While meditation can offer us Clarity and Calm, it is Connection that is it’s greatest gift.
Let’s be honest. Most of us start meditating to fix ourselves – in some way.
To fix our stress levels, our sleeplessness, our over-eating, over-spending. To perhaps fill that hole in the pit of our stomach that yells at us “you are not enough, you need to do more”.
When we approach our meditation this way, it becomes just another thing on our endless “to do” list. Another thing we “should” do to live well and be happy. What if we changed this? What if we looked at meditation as an opportunity to nourish ourselves? As a gift to ourselves (and the world). As an opportunity to find out what we are really about and then to live from a place of greater compassion and wisdom……..
I was a resentful meditator. It was just another thing I felt I should be doing and another thing I could beat myself up about for not doing. I was simply bringing the same approach to meditation as the one I had been practicing all my life. Work hard. Don’t give up. Do it properly. Achieve and ultimately, win. I fell in love with mindfulness as a technique because it offered me the possibility that actually, I didn’t need to fix anything, do anything, achieve anything.
However, over the years of teaching and yes, “selling” this technique, I have noticed the promises I have made my students and clients. Yes, your concentration and productivity will likely improve (clarity) and yes, your stress levels will likely reduce, and sleep will improve (calm). These are clearly great benefits and we all need more of these in our modern life of 24/7 stimulation. To be honest though, for me, the greatest gift of mindfulness and meditation, has been a sense of befriending myself, a sense of coming home (this, my friends, is connection).
Before I started on this journey, I wasn’t even aware of my internal critic – she had always been there, the constant barrage of orders. Setting goals and demanding achievements – to demonstrate my worth to myself and the world. It was only when I sat down and started to watch the activity of my mind that I was able to notice her, my very own drill sergeant.
Now, don’t get me wrong, this drill sergeant of mine has been incredibly helpful. She has pushed me to work hard when I wanted to give up. As an adolescent, she stood by my bed at 5am encouraging me to get up for swimming training, reminding me that I needed to beat my arch enemies – Penny and Lauren. As a young adult studying psychology, it was probably her that got me through the statistics at university. As a new mother, she was the one demanding I get up for the 400th time in one night. The thing is however, her constant commands about having to do and be more, caused me to leave myself, over and over again. I believed that joy and peace and happiness and perfection could not possibly be residing within me. I had to go out and search for it in other places – in jobs or clothes or friends or food. I left myself and my own heart over and over and over again. As a result, I had nowhere to belong and nowhere to rest.
“Stop walking through the world looking for confirmation that you don’t belong. You will always find it because you’ve made that your mission. Stop scouring people’s faces for evidence that you’re not enough. You will always find it because you’ve made that your goal. True belonging and self-worth are not goods; we don’t negotiate their value with the world. The truth about who we are lives in our hearts. Our call to courage is to protect our wild heart against constant evaluation, especially our own. No one belongs here more than you.” Brene Brown – Braving the Wilderness
Mindfulness and meditation continue to help me to come back home, back to my true self, back to my heart. I am reminded to connect to something greater than my internal drill sergeant (she is still there but just doesn’t drive the bus as much as she used to!) and to value myself as a perfectly imperfect human. For me, this is indeed a daily practice and one I enjoy and look forward to.
So, if you are looking to start or deepen your own meditation and mindfulness practice, pay attention to your attitude, pay attention to your expectations and pay attention to the promises the teacher makes. The clarity and the calm may arrive and hallelujah for those, but it is the connection that we can never unlearn or un-feel, it is the coming home that we will carry with us forever.