I love a good challenge and I tend to gravitate toward hard things. Some challenges I’ve welcomed (like being a mom, being a mountain biking & climbing guide for summer camp…) and some challenges I did not (homeschooling – Oh! Even though I love my kids, I did not want to do this!… I’m good now, but it took a long time).
So… What’s my most difficult task during the day?
Just sitting and do nothing. Except breathing.
Sounds easy, you say? Give it a try. For 20 minutes. And set your timer… I dare you!
Even though I’ve been a consistent mediator for over 4 years, I still feel like I have my water wings on.
In fact, I was in a kundalini yoga class the other day (with friends, I might add) and the whole class was on breathing (Breath of Fire, 4 counts in 8 counts out, alternating nostril breathing, etc). About 20 minutes into the class, I bemoaned outloud, “Ughghghg!… Please! for the LOVE, let’s MOOOVE!… I can’t take this anymore!” As I slumped over onto the floor. (Sheesh! that was dramatic.) It was an online class so no one was offended. 🙂
Why is this so hard?
I am learning that sometimes just being can be painful because of the emotions that seem to free themselves when we are still.
It can get seriously uncomfortable.
I noticed this in my yoga practice first. Let me say, I gravitated to yoga because of the physical challenge. I have a natural, powerful yang energy. (The masculine, mover-shaker kind of energy.) But there is a whole other spiritual and emotional component to yoga (the yin – feminine, calm energy that allows life to unfold in its natural rhythm) that I was unaware of until I stumbled upon it. Only by doing it, of course, cause I sure as heck wasn’t seeking it out.
To be clear: I know there are benefits to both energies, yin and yang. In my case, the yin is so much more the challenge. I try to be all zen and ethereal on the outside sometimes, but really it feels more like a bull in a china shop on the inside most days.
I noticed that halfway through some of my yoga classes I would start to get restless. I would be itching to move onto something else on my list for the day. Since I take yoga classes online, it was easy to just move on to the next thing.
One day, I decided to try out a yoga series called Flowing Through Difficult Emotions with Jo Tastula (@ yogaglo.com) to test my theory if I was really running away and avoiding something or if I was just making this stuff up.
“I’m a happy person,” I thought, “what could I possibly be running from?” Doing this practice and really tuning in, I noticed I run away from the all the usual stuff: overwhelm, worry, fear, self-sabotage, sadness, anger…
I also realized that most of the time I don’t know what it is I’m subconsciously avoiding because I’m moving too fast. Sometimes I use busyness as a coping mechanism. Do you do that too? Just keep swimming…
The question that continues to arise: where is this coming from and why should I subject myself to the serious discomfort that surfaces when I am still? Why would anyone voluntarily sign up for that?!
One of the big reasons I continue to come back to meditation is that when our emotions or feelings are not paid attention to, they’re still there – hiding and hindering US. Just me being ME. There is stuff that gets in the way: emotions, false beliefs, habits, patterns. Meditation helps to wade through the stuff muck to get to what’s real.
It really is difficult to put into words – it’s like trying to describe something salty to someone who has never tasted salt. This is what I know: before meditation, I felt like I was looking at life through a fogged up window.
There are so many known benefits of meditating. But just like anything, you only get the benefits if you actually DO it. The ONLY way to get the outcome is to move through the difficulties. Like a bear hunt (if you know the childhood camp song, sing along): you can’t go around it, over it, under it, you have to go THROUGH it.
I am just going to discuss the benefits I have noticed:
#1: S-L-O-W-ing down calms my monkey mind (my biggest distraction) and helped me focus on what matters most.
A long, long time ago when dinosaurs roamed the earth, I was in college and I got a job as a river guide on the Snake River. It was so fun! As guides, one of our safety phrases was, “Go slow before you go fast.” This was a reminder to take the time needed to read the water and plan a route through rapids and obstacles. Even taking 10 seconds to slow down could make a huge difference on the safety of your crew or even being able to hit the waves just right to maximize the fun (and I’m all about maximizing the fun!).
Sometimes I feel like the thoughts in my brain are in a pinball machine. It’s the vigilance center. The To-Do List and Calendar. The Committee. You know The Committee: the critic, the worrier, the judge, the victim, the referee… who am I missing? Ping Ping Ping! It’s constant dialogue (and noise!) all day long.
The way to quiet the chatter is to physically get quiet first. Meditation gives that time to really slow down. When I do, I have more clarity of thought – and subsequent intention – in my life because I am clear on what I want and how I spend my time.
#2. I am a much more pleasant person to be around. (Really.)
I am the best company that I keep. I am not saying that to brag, but I like hanging out with myself.
Sadly, this has not always been the case. I used to feel super high strung and stressed out all the time. Being alone caused a lot of anxiety and terrified me. You couldn’t have paid me money to go to a restaurant by myself. Sad, but true.
Don’t get me wrong, I also love hanging out with positive, uplifting people. But I really enjoy being with myself too. I generate ideas and work through problems for myself and sometimes my kids or my clients.
When we like ourselves, we are likable to other people as well. If we are desperate to not find ourselves alone, we settle in our relationships with others. We’ll take on just about anyone to be a “friend” even if they don’t treat us well. I LOVE my friends because I can be selective – I also know I am a good friend. No one likes hanging out with people who are a Debbie Downer or a big ball of nerves all the time. My kids like me and I know I’m a great mom. (I haven’t gotten a Mother’s Day card like this for years).
(I’m also in a place where I can say that – which is another BONUS from meditating: Being at peace with our imperfections and where are – knowing we’re still doing fan-fricken-tastic!)
#3: Living RIGHT NOW. In the moment. Well, most of the time. :)It has definitely helped me be more present each day.
This moment, right now, is what I know is real and it’s what I have control over.
I used to spend a great deal of time worrying about things I couldn’t change (there’s the vigilance center again), but I have become much more grateful for each moment and day with my kids because I try to focus on really staying present with them.
If meditating is so difficult, why don’t I just opt out?
At this point, I truly can’t live without it. It has made me so much more appreciative and joyful for my life and everything in it. Including myself.
Now, I’d love to hear from you: What is the hardest thing you choose to do in your day and why? Let me know in the comments below.
As always, if you enjoyed reading this post, or know someone else who would benefit from meditating, please share.
All my love!