“No, no! The adventures first, explanations take such a dreadful time.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass
So I began my 30-day meditation challenge. Not as a challenge, as an adventure. I have tried meditating before and failed miserably at it. To me meditation was 5 to 10 minutes of dreadful rumination wandering the grey dusty recesses of my mind. I ruminate enough in life without setting time aside to do so, or so I thought.
My therapist recommended meditation. All the new Neuropsychiatric literature was pointing towards meditation as the new cure for “depression”, “anxiety disorders”, and “addiction”. Only 10 minutes a day, and you too, will climb out of the frightful deadening pit of depression. I had been through the New Age psychiatric fad route in the late 1970’s and had come out much worse for wear. To me meditation had “Fad” written all over it. I could fill this post full of links to scientific articles on meditation (I will leave that an online adventure for a later time). I dismissed meditation until I participated in this 30-day challenge.
Kristopher Carter, KC as he is known, leads up a meditation blog, “This Epic Life” and creates meditation podcasts called “The Pause”. I met KC through Jonathan Fields immersion program called, ”The Good Life Project”. KC is a spirited bundle of positive energy and it was his addictive playful encouragement that bated my participation in this challenge.
Jonathan Fields, “Good Life Project” offers three weekend immersion as part of the program. Each day of the first immersion weekend began with 30 minutes of meditation. I decided this was an ideal time frame for me, 30 minutes, I mean. Ten minutes to settle down and let my anarchy of thoughts parade across the frosted fields of my mind. Ten minutes to pay attention to the frolicking self-compassion love bombs delivered by KC during the guided meditation. The final ten minutes focused on ignoring the shooting pain of my sciatica wondering if this Loving Kindness meditation was ever going to end.
It was at the end of this immersion weekend, KC purposed the 30-day meditation challenge. I added meditation to my daily walks and hikes. Taking pictures of the places I meditated, adding sayings to the pictures, and posting the pictures online. I was, and I am really enjoying myself. So did anything magical happen? Was I cured of my illness? No. Nor did I begin the meditation challenge with this belief. I think myself or anyone else who starts from the belief that meditation is a cure all will undoubtedly be disappointed. However, I did find multitudes of benefits.
One of the curiosities of my life is my inherent ability to dissociate. Diagnosed several years ago with Complex PTSD or PTSD with dissociative disorder (as referred to in the DSM V Psychiatric diagnostic manual). I have spent the last couple of years increasing my acceptance of my terrifically horrific talent, dissociation.
In Greek Mythology, Lethe is the river of forgetfulness, one of the five rivers in Hades. Interestingly enough, Lethe is also referred to as the river of unmindfulness. Spending your childhood floating down the Lethe River of forgetfulness is a gift. A talented mental shield developed to withstand a terrifyingly painful childhood. As an adult, the raging river Lethe is similar to kayaking a level five white water without a paddle. Kayaking down the river Lethe, I can find myself driving lost in my own neighborhood. Kayaking down the river Lethe, I may find myself on a beach, or other place I have no conscious intention of embarking towards. Kayaking down the river Lethe increases my husband’s frustration for my inability to recall people or places, increasing the potential for discord within our marriage, certainly within our social circles. In other words, dissociation – unintentional episodes of amnesia, has a tendency to wreak havoc on the lives of adults who suffer from PTSD, Complex PTSD, and other such disorders.
The main benefit from meditation that I am developing is the muscle and virtue, patience. How does meditation help in developing patience? When meditating I sit unmoving as I watch battlefields of red bomb thoughts exploding into fragmented memories of my childhood. I become aware of myself as a child, I am the child sitting as still as a brave, I am the brave sitting still as the rock. I watch my inner screen while images and thoughts explode into a myriad of word ash, like autumn leaves floating buoyed by air, wisped side to side, landing softly on the hard ground next to me. I inhale in thru my nose and scan my body, realizing that NOTHING in the moment has happened. I am still me. I am an adult. I am sitting still, sitting whole, meditating, at my place of choosing. My thoughts have aroused my fear neurons, awakened memory networks, yet NOTHING externally has changed. I am still sitting in the same cold hard place.
I am learning a developmental cognitive skill. Understanding, my thoughts, ARE NOT actions, and my thoughts do not present a threat to me. I am learning that I can sit calmly through overwhelming emotion. I am learning to flex a mental muscle. I am learning patience.
I have read countless websites, on meditation. Reading how I am to sit and watch my thoughts drift by with detachment. I have wondered, “What the hell is that suppose to mean?” Now I know. I know not because I read it and understood what detachment meant. I know because thirty minutes is a long time to sit, many thoughts come and go in that time period. My sitting still while waves of thought crash against the existing structures of my brain, is, simply put, detachment.
I started incorporating breathing techniques into my practice. The ice cool feel of air inhaled through my nose, filling up my abdomen, my diaphragm, my chest, my throat, my third eye (where my eyes would cross approximately at the upper bridge of my nose), and then out the top of my head. Breathing in for a count of ten, holding the air in my expanded lungs for another count of ten, and finally the slow exhale visualizing the pathway opposite of the inhale. Over days, maybe weeks, I found when those rambling mind numbing thoughts trampled across the flora of my grey matter I would start practicing my breathing, and with a pop and snap those thoughts disappeared.
The patience and breathing I practiced during my meditation challenge started showing up when I spoke of emotionally impactful memories in therapy, when I became frustrated, and when I am anxious. During these difficult episodic periods, I find myself being patient with myself by stilling, and breathing: by learning to detach. I have developed the beginnings of self-compassion.
“Make your ego porous. Will is of little importance, complaining is nothing, fame is nothing. Openness, patience, receptivity, solitude is everything.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke