Wk9, Day7: Awareness Stays

Wk9, Day7: Awareness Stays

One of my favorite forms of mindfulness meditation is called yoga nidra (sleep of the yogis). I learned the form taught by Richard Miller, called Integrative Restoration, or iRest(TM). This approach was the first that truly taught me the meaning of welcoming and accepting what arises.

I’ve led iRest(TM) groups in employee assistance programs and intensive outpatient programs and have not ceased to be amazed at its gentle ability to teach people to open to and become gradually more able to tolerate difficult aspects of their experiences. I’ve been grateful to bear witness to this in others as its a large part of the gift I’ve received from the practice.

Today, this week really but culminating today, I’ve had the opportunity to face some experiences from the past that I hadn’t realized still had such a voice in how I live now.

I’ll preserve my privacy about the content, but the mindfulness process—of observing and welcoming what arises—has been invaluble in meeting it. Once again, the meditation practice teaches the lesson that these objects (thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations) come and go, and awareness remains.

Wk9, Day6: Watching the Ups and Downs

Wk9, Day6: Watching the Ups and Downs

I spent the last two days building a website. I have not been involved in website production since the 90s, when the Internet was part of ‘new media.’ Everything is different now. Very little of what I know from back then applies anymore.

Much of what I usually do each day I’m skilled at. (I wonder how much of that is by design?) This weekend provided a welcome chance to watch my responses to not understanding much of what I was doing and not knowing how to find the answers I needed for not even knowing the terms for the problems I was having.

It was fascinating to see how quickly a pattern emerged. To realize how many of the initial times I went through the cycle unaware. I began taking breaks each time I became exasperated, and in these pauses insight emerged.

I began slowing my pace and changing my self-talk. And bit by bit, progress was made. By last evening, I’d found a solid set of resources, and as of an hour ago, I finished the first draft of the site. Successful product, successful process.

Wk9, Day5: Plateau or Middle Ground?

Some days it’s been difficult to bring the practice to the page. There does not seem to be anything new to report. I wake up. I meditate for an hour. I live my day, pausing in between activities. I get ready for bed. I meditate for another hour. I go to sleep.

At first I thought this was a plateau. Then I came across an article about the middle ground, by Pema Chodron. She discussed the events inside and outside of us coming along and inviting us to feel ‘up.’ Other events following that invite us to feel ‘down.’ And the space in between in which we notice the invitations, notice our responses (the old triangle of awareness: thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations), and make our decision to maintain equanimity in the middle.

That’s an ideal I won’t claim to be living in.

But I am in living in a space with fewer and lower ups and downs than I remember living in before this meditation experiment. The invitations are still there. I’m more often declining, sometimes without realizing it–the parts of me that used to readily RSVP must have better plans. Other times, when I do accept, the consequences are more quickly apparent, so I come back to the present.

So I’m not quite in a plateau. Rather I’m walking a flat path between ups on the left and downs on the right and the longer I walk, the wider path becomes.

Wk9, Day4: Dropping the Story

Wk9, Day4: Dropping the Story

If you’ve been reading for a while, you may be familiar with my use of the term “parts.” In psychology, parts are considered by some to be aspects of the self that have not been integrated. In meditation, this is an approach I sometimes use to work with aspects of my inner self that are asking for attention as I sit and breathe.

Something new happened in relation to the parts this week. First, I spent some time praying with the parts, asking that they join in alignment with me as I begin a new business venture. As part of the prayer, I asked that they seek nourishment and support from the imagined helpers that I’ve asked to provide these things for them in the past. I clarified my goals and values and considered that my parts as well as I had these in common.

Then, in last night’s meditation, some sensations, thoughts, and emotions arose that I would normally attribute to a part seeking attention. Initially, out of habit, I started to pursue this form of meditation. Then it suddenly occurred to me that the parts were fine where they were. It was me attempting to call one of them up to the present by associating it with these otherwise fleeting objects of attention. (Thoughts, emotions, and sensations are sometimes referred to as ‘objects of attention.’)

So, instead I invited my self to leave the parts be. To sit and breathe and observe with bare attention these objects as they arose into awareness, fell out of awareness, and moved on their own merry way.

Quite a revelation.

At this point it is unclear if doing ‘parts work’ has outgrown its usefulness or if this is simply an additional approach to working with objects. In some ways I favor the former conclusion. I explain it to myself as the parts work having grown into a way of me perpetuating past stories. Initially (for the 7 years it’s been a skillful means), there was usefulness in working with them in this way. But perhaps I’m being signaled this week that the parts are ready to let go of their stories, and now so can I.

Wk9, Day3: Sensory Memories Bring Presence

Erasing the chalkboard after class yesterday, one whiff of the dust transported me instantly back to elementary school. I went to a small Catholic school from 1st through 8th grade. Class size averaged 20 kids, 3/4 of us for all eight years.

School memories rushed in with the scent of the dust yesterday, combined with the season. By this time of year, we’d settled into a daily routine. Breaks from which were cherished as special: like getting picked to go outside and clap the erasers for the teacher.

Being chosen was a reward for finishing your work early, and for the part of me seeking recognition, the added importance of this responsibility was icing on the cake. My classmate and I were being trusted to walk quietly down the hall, to clap the erasers together (not on the brick wall as Matthew and Patrick always did), and to bring them back clean and ready to wipe away the morning’s lessons.

And the smell–I loved the smell of those clapping erasers! Second only to freshly cut grass and newly laid tar on the roads. Those were my top three childhood smells.

In the memories arising, the dust combined with wet leaves gathered in the corners of the playground. Our sweaters just warm enough in the noontime fall breeze. Pulling up our knee socks before we ran back through the front doors, quickly attenuating our pace for the hallway under the watchful gaze of Sister Catherine.

Today’s weather and the chalk dust memories intermingle in this sense of presence arising out of and weaving together these threads collected over the 47 autumns of my life.