-like and relaxed afterwards. I thought that I was going to have no thoughts and that I’d be able to have razor sharp focus and clarity and feel renewed and refreshed. Ha! Boy was I wrong. Those are all lovely intentions, but not always going to happen.
I heard a quote once: there are no such things as enlightened people, only enlightened moments. And this is true – especially when we meditate. We can often think, “oh that was a good meditation!” And what does that even mean? That we were able to stay focused? That we didn’t get flooded with thoughts and emotions? That we could be able to replicate the experience? No, it just meant that we were able to do it in that moment. So have no ego around it – experience it as if for the first time and don’t have expectation on what it is supposed to look like.
Okay – so what does meditation even mean? I define it as creating the space, for stillness and silence, to allow whatever is arising with exist without judgment. Let me say that again: creating the space, for stillness and silence, to allow whatever is arising with exist without judgment. So much easier said than done. But it means to slow down, breathe, allow, come back to breath. For now, I’ll refer to the breath as the object of attention for meditation, but in reality there can be many, but the breath does serve as that anchor.
So it’s really that easy. And yet it can be the hardest thing to do. Why? Because we are always in resistance of what’s hard. And slowing down and accepting what is arising is fucking hard!! We are in habits of ignoring, denying, resisting, overjustifying and overcompensating for what’s not working. Meditation forces us to look at ourselves, with compassion not judgment and see that it just is.
There’s a mindfulness phrase that says, “this, just this.” This isn’t to negate what is, it’s a reminder that we tend to over attach or overdramatize what is. When we can see things as they are without judgment or attachment the easier it is to deal with them.