This morning I had a bad bout of anxiety. By bad, I mean the kind that paralyzes me for hours. When I try to “feel the feelings” during these moments, I get frustrated. I start by asking myself where in my body I feel the anxiety. Is there a color? A shape? This usually leads to one of two things; my mind starts to wander or I fall asleep. So then I try some breathing exercises, but that rarely helps. So I have yet to find something that helps when these situations arise.
I’ve been told to have a curious inquiry when I begin to feel this way. This allows me to have some distance from the feeling while being able to be compassionate. Thing is I forget to do that. But if experience has taught me anything, it’s that even if I remember this skill after the fact, it will only be a matter of time before I remember to do it when I need to.
Luckily, the group I meditate with met today. So after some talking myself into it, I jumped on my bike and rode to the Vipassana center.
I first learned about Vipassana meditation from my undergrad psychology instructor. We would practice meditation first thing before every class and I was surprised to see that it was something that I enjoyed. After that course was over, I didn’t practice meditation again until about a year ago when I found a local Dharma Punx group.
My goal would be to practice daily, but it always amazes me how much energy I need to muster just to be still. I was able to practice daily for a week once, and I remember how it made a big difference. I felt much more balanced. So now, I am making more of an effort to practice daily as a part of this healing journey I’m on. In doing so, I’m practicing being compassionate to myself and gently silencing the loud thoughts that bully themselves into my mind.
Today I went to the Rebel Dharma sitting and for the first time, I felt like the meditation session was so short. When I sit, it usually takes about 10 minutes for me to settle in. For those first 10 minutes my mind is chattering up a storm and I can feel myself getting agitated. Then I remind myself that I just started and to give myself time.I concentrate on my breathing and open up to the comings and goings of the sounds around me.
It’s inevitable that my thoughts will creep in and take over, and it’s at these moments that I remember what Pema Chodron suggested and gently say to myself “thinking” and bring myself back to my breathing. Then again, I open up to the sounds around me. This makes up the bulk of my meditation.
Today was no different. As soon as I sat on the cushion I noticed that it felt too flat, but decided to keep it anyway. As we started, it didn’t take long to start feeling a familiar pain in my right leg. It goes from my hip to my knee and the longer I I sit, the more it burns. I used to try to sit with that pain, but I noticed that when I do, it gets worse until it’s intolerable. So I no longer indulge my old Catholic guilt with this pain, and I allow find a more comfortable position.
When practice is over, I like to ask myself “what did you learn about yourself?” In this particular session, I learned that I don’t trust my knowledge of what’s good for me. As soon as I noticed that the cushion was too flat, I could have switched it out for another one, but I didn’t. Maybe this would have made a difference in my leg pain.