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April 14, 2015

When Meditation is not Blissful.

meditation 3

“Everywhere you go there you are.”

I’ll never forget the first time I heard this.

It describes perfectly the fight inside myself. If I can’t escape myself, then what? Where do I go? I realized how much effort I put into trying to escape myself. I went running. I partied. I even used yoga.

But over and over again, I found this to be the truth: everywhere I go, there I am.

I adopted a regular yoga practice about six years ago, in a crisis mode.

My lifelong anxiety had come to a head and nothing at all could smother it.

I started with Vinyasa. Hot Vinyasa. Blaring music, sweaty yoga bodies in Lululemon. It was first door I opened.

In all my life, I had never thought about my breath. I was focusing on my breath. I had never once felt compassion towards my own body. I was feeling strong and joyful in my body. I’d never felt “relaxed” being still and quiet. I still didn’t (coming soon).

So, most of those classes were complete bliss, until the end.

Savasana. I went inside my head. And freaked out. There I was.

Years passed and things were beginning to change but I had many questions, so I took a yoga teacher training with a woman strongly rooted in Anusara.

Next door opened.

I went through.

So, there are actual alignment principles that tell us what to do in the postures? I had no idea. I thought the point was to be free, open and dance. Turns out I was wrong.

According to B.K.S. Iyengar, “It is through the alignment of my body that I discovered the alignment of my mind.”

What I perceived as boundaries and limitations set my practice free.

For me, an alignment-based yoga practice is a deeply connected practice. A connection to the invisible, to the playground within.

As Richard Freeman beautifully states, “Our very own body, which is immediately available to us, becomes a laboratory of consciousness.”

I discovered that holding postures for long periods of time and focusing on alignment took me to a new edge. The strength I thought I had was quite superficial. What I was developing now was internal strength.

During my training I met a woman who studied with Douglas Brooks in India, and talked to us about tantric yoga principles. She mesmerized me. One thing she said, I wrote down in huge letters and starred in my notebook.

“Stop asking the Universe for what it is not offering you.”

What?

This rocked me to the core. I always thought, “Ask and you shall receive.”

And I was an asker. I begged. For everything I wanted from the Universe. The Universe might have even blocked my number. I decided to call her up. I sat with her for an hour.

Next door opened. Through it I went.

It’s hard to put into words what this gifted teacher has shown me. She’s challenged me to see what is right with me, rather than what is wrong with me. But most of all, she has simply and clearly shown me what my work is. My inner work. And I have everything I need to do it. There were no more excuses. It was time take the next valiant step in my journey. To learn how to sit with my discomfort.

Enter meditation.

Ugh.

I don’t want to.

Really.

Because every time I sit down, close my eyes and look inside, I freak out. Because there I am.

This was a creaky and stubborn door. I pried it open.

I did an hour-long group meditation session that she led a few months ago and I was not blissful, relaxed or peaceful. None of the above. I closed my eyes and came face to face with the monster. My anxiety. Relentless. Only this time I had nothing to distract myself. No music, no asana, nothing.

After each meditation I wrote in my journal, exactly how I felt. Like shit. Actually, my writing was starting to look really sloppy and I actually thought, “My writing looks like that of a serial killer.”

Yes, this was just one of the blissful thoughts running through my head. I was sure this meant I was certifiable. The session ended and I went on with my day.

I had a good week.

And this is the point. For the first time I can ever remember, coming face to face with the monster did not unravel me. It didn’t send me into a complete tailspin. It sucked. I hated it. And I moved on. This was growth; I was awake enough to see that.

Today I have a daily meditation practice. It’s not perfect and definitely not always blissful. But each time I sit with my discomfort, I am facing the monster and the monster is shrinking.

What if all along my biggest fear in life was coming face to face with myself and each time I sit in stillness, I am facing that fear?

What swells up inside me now is undeniable courage. Glimpses of freedom.

Each time I finish my meditation, I bow in gratitude so great my heart feels like it could burst open.

I say, “My heart is open to the adventure of life.”

Yes, it does take an open heart and big, big courage to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Fully embracing the experience of being a human is scary and exhilarating. But I plan to do it.

Sometimes I lose my way, but I do and always will keep going. The path is lit.

~

Relephant Read: 

A Monk’s Guide to Overcoming Obstacles in Meditation.

~

Author: Anna Versaci

Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock

Photo: courtesy of Seamly

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Anna Versaci