October 22, 2011

Why Meditation & Action are Hand-in-Hand Practices. ~ Linnea Jensen-Stewart

Photo: Lucassen Emmanuel


Its one of those words that has many images attached to it: of a person smiling, sitting cross-legged with their middle finger touching their thumb. Perhaps wearing gypsy pants, half naked in a cave in India, turning into a rainbow of their chakras as they float through their own psychic realm to instantly transcend all their problems, fear and pain into pure love, bliss and eternal consciousness.

And If you met me three years ago. I was on my way to that crazy train.

Okay, maybe not that extreme. But either way – I saw meditation as a my quick-fix solution. I viewed it as a way to find complete peace, stillness, awakening and extreme opening.

I found meditation my first year of college. Like many people I turned to spirituality because I didn’t know what else to do. I was fresh out of a serious relationship of several years. That same year I had five friends die from various forms of accidents or suicide. My mother was hit with the big-C: breast cancer. And I was “diagnosed” with depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress. Which let me tell you – was not the case.

Yes, I had nightmares.

Yes, I felt broken and lost without my ex.

Yes, I woke up and called people that were dead.

Yes, I was in a new place and was experiencing ongoing episodes of extreme anxiety.

Yes, I wasn’t sleeping.

Yes, my mother was really sick, and I wasn’t by her side. Nor could she be by mine. My answers to the doctors questions were always yes. I remember my mother sitting there in the chair, reading me like a multiple choice test. This threw me for a whole new loop of being caged in by my own pain rather than just simply being in a period of upset – that needed some serious processing.

Needless to say, there I was — starting my life, having absolutely no clue who I was or how to even begin. I was reactive, grasping, needy, stuck and I wanted a magic bullet (hence the need for the gypsy pants, and rainbow chakras).

I couldn’t understand how I had gone from a sensual, soulful, vibrant, playful soul… to a diagnosis. And in my pain, I knew she was still there, and intuitively I don’t think I ever fully believed anything that the doctors said. So I started with meditation and yoga with a defined goal (always a dangerous word when dealing with matters of the heart) to heal.

Without a doubt, yoga and meditation are the most heart-opening, healing, rejuvenating, remembering-who-you-are practices I have ever experienced. But eyes open, I was still afraid, sad and broken. So yes, It was absolutely how I accessed this foreign person again, but not at all how I brought her back to life.

This distinction became apparent in therapy a few years later.

This particular day is vivid in my mind – mostly because absolutely everything about my therapist was annoying me. He was sitting in the same position he always sat in, with the same expression on his face and yes – asking the same exact questions he had always asked. And with my goal-oriented, give-me-peace-and-love-now attitude – I snapped.

Dont you have any other questions? I mean I’ve been coming here for months. I meditate, I feel my pain, I notice it. I do everything I’m supposed to be doing. I just feel so stuck. This is your job.

His expression didn’t change.

Linnea,  you’ve been through a lot and you are very wise because of it – but I have to tell you… you need something other than your old life to apply it to. I’m sitting here listening, and I can’t help but think this is sort of like the process of recycling – you’re reusing all of your old pain, heartbreak and depression to try to reconstruct something new. The thing about recycling that most people don’t talk about is – well, only about 10% of it is actually used to make new products. The rest is irrelevant. And besides, you’ve got a lot of trash mixed in with the recycling, so that 10% is decreasing by the minute. You keep coming in here, saying you’re working through your problems. But the only thing you’re doing is just getting calm enough to talk about it over and over and over again. I can see that you’re very present with your pain. You are sincere about wanting to heal. You already have that wisdom. The meditation isn’t helping anymore. You think you’re going to go from being in pain, stuck and depressive to pure love and by sitting on your ass and meditating? And then going back to the same old patterns – expecting that to change your life? You know who you are, so what are you afraid of? You need some new information in your head. Stop processing the same old thoughts. Take action. The growth will follow.

His words hit me like a ton of bricks. Funny how our irritation with other people is always about ourselves. There it was, the light bulb moment (and I wasn’t even wearing my gypsy pants!)

If you think yoga and meditation alone will fix your problems, transcend your fears and just hand over: what I like to call the reach-your-full-potential-in-an-hour-package deal – you are way wrong. Even if you are doing it everyday. The growth comes in the cold, hard, dirty work of becoming the sole activist of your own well-being.

My habits had been repeatedly playing themselves out like a broken record. I wasn’t moving forward in my meditation. I was just noticing the same old crap over and over again. These old habits (the ones that got me in this mess in the first place) weren’t going to work for who I intuitively knew I was suppose to become.

True healing is creating new patterns to replace the old fear-filled ones. Once there is seeing, there must be acting. So yes, contrary to stillness, this means doing. What you fear most, is usually the exact direction you need to head. Meditation is like the blueprint for your potential. It is absolutely essential. It shows you where you are holding on. It tells you what you’re running away from, what you are most afraid of and most importantly that you have the capability to be so much more than the definition of your problems. This is only one small part of the equation. Use that blueprint in conjunction with the potential that is waiting to be fulfilled.

Notice the signals. Hunt down your fears. Don’t let them go back into hiding. They always have an important message to reveal to you.

Go after that impossible job, give that speech you’ve always been too afraid to do, confront your ex with the words you’ve always needed to say, apply for the PhD program you’ve always dreamed of, become the honest, loving and transparent partner that you’ve spent years searching for. Whatever your story is, be a visionary. And then act on it.  Embody that vision. Watch yourself grow, watch your meditation expand, and your confidence skyrocket.

It won’t always be pretty. In fact you might find that the first ten times you get up there and stare fear in the face, you make a fool of yourself. All the better.

You learn. You are alive. You are beautiful.

Growing is the imperfect process of being willing to look like a fool- knowing that you will soak up even more wisdom to apply to the next endeavor. This willingness to fail, to trust that taking daring actions is the only real way we can ever move through discomfort and into authentic, vibrant, sexy, explosive, expansion.

Linnea is a vinyasa yogi by heart and power yogi by discipline. She was trained to teach at the 200-hour level at Yandara Yoga Institute in Pescadaro, Mexico, where she practiced the fine art of becoming a baja beach bum (aka – letting it all go and embracing her inner goddess). She stands by the fact that although yoga is a lot about peace and love, it is also about confrontation, discomfort and being accountable for your own personal growth – body and mind. She is a wellness wizard, life-style designer, closet businesswoman, writer, foodie, fashionista, play-tress and creator. She currently teaches at Hot Yoga on the Ridge near Seattle, Wa. Her classes are a mix of alignment, playful discipline, and kicking your ass-ana! “Like” her on facebook. Follow her on twitter @LinneaYoga

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