I didn’t seek out meditation. Nobody pointed me in that direction, though they probably would’ve had they known the truth. I was good at keeping secrets and had been hoarding closet skeletons since my early teens. I was a polite catastrophe, a sophisticate of mask-making and self-medication 101.
You see, somewhere between the breezy-daffodil-days of primary school and new paradigms of puberty blues, something happened. I got waylaid, wandered right off the path of wholehearted and happy and started loitering for long periods of time in what Rumi would poeticize as “mean spirited roadhouses.” I entered what I refer to now (with a smile) as The Dark Ages.
What began as self-starvation eventually morphed into bulimia and drug addiction – more easily concealable symptoms of the same destructive impulse. As I said, I was good at keeping things under cover, I just kept swallowing the secrets, the sorrow, shame and self-doubt, letting it rot from the inside. Little by little, not enough that the outside world would notice the fade. On the surface, I was highly functional. Underneath the mask, I was anxious, depressed and shadowed by the guilt and self-judgement of living a double life. I glossed over the heart burn and leaky gut, the anaemia and enamel erosion, the psoriasis and hair loss-by-the handful. My body was falling apart like a jigsaw. And I didn’t know how to stop. Head-in-the-sand, I simply took the dental bills, doctor’s warnings and ECG scans in my stride. I wasn’t well. And it wasn’t fun. A big part of me wanted to change but I couldn’t get out of my own way, pinned by some centrifugal force – involuntary reflex responses to invisible unknown shadows, the demons of my psyche.
Places we go when there’s nowhere left to run.
Clinging to the hope that recovery might be possible, but with no clue how, I set out in the direction of the self-help section, delving into one healing modality after the next, from Eastern to esoteric, from mystic spiritual shamans to white-collared academics and the more fluffy fix-it type therapies in between. Somehow within all of this seeking and spiritual vagabonding I stumbled upon a 10-day silent meditation retreat called Vipassana. I didn’t know if it held the answers. I didn’t care. Ten days in a psycho-social straightjacket sounded appealing. It was the proverbial padded cell. I’d be granted 10 days protection from…myself. And that was enough. I’d never meditated before. I couldn’t sit still for 2 minutes. But some long-buried instinct whispered, “Go.”
Osho once said, “if you feel much resistance against meditation, it simply shows that deep down you are alert that something is going to happen which will change your whole life. You are afraid of being reborn. You have invested too much in your old habits, in the old personality, in the old identity.” He was right. I booked in. And bailed out. Literally half way there I U-turned and headed back home. I wasn’t ready.
Meditation was my sword excalibur.
A few years and many broken promises later, and there I was, déjà vu, typing “meditation retreat” into google’s search bar and filling out the forms. This time, however, I actually showed up.
As it turned out, Vipassana was the double knot undone, the lock unpicked, the soul contract signed – “right there on the dotted line please, thank you and congratulations.” It was the beginning of the end, the cease fire – raising the little white flag and winding down a decade long internal struggle. Those 10 days of silent meditation took me from agitation to settled stillness. It stripped away the self-defeating beliefs, fractured behaviours and delusions, as though they were they were layers of clothing I never knew I was wearing. Involuntary reflex responses, the ones that had me constantly numbing and pushing down discomfort suddenly became conscious choices that I didn’t have to make.
Sitting still meant sitting with myself. No distractions, no escape hatch just a one-way ticket inward. It meant journeying straight to the pulse of the pain, it meant honouring my internal realities (and feeling ALLLL the feels). Author and activist Parker Palmer writes, “wholeness does not mean perfection: it means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life.” Meditation was a way of calling back and reclaiming all the disowned pieces of my Self, the emotions, sub-personalities and shadow-sides I’d tried to hide and deny. Lonely, Broken, Tender, Needy – I realised (or maybe more accurately, I remembered) they were all part of the indivisible whole. My white-knuckle grip on perfection (and pretending) began to loosen and I finally gave myself permission to just “be” human. Meditation helped me see – all this time I had been trying to fix something that had never been broken. I was finally done with escaping. Because there was nothing to escape. Meditation was a balm for my soul. It moved me closer to my inside world, my heart, and my higher self – filled with the wisdom and remembrance that we all always hold.
