Tuesday, October 11, 2011

on meditation and such

Last year I took a course in Buddhism. One of the requirements for class was that we meditate for 20 minutes a day. It turned out to be more difficult than I had anticipated. Around the same time I started the class, I also started doing some pretty heavy childhood trauma recovery therapy, so when I would sit and let things get quiet in my mind, the thoughts that would rush in were very painful and not the kinds of things I could simple "notice and let flow past like leaves upon the surface of a stream." Yeah, not so much.

This term I have a class called "Spiritual Practices for Healing and Wholeness" and it is kicking my emotional butt. The meditation practice we are supposed to be doing relies deeply on a trusting relationship with the divine, and that's something I don't seem to have. In fact, two weeks ago in class, we talked about how in infancy babies learn trust and that trust is the foundation for all relationships in a person's life, with people and with the divine. Well then. In my infancy? I didn't have lessons of trust. When I was abandoned at 8 months old, with my five older half-siblings, I was not able to sit up on my own and had pretty much stopped crying.

Not all babies learn trust in that first year. Some of us learn something else. And those of us who do not learn trust in infancy spend a lifetime dealing with the after effects of what we did learn.

This week's reading was on centering prayer, an exercise that I view with some suspicion. It sounds a lot like a gentler version of some kind of unworthiness exercise. It is about emptying the self in order to reach a higher kind of spiritual awareness. I struggle with the letting go. Letting go seems to indicate that what I have is not worth holding, that it is an impediment to healing and wholeness. On the other hand, what I've got in my personhood is largely a result of what I have built up over the years. This assignment is nothing short of terrifying for me. Let go? Of the stuff that has kept me together for so long? I don't know if I can do that.

But then I read the wrong chapter. We were assigned chapters 1-8 and then 11-14. Not paying attention and trying to get the assignment done, I plowed right through chapter 8 into 9 and all of a sudden the thing was speaking my language. The book talked about how this practice fits with the 12-step recovery model, and how it works in that context, and suddenly things got a little brighter. Chapter 10 is the author's concern about some gaps in the method as done through the recovery model, but really, chapter 9 may have saved this whole experience for me. I think I can do this now. Centering prayer might not be as dangerous as I had feared.

To be honest, the chapter describes a method and results that are potentially as awkward and painful as any work I have done, but in the context of a recovery plan. When you peel back some layers of crap, there is ugly stuff that comes to the surface and demands attention. Rather than view that surfacing stuff as an imperfection in the meditation model, this version views it as a natural result of the practice, allows for whatever method of dealing with it that I might need, and then, when I am ready again, to proceed on. This is very much like step work. Do a step, all kinds of shit comes up. Deal with it, process it, and let it go. Do another step, repeat the process. And when you're done, going back and starting over might not be a bad plan.

This is the first time in a long while where the thought of meditation does not create instant tightness in my chest. I can do this. It is about healing ancient wounds. Class still triggers me substantially, but I have coping mechanisms for that. This practice can trigger me now too, and I have a way to handle it. I cannot tell you what a relief that is. I hope to report more as I learn.

Later all.

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