A: I’m not even sure where I should start.
-It’s been very difficult to make any decisions lately let alone think clearly through anything.
-My energy is nonexistent and my anger is running rampant.
-I’ve lost a good amount of whatever self-esteem I had when I was younger.
-Sleep is coming very difficult to me.
-I have all the stress of a full time college student who has no idea what she wants to do.
-I’ve always felt an uncontrollable desire to please people and let them walk all over me.
-And to top it off, I lost my religion a few years ago.
In short, I am one hot mess.
I’ve been told by some of my close friends that I might find a way to organize all of these things through chakra opening or meditation, which I’ve never had any experience with.
I’d like to get my Meditation 101 through someone who knows what they’re talking about and what might pinpoint my situation.
I’d be happy to try anything you think might work.
Jay: I don’t have any special meditation strategies for you. I can just say, speaking from my own experience, that it has been extremely helpful for me to, periodically, take time off from all of the craziness. Being able to sit quietly, patiently, with all that is going on inside, in a setting that is simple and natural enough that it doesn’t add to the confusion, gives the nervous system a chance to digest what has been going on. It also brings us in touch directly with a simpler, more natural way of being.
I think we can probably agree that our lives are much too complex and fast for much “digesting” to usually happen and that we have long ago lost touch with what living, what being, is in its simplest and deepest sense.
This time off that I’m talking about can be just taking some daily time to sit quietly, letting what is going on inside work itself out. For me it has also been important to get to week-long silent meditation retreats. I like to go at least 2 or 3 times a year. Sitting together with other people provides a lot of energy for being present with what is going on inside and outside. It seems to take at least 3 or 4 days for much of the internal turmoil to work itself out. Then it is possible to really enjoy simple presence.
When this simple energy of being has reestablished itself in me, these other issues – my habits of relationship with people, attitudes toward myself, confusion about what I need to do – somehow seem to work themselves out, sometimes almost effortlessly. At least I can say the self-conscious effort of trying to get it all in order drops away and yet things change inside, in response to the healthy light and fresh air of simple presence.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, I can certainly recommend a week of meditative retreat. The amazing thing about this kind of retreat time is that at the end of it, I can hardly remember the difficulties that I had before retreat. There is a different kind of fully complete being alive that happens, in which rehashing things over and over in memory gives way to just taking in the present moment.
Of course you may ask, “Well, isn’t that just a short break from the craziness and won’t the craziness just start up all over again?” It doesn’t seem to happen like that. I’m not saying that craziness won’t come back. But something changes at a deep, even neurological level, especially if you persist with this kind of retreat work and follow it up with some daily quiet time. In quiet, simple presence we begin to see the misassumptions that tend to run our lives. I don’t know if that expression makes sense to you or if you relate to it. We could talk more about it.
There are many retreat centers but many of them add on lots of traditional interpretations. The place that I know of that is the simplest and most direct, without adding in a lot of confusing ideas, is the Springwater Center, in upstate NY. Their site is http://www.springwatercenter.org
They have retreats there nearly every month and there are many people who go there who have been doing this simple meditative inquiry into what we are for many years.
Please let me know if I haven’t been very clear about something or if you have some more things you’d like to talk about or ask about.
PS. After writing the above, I realized that I left out one important aspect that we could talk about. Is there a “meditative” way to deal with the specific kinds of issues that you mentioned, such as being angry a lot or feeling bad about oneself?
I had mentioned taking a break from all of these issues to give things a chance to digest. This is certainly really important. But the other side of the coin is that it’s possible to wonder, right in the middle of one of these issues going on – like realizing that anger is raging or that self-hate is going on – to wonder what is really going on right now. This kind of wondering seems to raise deep questions, and often questions that cannot be answered, at least not right away. I might wonder what is really triggering my anger. Something triggered it but I don’t know what. Or maybe I would say, “Well, of course that person insulted me. That’s what triggered it.” But what’s behind that? Who is it that’s taking it so personally? Am I even sure they really insulted me or did I just take it this way.?
The questions that come up for you would be your own. I wouldn’t know what they would be. But I do know that when I really start watching myself and wondering what is moving me, that this kind of questioning comes up. And these questions require me to watch more and more carefully and openly. They also seem to have a sort of grip that leads into just sitting still and listening, not even knowing why any more. They become silent questions and they lead into the heart of still, wondering, not-knowing.
Giving time to that not-knowing, that still presence, such as in retreat or daily quiet time, in some mysterious way allows these unanswerable questions to do their work and bring things to light. The deeper, more gripping the questions become, the greater the need to take all of this into extended quiet time such as a retreat. It is as necessary as getting a good night’s sleep or having a cool drink of water.
Does that make sense?