Bravery

February 9, 2011 § 14 Comments

A few weeks ago I blogged about a mediation class I went to. I wrote that it was the first time since I moved to Washington, DC that I felt safe. That I felt like I was in a group of friends. That I felt like I belonged. Granted, it was a bit of a crazy meditation class. Some people saw colors and others said they felt bliss and light. I didn’t really have those experiences. I felt like I always do when I meditate: anxious, resistant to looking at all that simmers below the surface, annoyed that the lyrics to “California Gurls” keep rushing through my head.

During the week after the first class, I did what I always do: I dismiss anything that doesn’t make perfect, rational sense. I decided that the people who felt blissed out and saw colors were making it up. It couldn’t have been real. I mean, I like the idea of karma and chakras, and the dharmakaya, but deep down, I don’t  really believe in it. I can’t believe in anything without fossilized proof, evidence, a theorem.

What surprises me is that I have been back to meditation five or six times. In fact, I haven’t missed a week. I don’t know why I keep going. I suspect it has  to do with something I read by Pema Chodron, which said that the point of meditation isn’t to have a great experience, but to get to know your own mind, to make friends with yourself. It probably also has to do with the fact that Mimi in her Talbots sweaters is so sane, so clear.

I definitely don’t go because meditating is fun. Mostly my legs fall asleep and my neck hurts.  For a few minutes I think of nothing and then congratulate myself because this is the goal of meditation, right? And then I realize that it’s not that I’m not thinking, but that I am resisting thinking. California gurls, we’re undeniable. Fine, fresh, fierce, we got it on lock.I am avoiding the plunge below the surface, that icy underworld which is just about the most terrifying place imaginable. Under the surface is where the monsters live.

While some in the class are experiencing the dharmakaya, I am cringing at the thought of how sharply I spoke to Oliver. I am wondering if I should go to New York to see a friend by myself, even though Gus is still nursing. I think of what a jerk I am to my husband sometimes. West coast represent, now put your hands up.

But then, I’m not really after bliss or colors or some Kundalini energy release. What I am after is an excavation. What I am tired of is deceiving myself. For most of my life, I have lived with blinders on, seeing only what I wanted to, trying to block out the wars and the homeless and sadness. There’s an inauthenticity to this kind of life. There is a lack of integrity in trying to pretend I am not a Navy wife when that is exactly what I am or in saying that I don’t need Washington DC friends when really, I am  lonely. It doesn’t make sense to lean against the kitchen counter and eat thirteen animal crackers, when really, i just want to cry for a minute.There are about a zillion ways to hide from your own life, and I have done every one.

This month, I bought an issue of the Shambala Sun., which is definitely not something I normally read. Usually, I read the New Yorker, and US Magazine, and sometimes Real Simple. Shambala Sun is kind of hardcore. But Pema is on the cover this month. And I’ll read anything about Pema. In the magazine is an article about Pema’s “Smile at Fear” teachings, which I think is kind of great. Smile at fear. I never thought of smiling. I just sing songs like Dorothy on the yellow brick road. Sun-kissed skin, so hot, we’ll melt your popsicle. Pema writes, “The basis of fear is not trusting yourself. In a nutshell you feel bad about who you are.”

Trust myself? Sirusly? Rilly? WTF?

Oh why the hell not. Trust seems to be a big theme here in the blogokaya. Lindsey Mead Russell’s word of the year is “Trust” and every time I read her blog I am inspired. (my new favorite is one about navigating our own lives). Katrina Kenison writes so beautifully about trusting in the present moment and in letting life unfold without tugging so much at it.  When I asked Mimi what to do with the fact that all I think of on my meditation cushion is all I don’t want to think about, she told me to welcome all of those monsters into the light. “The light dissolves them,” she said. Rolf Gates told me that starving people eat garbage, and the key is to realize that we are the starving people. Kristin Noelle, on her lovely blog “Trust Tending,” wrote a beautiful ritual for dealing with parts of ourselves we don’t like so much.

Forgiveness is the theme here. Compassion for ourselves. Love. Bravery. Trust. Letting the light in. After a few months of darkness, I am ready for the light.

