When Meditation is Not Enough.

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gabriela meditation

So there I was, lying in shavasana for the fourth time that day.

I was letting go of my body and letting go of my mind. And, just like the other three times that day, it was going well.

In fact, my mind was blank.

This fourth time, I stayed for a half hour. I was convinced that, if I stayed in it longer, I might just release the anxiety that had been plaguing me on and off for the past week.

I embraced my blank, beautiful mind. I thanked myself for practicing.

I got up.

Thirty minutes later, I’m coming out of the shower and my mind’s in a frenzy again. It’s trying to organize tomorrow’s schedule into perfect segments, finding asymmetry in the bathroom tiles, and hyper-focusing on stray hairs on the floor.

I sighed desperately.

Why? Why is this happening? Why isn’t meditation working?

I was confused. I had become quite used to being friends with my mind. Of course, it goes astray just like everyone else’s, but I had formed a loving relationship with it where I could tell it to take a break when it was overloaded. And now, it had all come apart.

Not knowing what else to do, I resigned myself to allowing my mind to do what it must. I tried my best to not resist the waves of mental overactivity, nor to allow them to interrupt my day. I continued to work out and meditate daily, to take moments of gratitude, and to speak to myself lovingly.

The anxiety persevered.

Slowly but surely, it invaded my daily routines. It would creep up in the few seconds right after I’d hang up with a client. It would rear in its head after I finished washing the dishes. It would come first thing in the morning and last thing before bed.

It never came during meditation. It only came in those moments when I was briefly unoccupied.

I had no clue what was going on, but I kept myself open to the answer. I kept asking, even though I wasn’t receiving any replies.

A few days later, I found myself quite unoccupied on the train. The feeling of anxiety came, except this time, it led to a sharp image of my notebook in my bag. I followed the hunch.

About 10 minutes later, I was pouring myself onto paper, feeling my inner core lighting on fire.

After I got off the train, my mind was more than clear. All of the colours were turned up brighter and people’s eyes were friendlier. It was like my mind was thanking me, praising me, reinforcing me. And suddenly, I understood. My anxiety was not something meditation could fix.

For over a month, I had left creativity on the shelf. I’ve been a writer all my life, but I wasn’t honouring that. All the writing I was doing was very technical. I was writing emails, pitches, and query letters, but no feelings or insights. I was watching my clients unleash their loving, creative energy, while sidestepping my own.

My mind didn’t need meditation. It needed stimulation.

And not just any kind. I had, after all, been reading and watching talks. No, my mind needed something specific. It needed creativity. My mind was bothering me because it was bored.

On the other side of this realization, I find myself, once again, in a beginner’s mindset when it comes to self-discovery.

Like Albert Einstein said, “Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.”

Once we master one thing, something else will turn into an opportunity for growth. Once we master that, it will be another thing.

This has been a sobering and funny reminder that the search within myself and the journey to understanding is never over. I had almost forgotten to laugh and to accept that, even if I know how to quiet my mind, I still know nothing.

So this article is coming to me in a writing frenzy, one that will last as long as it lasts, before I need something else. And when that call for change comes, I’ll be open. When this, too, passes, I’ll be ready.

What I’ve allowed myself to remember through this experience is this—the most important gift I can ever give to myself and to the world is the willingness to understand. That is my only responsibility. And in this beautiful, chaotic, hilarious existence where nothing stays the same—that is, and always will be, enough.

 

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anonymous May 4, 2014 2:11pm

Great work! Thank you.

anonymous Apr 25, 2014 10:58am

Thank you for sharing your experience!

Though meditation is essential for life, so is being with what is. Using the arts to help us work with what is can be invaluable if done with intention. I am overwhelmed with joy and gratitude to be helping my clients with this piece of the puzzle while using a body-centered approach to expressive art therapy. It never ceases to astonish me how invaluable the arts are for helping us receive our body's messages.

I come from a family of yogis and a very old lineage of masters, and one thing I've witnessed both personally and in others is that even the maha triad of meditation, pranayama and yoga can't unravel all of the emotional work that is present. And that is why we have the arts. 😉

Thanks for sharing your journey! http://www.swatijrjyotish.com

    anonymous Apr 25, 2014 12:34pm

    Wow, Swati, I love how you've phrased this. I am being completely honest when I say – your mindset is revolutionary. I truly believe that mixing East and West, seeing where both belong, and not subscribing 100% to either philosophy, but instead merging them …this is the future! I'm always excited to meet people like you who seem to genuinely get it. So much love your way!! I hope you help many, many people, my friend.

anonymous Apr 25, 2014 4:20am

Beautiful bit of writing. Neil Morbey x

    anonymous Apr 25, 2014 12:35pm

    Thank you Neil! Thanks for reading, my friend <3

anonymous Apr 24, 2014 2:56am

Hi Vironika

Thanks for sharing such a personal experience. The title of your article is "when meditation is not enough". I wonder if it would be better called something like "When my current meditation practice is not enough".

