Wednesday, February 13, 2013

{#30DaysofMediation} The Inner Voice

 I used to be afraid of that inner voice. The one that's supposed to come in during prayer or meditation and tell you stuff. I was always afraid of what it was going to say, because I was sure it was going to be something that I didn't want to hear. Suspicious that it would be. Because that's the stories they always use to teach about faith, right? They never tell the story of, "I heard a voice that said, "Amber, go and do every single thing you feel like doing," and then I did, and then it was great." Nope - it's always the stories about being told to give a great speech when you're terrified of public speaking, or to sell all your possessions and move your family to a remote corner of Africa, or to break up with the love of your life so they can achieve full growth (true story), etc.


So for years, I shied away from doing anything remotely close to prayer, and I would get to that point in meditation where I would quiet my mind, but then I would stop really suddenly and be like, "Okay, that's good!" because I knew if I did it any longer, I would start to hear something. And setting intentions...what a minefield that was. Ever since I was around the age of 17, I had started to feel like prayer was kind of a trick. That old "If you pray for patience, you're going to get a lot of situations that will test your patience, HAHAHA!" adage had really sunk in. So I made a point to word each prayer or intention really carefully to make sure I didn't end up getting the nightmare Bizarro answer to my request. For instance, I would always add "positive" as an afterthought to prayers that I might be an inspiration or example or some sort of good influence to others, because the moment I would pray that, I would get this flash in my head about being a cautionary tale. What if I become that girl who dies a totally horrible death and only becomes an inspiration to others because she got Cragislist Kilt?! What if I became an example because I totally screwed up royally and everyone knew my name because they hated me? I'M CHANGING MY ORDER, GOD, GUESS I'D RATHER NOT BE FAMOUS AFTER ALL...

And this is fun because a large part of my life, now, is about meditation and spiritual study. At this point in my study, I'm being directed to hit the meditation chair when feelings get weird. On the surface, this seems like the obvious solution - of course you'd want to meditate when you're upset, sad, or freaked out, because it will calm you down and make you feel better, right? But I'm finding it so does not work like that: When I start to feel upset, sad, or freaked out, I want to write righteous emails and eat Triscuits and watch quality reality programming...basically, I want to do anything and everything I can to cover those feelings up or push them away. I don't want to sink into them...that's just going to make me feel worse! I don't want to listen to any inner guide or connect this feeling to my breath or do a stream of consciousness writing about where these feelings are coming from and where they reside in my body. I just. want. to. ignore them. And make them go away as fast as I can. 

You see why I'm someone who's still processing over things that happened almost a decade ago, right? Pretty sure this is becoming pretty clear to everyone in the United States right now.

But. I made a 30 Day commitment to my study and practice, and for the past couple weeks, hitting the meditation pillow when things start to feel weird is exactly what I was supposed to do.

A couple weeks ago, I was having a really awful morning. I've been shifting through some really personal stuff this past month, and every once in a while, I'll wake up feeling really raw about it (this is another thing about meditation - it digs up a lot of things that you've been keeping down and brings them all up to the surface, which is super fun for the people around you, but we can talk about that more later). Then, something else tipped me off - a Facebook status from a couple weeks ago, a weird text...whatever it was, it sent me into a totally hysterical tailspin. I immediately went into crisis mode, mentally planning all the things that I was going to do to solve this situation: To fix this hurt, to pass this hurt on, to make my point, to make things fair, to protect myself from feeling like this anymore. Lots and lots of solutions involving righteous anger, retribution, running away, and becoming totally silent about it ran through my head until my whole entire body was responding to them - I was shaking, crying hard, and pretty much having a total meltdown.

So, like I was supposed to do, I went to my meditation pillow/chair, sat down, and tried to work with it. I tried to breath into it, to really feel it, and then release it. But I didn't want to feel it - I kept making my breath shallow, thinking about something else, thinking about solutions, telling myself that if I let myself feel it, it would all only hurt worse. I was a blubbering, crying, sobbing mess at this point, and I couldn't remember when I'd felt so awful in such a long time.

And then, in the middle of it, I heard a calm, quiet female voice - one that I somehow recognized - tell me quietly, "Let it go, Amber." I had a millisecond of being all kindergartener with my "I don't want to!" protests, and then a flip suddenly switched inside me - oh my god, that was a female voice and I'm pretty sure that was my inner guide and okay so maybe let's just try this - and it was like a wave...a huge bawling of emotions for about 5 seconds, and then relief started to come in. Began to fill my entire body. Release. I felt like I was able to breath again, and I started to calm down, and it just felt...better. I got quiet, kept breathing, and with each breath, my mind and my emotions started to reorganize. This truly wasn't what I was making it out to be, I slowly started to realize. I was ascribing the past to the present, taking my fears from former endings and ascribing all of those to this current situation, automatically assuming that everything was going to turn out the same way.

And this is the thing about meditation: It's not all rainbows and crystals, you know? It can be tough stuff. It's a clearing out - it's a confrontation of the things that you can only face when you get quiet with yourself. I know I was definitely not alone in my fear of that inner voice, the fear that getting quiet will only force me to listen to something I don't want to hear. We work really hard to cover that voice up because we're afraid that what we'll hear is exactly what we're afraid of: Fear. Attack. Worry. Bad News.

And at first, maybe it is. When you're so used to listening for a certain voice, it can be a challenge to start tuning it out all of a sudden. But I've found that the longer you get quiet and listen for the quiet voice inside you - the one that feels good, instead of the one that sounds like a total jerk - the stronger the good stuff gets: Peace. Instinct. Self-Love. Joy.

But it's like climbing a mountain, sometimes. If I've learned anything about meditation, it's that it doesn't just change your life in a day, and all of a sudden you're a more peaceful, centered, joyful person. In fact, sometimes it's the one thing you can count on to show you the absolute worst in you...but it does this so that you can recognize that stuff and then let it go, leaving more room for the good to come in. It's like the breath part of the practice - you exhale the crap, and you inhale the rad. Listening and welcoming in that inner voice is still hard, because sometimes, I know that it's probably going to confirm something that I already know but don't want to act on. But that's how we get better, yeah? And stronger...by facing those obstacles head on with the truth of our instincts propelling us further towards where we want to be.

But if my inner voice sounded like Loni Love?

I would be totally in for listening to it ALL THE TIME.

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