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Friday, September 7, 2012

Befriend Your Bad Self

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I really suck at meditating. There I said it. I try, try, and try again, but I'm not very "good" at it. It's not relaxing or insightful or calming. It's just downright frustrating. I sit in silence in the very early mornings. I breath in. I breath out. I try to bring my attention to my breath. All is quiet. And then it's like my mind starts blasting house music on concerts speakers and begins a rave inside my head.

I was sitting in meditation a couple of mornings ago, trying to quiet my mind (give me those glow sticks, party's over). And then, all of a sudden, my husband emerged from the bedroom. Now, since I live in NYC, my apartment consists of two principal rooms - the bedroom and the main room (living room slash dining room slash kitchen and breakfast nook all in one).  I still sat there with my eyes closed, but I grew irrationally irritated. Who did he think he was just brazenly walking into the living room with no regard for my privacy? How dare he wake up early and disturb my meditation? I felt my chest tighten and I became unbelievably tense. The meditation was a bust from there on out because not matter how hard I tried, I couldn't shake that feeling of tension and extreme, uncomfortable, overwhelming irritation.

After my failed meditation sesh, I picked up my copy of a book called The Wisdom of No Escape that I purchased for yoga teacher training last year and I read something that struck me. In it, the author Pema Chodron talks about the purpose of meditation and writes, "So whether it's anger or craving or jealousy or fear or depression – whatever it might be – the notion is not to try to get rid of it, but to make friends with it. That means getting to know it completely, with some kind of softness, and learning how, once you've experienced it fully, to let go."

So there you go. I am apparently going about it all wrong. Instead of trying to befriend my bad self and accept my mind gone wild or my irrational feelings of irritation, I've been trying to stop the party and get rid of any of those "bad" feelings that arise. Perhaps experiencing, accepting and understanding is better than ignoring and suppressing (duh).

And I actually think this lesson applies in all aspects of life. How many times do you beat yourself up for feeling a certain way or thinking a certain thing? How often do you try to suppress your emotions rather than accepting them and experiencing them fully?

I think throughout our lives, due to certain societal pressures and expectations imposed upon us by culture, religion, family, etc., we develop a personal list of do's and don'ts when it comes to how we should act, think and feel in various contexts.

To some extent, this is a good thing. For example, any time I'm in a restaurant and a server carries a plate of french fries by me within reach, I get this overwhelming urge to pick one off the plate and eat it. I don't do this because one, I don't want to get thrown out of the place and two, I've hard-wired my mind to think, this is not normal behavior.

But to some extent, this personal list of do's and don'ts can also a bad thing. I think in certain contexts it may prevent us from exploring our urges, experiencing and trying to uncover the source of our feelings and fully understanding our thought patterns.

So rather than ignoring or suppressing our "bad" self, perhaps if we accept it, make friends with it, understand it and experience it, we can then let it go more easily.