Last week I attended my first Buddhist group. I didn’t know what to expect, unsurprisingly. I just knew it was an area of my life I wanted to explore a little further with the hope that, maybe, it would help me understand *things* that little further.
I have also been desperate to establish a meditation practice to sit alongside my yoga one. Because, to me, they go hand in hand. And I can’t help but think that in that joint practice sits the key to a mindful life.
And not just talking about it. Not just writing about it. Actually living it.
The group started with some chanting. Fine, no problem. I’m a-ok with chanting from my yoga. I love the energy of it.
But then it came to the next bit and the words I had no idea would fill me with such dread.
“So now we’ll take 30 minutes of silent meditation.”
That’s right. I’d come to a Buddhist group with the sole purpose of meditating and yet the actual act of sitting cross legged with my eyes shut for longer than a few breaths made me a nervous wreck.
I know. I didn’t understand it either.
But here’s the thing. The thought of being in that silent space without any stimulants panicked me. I couldn’t help but think “Jesus, I could be using my time SO much more effectively right now” and even “well if I count X breaths in and out at a speed of Y then I should reach the 30 minute mark at Z.”
For the life of me I could not imagine how I would be able to convince my mind to take a step back for that time without it running circles around every topic under the sun.
It was anything but comfortable to me. My shoulder was causing me grief having pulled it the night before and my ankle was sitting at a funny angle. My neck felt stiff. My toes started to go dead.
So. Many. Different. Feelings. And. Sensations.
And that was all within the first 30 seconds.
It was exhausting.
Then this quiet voice in my ear.
“You’re pushing your attention on all these things because you’re scared to be alone with your own thoughts.”
And it was true. Being totally alone in the silence of my own mind terrified me. It’s for that precise reason I fall asleep with Netflix playing. Why when I find myself in a situation where I can’t nod off either with laptop at my side or a book in my hand I don’t sleep and instead the insomnia kicks in.
That huge, empty, vastness… it panics me. The nothingness? I avoid it at all costs.
Yet… it doesn’t have to be a “nothingness”, does it? Is that not the whole point of meditation? That in the “nothingness” we are able to find “something”?
“When your attention moves into the Now, there is an alertness. It is as if you were waking up from a dream, the dream of thought, the dream of past and future. Such clarity, such simplicity. No room for problem-making. Just this moment as it is.” – Eckhart Tolle
So I forced myself to be with it. To spinal breathe through the chakras and take note of the uncomfortable aches and then move on. To let my mind try to wander but trust that it would find its way back.
To be comfortable with being uncomfortable.
It wasn’t easy. I can’t sit here and pretend that this sudden epiphany instantly made me a master of the big M.
But it was a process I stuck with. That I committed to.
It’s a concept I’m trying to bring into my daily life. That sense of living not in despite of any stress, difficulties or simply awkwardness… but within it. Trying not to fight it, but understand that you will grow from it.
Because, surely, if we stopped resisting the inevitable, worrying about what “could” be and instead accepted each passing moment as it was… passing, fleeting… then surely everything would be a hell of a lot easier?
Surely we would understand *things* that little further?