I'm not a psychologist, meditation teacher or a counsellor but I have benefitted greatly from meditation practice. I appreciate that you are a published author and I'm just an anonymous reader making comments so I apologise in advance if any of this is unhelpful.

When you lie in shavasana are you experiencing the physical sensations beneath the anxiety or are you escaping from them? Perhaps you are using meditation as a means to an end (rather than just letting sensations arise and naturally fade away) and the fact that this approach isn't working is telling you something you need to hear. Do you sit in meditation or is shavasana the only thing that works for you? Do you have a meditation teacher?

"My mind was bothering me because it was bored". This doesn't sound right to me. Do you know why boredom might make you feel uneasy? What might be hiding in the boredom that you don't want to face?

I wish I could I ask you this face to face as posting a comment with a list of awkward questions might look like I’m trying to score points off you but really I’m not.

Thanks

Richard

    anonymous Apr 24, 2014 7:20pm

    Dear Richard,

    I appreciate your questions!

    I have come to see that creativity is a part of who I am. In those days, I was trying to cram meditation into a schedule that was packed with marketing, emailing, and all sorts of mechanistic duties. My mind was trying to tell me that meditation practice was not enough – my life is the practice. No matter how many times we sit with ourselves, if our moment-to-moment experience is out of sync with who we are, we will feel it.

    Thank you again for interacting so deeply with this piece. Of course, I appreciate it and think nothing evil of you!

    With love and gratitude,

    Vironika

    anonymous Apr 24, 2014 7:34pm

    I realized I did not directly answer your questions in my last reply. I hope this does not get too long! 🙂

    When I experience any emotion, I do so completely and make sure to listen to the feeling as a message (not the thoughts during the feeling, which I'm sure you know, is quite different). This alone has been transformative, I must say.

    I meditate in many different ways. Shavasana, especially after yoga, is one that has been especially meaningful to me in hard times. I do not have a meditation teacher and believe we are all our own best teachers 🙂

    I wonder if I was unclear about what I meant by bored. I meant that my mind was not receiving the nourishment I know it needs. I am quite fond of my mind. We're great friends. The thing is – our emotions are always responding to our thoughts, but sometimes those thoughts are not words. How can we know what thought we are allergic to if it is not in words? Only by learning a very different kind of language. Which is, I suppose, what I am advocating for here.

    I will end by saying that I am okay if you disagree with me. Everyone's experience is equally valid. I do not mean to be an authority on anyone but myself. If you have another way of relating to yourself that is different, I embrace and accept it with open arms. We are all on our own unique, beautiful journeys, trying our best and doing it as well as we can.

    Namaste. <3

anonymous Apr 23, 2014 3:20pm

Thank you for writing and sharing this. I have similar experiences. I'd maybe describe mine as an inability to take my meditation practice off the cushion (or my yoga practice off the mat) and into my "normal" life. I frequently find that I'm not all all mindful for large parts of my day. As a qualified mindfulness trainer (although I don't actually teach) I find this very frustrating and can be very self critical.
What you say about stimulation and creativity is very interesting. I really don't like my job and feel very stifled. In the past I'd always equated creativity with being artistic but have recently realised that's not always the case. I would say I have no artistic talent but am capable of solving IT issues by using knowledge, experience and gut instinct which is a kind of creativity. I'm also interested in photography and am trying to learn more about how good photos are made (lighting and composition as well as technical operation of camera).

    anonymous Apr 24, 2014 7:22pm

    You're perfectly on the money here, David. Meditation is not enough when our work is unsatisfying.

    Before I went into doing what I do now full-time, there was even more frustration, anger, and anxiety that popped up all the time! Of course, it was helpful to me to learn to cope with it and accept it. But must we spend our lives coping?

    Set yourself free, my friend. You deserve it.

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Vironika Tugaleva

Like every human being, Vironika Tugaleva is an ever-changing mystery. At the time of writing this, she was a life coach, world traveler, and award-winning author of two books (The Love Mindset and The Art of Talking to Yourself). She spent her days writing, dancing, singing, running, doing yoga, going on adventures, and having long conversations. But that was then. Who knows what she’s doing now? Keep up at www.vironika.org.