I find that during periods of major change in my life, the notion of a daily meditation practice is met with a mental aversion so strong that even looking at my meditation cushion ready and waiting for me in the corner makes me groan. This weekend I had this conversation with my meditation cushion a couple of times:
Cushion: Hey there, loser.
Emily: Ugh. What do you want?
Cushion: C’mere. Time to sit.
Emily: Not now. Later.
Cushion: Now. What are you doing that’s so important?
Emily: Um, a million things, obviously.
Cushion: Liar. You’re not busy.
Emily: Sure I am.
Cushion: Yeah, okay, whatever.
Emily: You know what, Zafu? You’re a jerk.
Cushion: You know what’s worse? You’re afraid.
The Cushion has a point there. If I had time to make up conversations with my zafu in my head, I’m probably not that busy.
Right now I’m having trouble due to a lack of structure to my days. It’s an in between period – I had my last day of work on Friday and am now waiting for my grad classes to start in September along with a new part time job. The past year, in contrast, has been very highly structured: wake up at six, off to work by 7:15, very structured work day from 8 to 4:30 or later, home by six, etc. I still have a lot to do, but the timing is so different. I can actually choose when to wake up, when to go to sleep, when to do my errands. Yes, yes, I know I “should” feel lucky – all last year I would have killed for a schedule this flexible. But to be perfectly honest, it’s making me feel extremely anxious. Like I must be forgetting something, or I’m doing something wrong, or I don’t deserve this period of rest. I know that none of these statements are true, but I’m aware that they pop up.
So meditation would be a great way for me to settle with my mental wanderings and feelings of uneasiness, right? Theoretically, yes, but obviously not, if even a glance at that purple pillow in the corner makes me feel resentful.
Keeping myself busy has always been a way for me to cope with difficult things going on. When my mom had cancer, I threw myself into my schoolwork. When my parents got divorced, I stayed up late every night working on my writing. I did things to make things better. Regardless of whether or not these activities were constructive, healthy outlets for my stress, they still functioned as an escape.
The idea of sitting down with myself right now is really scary. If I let myself be still I’m going to have to actually deal with all the things that have been bothering me: my breakup, missing my students, my mom’s hardships, my anxieties about grad school and change. I’d love for the next three weeks to just fly by, but I know they are going to go slowly solely due to the fact that I want to fast forward through the difficult parts. But I can’t fast forward. I’d like to try to meditate on this:
These feelings are just feelings.
These feelings are temporary.
These feelings don’t hurt me.
I needn’t be afraid.
I’m committing to hitting the cushion consistently, every day, for at least ten minutes, for the next three weeks. At the end of those three weeks, I will renew my commitment to myself.