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§ 14 Responses to Bravery

  • Oh my gosh I love this post so much. LOVE it. I’m laughing at how funny we humans are and how important and unimportant and lovable and hopeless and full of beauty and possibility. I resonate with all you’ve written here so much.

  • Lovely all around—here’s to loving bravely, to practicing loving-kindness as best we can for ourselves and for each other… and to remembering that without shadow there is no light, they conceptually depend on each other. As for the source of the light and the shadow, perhaps that is our unity, the source of all our light, our hunger, our garbage and our love. Namaste either way

  • Lindsey says:

    This is so beautiful, Pam – I am going to find that Shambhala Sun! (and my regular reading list looks a lot like yours, though I don’t read the New Yorker as it intimidates me!)

  • Lindsey says:

    I reread this just now and thought about Rolf’s comment about the light dissolving things. Once again I get that goosebumpy feeling of having known you my whole life …a while ago I wrote about the difference between one side of the street, in the shade, with tall, crusty mounds of snow, and the other side, in the late-winter sun, where the sidewalks were running with the water of the melted snow. And how attention is like that, for me: it melts the scary, dangerous stuff. Taking it out of the dark disarms those monsters, as you say.
    xoxoxo

  • Yes, we sure are the starving people. And, every day, we feed one another. Your words were my breakfast this morning, more nourishing and necessary than the cup of coffee, the cereal, the front page of the paper. I can’t even express how much I love what you wrote here, how grateful I am to “know” you, what an honor it is to be your colleague in this ongoing excavation of the soul. Onward, with a smile! (And how the heck did you get Pema’s face on Rosie the Riveter???)

    • Uh oh. That great photo of Pema was from the Shambala Sun … I should probably take it down. I didn’t even think – I just loved the image. I really love the January issue. I have never bought it before and will probably get it again. Hope you are well and staying WARM!!! xoxo

      • I gotta confess: I love it when people talk about me. Actually, I only love it when people talk about me and don’t say anything mean. So I hope you can come when I’m in DC.

        PS I’d much rather read the New Yorker. There’s just not that much to write (or read) about Buddhism, in my book.

  • Mer says:

    What a beautiful way to start the day! Thank you Pam. Excavating ourselves to get to the real is the most important thing we’ll do here. Love, love your writing voice. And don’t beat yourself up too much about losing focus during meditation, California Gurls is a REALLY good song 😉

  • Sandy says:

    As a very recent follower of your beautiful writing, I must pass this along to you. Karen Maezen Miller, author and Buddhist priest, is giving a workshop at a yoga center in Washington, DC on April 30th. You probably already know her work and blog. I went to her retreat this past September in Boston and it was truly amazing to be in her presence. We were also gifted with a reading by Katrina Kenison and I had the pleasure of meeting her and Lindsay Mead (ok, very briefly but I did talk to them). Karen doesn’t come to the East Coast often so it’s a real opportunity; I would love to get there myself, as she inspires my journey daily…

    • Thank you! I love Karen Maezen Miller’s writing and am going to check out her retreat. I had no idea she was coming so thank you for letting me know! It’s funny you mentioned her because I thought of her as I wrote this, especially the word “inauthenticity” as she just wrote a blog post about it. Thank you again!

  • I just bought that Shambala Sun and my friend just sent me a link to you. I’m so happy your blog plopped in my lap. My blog is about “the zillion ways I hide from my life” and try to find it. I’ll be following you.

  • This is a really inspiring post. Your feelings about meditation remind me a little bit about my feelings about yoga, and coincidentally enough, that’s what I myself blogged about today (www.nancyshohetwest.com/lifes-a-streak-run.php 2/11/11 entry). I’m glad I found my way to your blog.

  • John says:

    I too am trying to learn to meditate.

    I want to stop being afraid. Difficult given the challenges but I am hoping that this will help me live what time I have to the fullest.

    There ARE a million ways to hide but it’s an entrenched defence mechanism. It’s simply easier to hide. I don’t know how NOT to.

    • Pamela says:

      Thanks for writing and for reading. I want to stop being afraid too. I am trying to start by giving myself permission to do whatever I need to do to not hide.

      Feel free to share your story here if you wish – I would love to hear from you!!

      xoxo,
      Pamela

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