Domesticating the demons- from struggle to snuggle.
I continued to meditate as though my life depended on it. Because it (kind of) did. Meditation was my light in shining armour, illuminating the demons of the dark. And so initially, meditation was totally non-negotiable. “Take evening and night ’til symptoms desist.” However, as my personal resilience grew, I soon realised that missing one day of meditation wouldn’t kill me. I wouldn’t unravel and relapse. I wasn’t a house of cards. My inner landscape and the architecture of my soul had permanently altered. The shape shifters and doubters and demons as well as the better angels of my nature, had reconciled. Shadow and light now met and mingled under my skin in a sweet and soulful slow dance. There was no resistance, avoidance or dis-ease of mind, body or spirit. It was the best type of magic.
Why I still meditate.
In meditation I found my forever love. Since devoting myself to this practice my life has taken on more ease, there is more peace and freedom. It is deeply enriching, intimate and enlightening. I love how it makes me feel, think and act and, as with all things we love, it’s difficult to stay away. Excuse the abstract language, when it comes to meditation, for me, the metrics are more metaphysical than physical. Case in point- an undeniable increase in creativity and heart resourcing. There’s a moment during (most) meditations, when I enter the zen zone, a kind of flow state in which the boundaries between “me” and “not me” begin to blur. The harder surfaces of my psyche seem to dissolve along with the solidity of my body and I experience a kind of edgeless-ness. It’s a soft merging, a slipstream into the clear quantum waters – the ocean-of-energy connecting all things. Here, in this obscure realm little insights and intuitive hits that would (otherwise) not be given the oxygen of attention come out of hiding; The truths of my heart make themselves known; I can call upon loving-kindness, forgiveness, wisdom, grace…or whatever heart-resources are needed in the now. And I can plumb the depths of this inner world for creative inspiration – pulling pretty arrangements of words, stuff of poetry and inspired thought-forms. To me, meditation is a veritable powerpoint, a private portal into a world within a world – the wardrobe to Narnia, the open line to Zion, the rabbit hole to Wonderland.
The Bottom Line
Many of us search and search for the sacred outside of ourselves. Convinced we are broken, we spend all our time and energy filling the cracks with whatever we can find. Human bower birds weaving added shine into the fabric of our beings in an attempt to prove ourselves worthy of love and belonging. We deny and disown the parts of our selves we perceive to be ‘bad’, ‘undesirable’, ‘ugly’, becoming more and more disenfranchised, feeling ‘broken’ ‘damaged’ and displaced. Meditation mentally hugs all your fractured pieces back together. It removes the things in your blind spot, the invisible ‘splinter in your mind sending you mad’ and helps you see (clearly) the hollow centre of seemingly solid, long-held beliefs. The ones that keep you trapped in perpetuating cycles of isolation and self-doubt. The ones that hold your most meaningful life just beyond your reach. What happens when this freight-train-of-truth finally comes bearing down on you? Love. Peace. Intimacy. Oneness. Home. It’s the lightest, loveliest, and most sublime form of euphoria, hugely different than anything you’ve ever experienced. It will be your ultimate arrival because you know what? You will learn that everything you’ve searched for outside yourself has actually been within you already all along.
Want To Start A Meditation Practice Of Your Own
To me and many others, meditation is the gateway to true happiness. For personalised, one-on-one guidance, i invite you to enrol in the 8 week Mindfulness Master Class here. If you’ve never been able to meditate, or even sit still for that matter, Wabi-Sabi Well’s guided meditations (available here) will change everything. Using powerful tools like visualisation, mindfulness, intentions setting and sound therapy you’ll find here, a practice you look forward to. Fluff up a pillow, tune in and enjoy the inward travels.
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