I’d like to spend more time focusing on my writing about meditation because it is the most important choice I have made in my life. I am not going to attempt to convert anyone to any religion because I’m not a religious person. Meditation came to me because of mental illnesses and a strong desire to change my life. Thanks to meditation, I have found my spirituality, I have found that I don’t need to change my life, and I have found that any journey to happiness is bullshit. When I started meditating, I was really sick, but I didn’t want to admit it. I was having panic attacks daily, night terrors, intrusive thoughts/intrusive suicidal ideation, and severe depression.
Since most of us have the attention span of fruit flies, and I’ve already typed 100 words, I will start with a TL;DR, with a strong encouragement to keep going, if this piques your interest – or don’t, I don’t really care. TL;DR – Meditation is a powerful and life-changing tool, similar to step one in the 12 step program. Like calling on Higher Power/God, you can find the means to help change your life, but will only happen with a mind that is open and receptive, not hampered with expectations. In other words, don’t meditate to get something out of it, or to get on the good side of god. Do it because you are doing it. As Socrates said, there is no try.
I’ve been consistently meditating for over a year now. I started when I turned 34, because I was determined to stop living the way I was. I did not really know what to expect. Generally, I envisioned Buddha-like stuff. Before I began meditating, I had started studying Buddhism and a lot of random philosophy and psychology. I connected with Buddha’s teachings because “Expect Nothing” made perfect sense to me. Those two words made me realize I was destroying my happiness with my expectations.
You set standards no family could live up to ~Ellen, Christmas Vacation
If I could find a way to stop narrating my life, planning everything, and expecting perfection in everything, well shit. I’d be happy. A year later, all of these things still happen, but I, fortunately, know enough to ignore myself. My current most commonly used line with myself is, “this problem will never be solved by thinking.”
I think most people start where I did in turning to meditation. There is an impasse so great you have no choice but to do something completely different. I came to a point where I realized no matter what I did or how I did it, the results were the same. I think there is a similar feeling when someone turns to a 12 step program. This realization that ___ situation is out of control and you need help. 12 steps is kind of where I started, but not in the traditional sense.
I started studying 12 step programs because I was obsessed with Carl Jung’s theories on the human psyche, his position that a healthy mind needs a connection to the divine/God/god. I’m drastically oversimplifying, but he essentially said beyond the id/subconscious, ego, and superego that Freud presented, there is a collective consciousness with information all of us readily have in the forms of archetypes – symbols that have universal understanding. Mother is an archetype, for example. His theories were applied in the creation of the 12 step program. The first step is admitting you are powerless over your ____, and you turn to the god of your understanding for help in solving the ____.
I tiptoe the line of addiction, thankfully. I am fortunate enough to have a mechanism in me that pulls me back from losing myself. When I turned to meditation, I had stopped killing a case of beer (or more) while my kids were with their dad, stopped fucking away my problems, and I mostly stopped starving myself/vomiting whatever I did eat. With all of this good progress, I still was not happy.
The first step of change is to become aware of your own bullshit.
I had started the process of untangling the web of my bullshit, realizing most of my life was a chain reaction of bad decisions and choices, but how do I heal? How do I forgive myself? How do I grow and learn from all of this pain? Jung helped me see the shadows in my psyche, and Jung helped me accept it and stop repressing everything. But what do I do with all of this…shit?
I rejected 12 step programs because there were too many people, and I didn’t want to stay in the past or go up and down steps the rest of my life. That’s how I came to meditation because I don’t have to deal with people to do it. Plus, they had us meditate a lot in the mental hospital, and I dug it. (It took me months to remember I used to meditate when I was little, so that was a cool connection.) I wanted to stop hurting myself, and I wanted to stop hurting. I did not really know how sitting with my eyes closed was going to help, but fuck it let’s try something new right?
If you are trying to meditate, you are not meditating
I definitely had all of the wrong ideas at first. I was convinced I was a horrible meditator because my brain was so busy, noisy, and I had trouble staying with my breathing. I also found sitting cross-legged on the floor really uncomfortable and distracting, same with sitting in a chair. There is also no reality my thunder thighs go into a lotus, and I’m okay with that. I also can’t sit still to save my life. So, I tried walking meditations. Walking meditations completely changed all of my ideas about meditating.
I started to understand it wasn’t about quiet or even stillness. It was about focus and observation. It was about allowing thoughts to come and go without following them with new thoughts. Since sitting wasn’t comfortable, I started meditating lying down before bed, and soon I started finding myself getting distracted by guided meditations. Every time the guide would say something about thoughts, it would make me think. So, I built a playlist to meditate to in Spotify of songs I love, songs that made me feel like me or made me feel calm.
The key to meditation is figuring out how you meditate.
Alan Watts (Oh wow, it took me how many paragraphs to get him in here?!) described religion/spirituality as fingers pointing to the moon, but the problem is most people confuse the finger for the moon. What he is saying is, don’t get stuck on dogma. Don’t get stuck on how someone else did it. You see lovely statues and pictures of Buddha sitting in the lotus position and you think, oh shit, how do I do that? Don’t.
I meditate when I drive, hell that’s actually when I meditate best because I am engaged and present. I am connected head to toe, as I press the pedals and steer, and I allow my conscious attention to be on the road, while my internal world does whatever it’d like to do without the micromanager of my ego fucking it all up. Everything you read about meditation, religion, spirituality are all fingers trying to show you the moon; however, you are the only one who can navigate your eyes to that moon. I can be another finger, but it’s a middle one, and it’s likely up my nose.
I genuinely believe life is not meant to be taken seriously, and I used to be the exact opposite. I am very happy, even though on the surface, nothing in my life is going right. It’s like I said initially, I generally don’t have any expectations anymore. It’s not that I wander around fainting in surprise like a goat, but I handle life better. I’m by no means Buddha (or am I?) but I’m not as much of a hot mess (or am I?)
I will end today’s post with this question: Who are you? Who sits behind your eyes and looks at the world? Not your name, someone else gave you that. Not what you do, not who you raise or who raised you, who are you?
Tomorrow, I will talk more about mental illness & meditation and advice I would have given myself a year ago. Thank you for reading, and please share my writing if you enjoyed it. Comments are welcome, and you can email me at mahbuttitches at gmail.com.
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Love this. Many of the things you’ve mentioned are why I also began a meditation practice. At first, I tried visualization with meditation, but it just didn’t work for me. I found it easier when I focused on simply breathing, which eventually led to Zen/Chan practice and “no self.” No attachments… it’s very liberating.
That’s fantastic how you’ve been able to achieve personal peace through meditation.
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🙂 Thank you. I still struggle with visualization – I tend to see things when I meditate, but I cannot make myself see things. I like just staying with my breath and following my heartbeat, it’s cool finding where it can be 🙂 I’m really glad you are finding peace and liberation too! Thank you so much for reading and commenting, you made me smile tonight!
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I can’t concentrate or sit still. I am too hyper active.
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haha, most people are like that. It’s why moving meditations work better for me, or lying down. 🙂
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Staying put in one place may distress me lol