I haven’t been alone like this in a long time and I longed for it. I am entering day 2 and, honestly, things are not looking too promising as of 10am on day 2. Last night I ended up watching an Austrian movie called Paradies: Liebe about a woman who spends a few weeks alone in a guarded hotel in Kenya. It was uncomfortable to watch because of the ignorance and expectations of this woman, Theresa, and her relationship with several Kenyan men who offer their “love” in search of “sugar mamas”.
I also watched a lot of videos about 10-day vipassana meditation and retreats.
This morning I woke up early and started with my morning meditation session. You’d think that having so much free time and no momentary obligations, I’d be focused and accomplish many long-awaited projects. Instead I am still all over the place, jumping from one interest to the other, reading one article after the other, watching videos, getting up, sitting down, planning the day, standing up and sitting down again. Restless, distracted and finally getting frustrated. This is where I am at right now. Frustrated with my self. Self judging? Absolutely: the critical voice has arrived. I am hesitant to take the next step and share with you what that voice is saying.
I finally managed to get myself out of the house, change of scenery, of scent, of sight, of feel, of sound. Did a few odds and ends and finally had lunch in a comfortable cafe downtown. During lunch there were not many people in the cafe, by the time I was having my coffee, almost every few minutes people entered, alone, in twos in threes… some people knew each other, even greeted people sitting at several tables. Hugs, smiles, how are you’s. I was sitting in a corner and felt like I was watching a national geographic episode called “interactions of the human species”. I was mesmerized and couldn’t stop observing every scene along with all the subtleties and nuances floating all over the room. And then the observing turned to what was going on inside of me, triggered by a sensation of tightness in my chest. What? Suddenly all these interactions I was observing brought up insecurities, even criticism. Here is what I wrote in my journal:
Feeling disconnected from strangers is a form of protection, perhaps fear? I feel like I have to decide, based on outside appearances, if this person is worth my attention. Criticism and arrogance (condescension) sometimes comes easy. Is it necessary? Helpful? As I sit here with my journal clutching my pen I realize that this too is a form of protection from the emptiness, fears and insecurities I feel inside. Does it matter what others do or say? Are they any different than me? I don’t know anything about them except what I see in the moment. I don’t know their stories, their sadness, their hurts, their insecurities. I guess what bothers me is the need to cover it all with identities…. I am feeling so distracted and confused. This reminds me of Stephen’s teachings on being pulled away by thinking from the breath, the anchor in meditation. The thought creates sensations in the body and we quickly are off-balance.
These thoughts and reactions are my habits and in that moment I was mindful of what was going on. My instinct was to write about it, analyze it, figure it out. I decided not to. Instead, for just a few minutes, I observed it and sat with it. It was uncomfortable and I didn’t like it. Had I been at home i would have perhaps meditated. Perhaps not. For the past 20+ years the habit has always been to run to my journal and write about it, to analyze it with myself, my therapist, a friend. It was not bad to do that, but I am seeing now that the mental chatter is also a way to protect myself from feeling and being with the pain. I am beginning to understand that this method was good, but not enough. The wall is still there.
I came home and didn’t sit with it. I thought about it some more, but created more distraction and eventually forgot about the pain I had accessed. The MIDL training I am doing is encouraging me to challenge myself:
1. Notice and observe what is happening in my mind.
2. Look inside and get in touch with the sensations caused by the reaction.
3. When I am tempted to run away from it, don’t.
4. When I am tempted to journal, analyze, argue… don’t.
5. Sit. Close my eyes. Breathe.
6. Access the sensation, label it (tight, warm, cold, heavy…)
7. Soften into it, relax into it.
8. Repeat as often as necessary until it dissolves and the pain is gone.
Creating new habits. Slowly. Gently. Patiently.