Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Meditation

Photo: Denise Grunstein

I love pictures like this. Why can't life just be one glorious, relaxing tea party?

Why are stress and anxiety so much a part of life these days? And I don't just mean my own personal stress, but the overall looming stress of the world today. Everything around us moves so fast, and there is such an insane pressure to live a certain way, and to be a certain way. It is now considered a disability to be introverted, children are so pressured to be outgoing that parents fret over a shy child. I was a shy child, but it was still somewhat acceptable to be so in the early 80's. Though, I did receive a lot of flack for it from various avenues, and was put into therapy when I was four years old for being different. My parents pulled me out of there super fast, and allowed me to be the normal, quiet child I was.

For all of these pressures, those of us who are not by nature extroverted, suffer more. We fight harder to be what we are not, simply to be accepted. But when it comes down to it, why fight for that at all? It seems to me that in this day and age, we are no longer able to just be ourselves, no matter how many mediums preach exactly that: be yourself. The problem is, if you happen to be introverted, and you are just 'yourself' then you can easily get lost in the dust. If you are ok with that, amazing, and more of us should strive to be just like you. Because yes, being oneself is absolutely imperative, no matter how hard it is.

Because I myself suffer from introvertedness, I have struggled long and hard with basic things like happiness, friendships, stresses and anxiety. Over the past six months, I've begun a slow transformation process, because I want to be comfortable with who I am, and I want to accept everyone else for who they are (even if I do not know or understand them). I have learned so far that any mean-spiritedness which anyone directs at me, is simply their issue. People naturally, and constantly place their angers and stresses on others in an attempt to relieve themselves of it. So don't take it. If you allow their stresses to seep into you, then you take on their problems on top of your own.

This is not as easy as it seems, as taking things personally is a natural condition (or so I think). Even though I understand this concept, it's difficult to remember in the very moment a stranger calls you an idiot in the middle of the street for bumping into their elbow. My immediate reaction is that my back gets up, I get pissed and then I take it in and think "I am an idiot for doing that, and he deserved to be upset with me" Full stop. Not true. These are the thoughts we have to remove from our minds because it's just not worth it, and it's just not true.

In furthering my self-study, I have decided to fight my natural urge to stay home and vegetate with a book or a blog, and get out there and do the things that will clear my mind and open up my heart to myself.

I have begun to practice yoga again, though slowly. It's difficult to keep up when I do a four week intro class, once a year, and that's it. I'm left constantly feeling like I have to take another intro class, but not now. I'm just going to go for it and get myself into regular classes, and not be so damn afraid.

Secondly, I will get massages. I am in a position right now at work, that massages are covered under the company benefit plans, I'm missing out if I don't use them.

Lastly, I decided to finally take up meditation, and let me tell you, that massage plan is necessary if you are going to take up meditation! On the suggestions of a friend, who grew up in an ashram, I decided to begin with the weekly open meditation sitting at a local Shanga. Yesterday was my first attempt at full, sitting meditation and it was interesting, none the less.

Surrounded by many others, sitting in silence, I went through all the usual beginner meditator woes. The first twenty minutes were fine. No, I could not slow my mind, and in fighting my thoughts, my mind just flitted around more and more to more randomness until my mind was so full of thought, relaxation wasn't possible. In trying to be present in the room, all I could feel was presence with many other people in the room: breathing, swallowing and belly gurgling. Sitting in silence with sixty or so strangers is less then silent. You hear things you absolutely never hear brewing withing a stranger next to you. All this taught me (other than 'eeeww') was that I guess we are all the same. Everyone's belly gurgles. No matter who you are.

We then did a few minutes of standing meditation to break up the sitting. This was fine too, more like a standing mountain pose in yoga, though no balance was necessary as we were allowed to keep both feet firmly planted on the ground. Then we were told to sit back down again, and this is where it got difficult. After standing for a few minutes, my body was no longer rested, and that last half hour of silent, motionless sitting was torture. I was restless and bored, my back hurt, my head hurt and I wanted to scream over all those gurgling bellies. I wondered why so many people did not eat before class? Just as I thought I couldn't take another moment of it, it was time to relax and stretch and settle back down into our chairs for a last half hour dharma talk. And lo and behold, he spoke of the natural aversions we have to meditation, and how we may begin to improve on them. He listed every single feeling that I was feeling from the bored restlessness to the pain, and advised us to press on.

So press on I will. I will try my best to continue my weekly two hour meditation, and also try out some of the other centres my friend recommended to me. But let me tell you: my damn back aches!

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