Sunday, June 08, 2014

meditation - the good, the bad, and the ugly

I've noticed that most articles on meditation focus solely on the good stuff -- the reduction in stress, the health benefits, the improvements in focus and clarity. All those things are true. You really do get all these things from meditation. And I am a huge believer that the benefits outweigh the costs. But there are some costs.

I've lost a few things as my practice has progressed. And I've run into difficulties I didn't know I would encounter.

I didn't know that sometimes meditation is difficult, other times downright scary. I spent a few weeks where I was afraid to sit and meditate, because every time I had during that time period, I was immediately drowning in suppressed memories. I had spent almost 50 years erecting walls in my mind, hiding even from myself. And in an extremely painful 4-6 week period, as i would meditate, the walls would come down. And i would remember. Just like I was there, back at whatever time, with the full immediacy of the event. It was shattering. I wasn't a very nice person, for a lot of my life. Sitting with that, feeling that, was awful. I had also buried just a ton of pain. It hit me hard, when the walls came down. Was it a good thing? Ultimately, I think it was the only thing. It was something that I absolutely had to go through. But I wish I had known that it might happen. Maybe it wouldn't have been so disorienting.

I have had periods of time where meditating made me very emotionally labile. I easily get choked up by emotion -- I have even cried at Kodak commercials. But not at this level, not this way. Other people's pain was nearly overwhelming. I would literally cry driving to work, just from the normal street life I would see every day. I would burst out laughing, for no real reason. My emotions were just very much at the surface. It was another phase that went away, as abruptly as it came. But again, it would have been nice to know -- hey this can happen, too.

The losses are few, but there are things I miss. I can't eat pork any more. I miss ribs, pulled pork, pork chops, BACON. But I think pigs are sentient, and I just can't willingly harm them as a result. I fear beef is also about to disappear from my diet -- for much the same reason. I just can't do it any more; it makes me feel sad when I see a cow and know it's going to die so someone can eat it.

I spent most of my life fishing with my dad. I love being on the water, the sounds of the water against the boat, the smells, the sound of sea birds. I love casting, dropping my line exactly where I want it to go. There is a lovely physical connection from hand to rod to line to water.  I love that sudden aliveness that says there is a fish on the line. But I can't do it any more. The last time I went, we had a day fishermen dream of. Over 20 fish. And I ended up silently apologizing to every single one of them as I took the hook out of their mouths. I felt like a killer. I was pulling them from their lives, for my own amusement. I didn't NEED to eat them. I did it for fun. So that was my last fishing trip. I'll miss it.

I used to listen to music all day. I had a stereo in my office. I would walk in, pump up the tunes, so I could get through my day. Fast music to get me started; angry music on bad days, dance music to get through rote tasks. I needed it. But now I can't listen to music in the background. It has a depth and richness I didn't notice before -- I love it more, but it takes more attention from me. I can't put it on and do something else. And I don't need it any more; I have discovered silence and can now work without backing noise for the first time in my life.

I have lost much of my wit, as well. I used to have a sharp sort of humor, but I find that I can't joke that way any more. No zingers, no jokes at someone's expense. I still laugh a lot, and I still joke around, but I am so much more careful now. I worry that it makes me boring. That maybe I'm not as much fun to be around now. I can't go back, though, and start channeling Dorothy Parker again.

I can live with all these losses, because of all the things I have gained - joy, peace of mind, quiet, health. It seems worth it.


Kitten Herder said...

Congratulations on all you have gained AND lost. Very brave. I plan to ease back into my practice this summer. First, I plan to spend much of my vacation week with my nose and pen in my journal. That will be the first awakening. I may spend some mindful time on the rocks facing the ocean as well. But, I have a feeling that the notebook alone will mine the depths and stir this up aplenty. Quiet sitting after those sessions will probably be both interesting and disturbing.

RaineS said...

I don't think it's brave. I just knew I needed to make some big changes. Some mindful time facing the ocean sounds like HEAVEN. I hope your vacation is productive and peaceful!