DON'T GO ZEN OR GO HOME: meditation is not always calming

My meditation practice started sometime around 2010. I was going through a very hard time. I was kind of at a loss of what to do. This is not a story about how meditation saved my life. Maybe it did. However, at that time, it calmed me. I think at that time I had an immense amount of guilt and frustration and I couldn't process it. Meditating gave me space, and taught me that I was allowed to just sit. That sitting was a good thing. That I should not be scared of my thoughts. I meditated for the better part of a year. Twice a day, twenty minutes. Again, I did not have any revelations about myself. I did not become super human. Looking back, I think its great that I cannot remember any significant moments of 2010-11 meditations. Because that was in the past.

I have been off and on meditating through out the years. Honestly, not twenty minutes, twice a day. I fell off that wagon. For months I wouldn't meditate unless I was extremely overloaded in my life. When I felt I was going to burst. I would meditate. Any meditation is good. Even if it is once a year. Consistency is better. I would start to make a routine, then fall off again. I wish I could say that this time is for good. However, I am human. Life is life. And I will forgive myself if I fall off that wagon again.

I am an art teacher. I teach at a very high needs school. My job has made me compromise my mind, my identity, and my life choices. I am also having a hard time at home. Time management and inspiration to want to try and make art. Family. I decided over Christmas break that I was going to start meditating again. Consistently, 20 minutes, once a day. 

I had been teaching my students mindfulness in our extra enrichment classes. This is where I learned I really love facilitating guided meditations. Once you get use to your own voice, its really fun. However, this was not proving to be enough. I needed to do this on my own. I asked my husband for a meditation seat for Christmas, a back jack. I will post about that in another post. But it is wonderful. If you have not tried one and you are really into meditating, get one or something like it. I am proud to say that I have not skipped one meditation. I am proud of myself. I have been meditating every day. I meditate in the mornings. I go to the bathroom, drink a little water, then meditate. Yes, some mornings are very hard. I have to work at 7:30am, so I wake up at 5:00am. Lately I have not gotten to my chair until 5:15. That is because I have gone to sleep later. It is not Christmas break any more. On weekends I wake up about 7am or 8am. I use a sleeping mask to block out any light. This is very effective. So one would think that I am really Zen. Wow, she is meditating and must be so calm. That must help with all of those really difficult tasks that are going on in her life. BWAHAHAHA. In the long run, yes. In the short, I have still been a lunatic.

I do not want to scare anyone from meditating. I do not plan on stoping. Ever. It is part of my life and who I am. I never want to make someone feel bad for NOT meditating either. We all have our own way of living and should celebrate the diversity. However, you take the good with the bad. Meditation or mindfulness is not always calm. You don't go Zen or go home.

I was at the Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Center a week ago. After our meditation I went up to one of the facilitators. (these are everyday people, not monks) and I asked them about being angsty after a meditation. They laughed and said... not for us, but we had heard of this. They were nice enough... but their laugh frustrated me. I am trying not to take it personal. This is my own journey. So I started researching online. I Googled the "side effects" of  Mindfulness and Meditation. 

Depression and anxiety were two big items that came up. 

That seems to be the opposite of what you want to achieve right?

Yes and No

While mindfulness IS a tool to calm ourselves and bring us into the moment. These in the moments are dealing with the real issues you tuck away as well. The facts of life. I read a great blog post by Julie Saint- Mieux (great name huh?). She said,

"We use, in our daily lives, an arsenal of strategies, often without knowing it: thinking patterns, daily habits, activities we view as pleasurable “add-ons,” such as eating, shopping, staring at a screen, and so on. We don’t perceive those “pursuits” as Band-Aids. Aren’t they the spice of life?"

Today we use so many vices to get us through our day. A sense of humor is good. We talk with our friends. We use social media (a lot). We go home and watch Netflix, Hulu, HBO. We go to that new brewery, that new restaurant. We stop in and grab a candy bar, chips. These "spices of life" as Julie stated are our coping mechanisms. Don't get me wrong. I indulge all the time. However, when we start to become mindful. When we mediate. We are are starting to unravel our thoughts and confront  our thoughts. And not all thoughts are kittens and puppies. 
In an another article I read it talked about how Mindfulness has lost its Buddhist roots. And that it is NOT advertised that mindfulness can be the opposite of helpful. If done incorrectly, it can be hurtful.
Mindfulness is not just about calm and happy but self-actualization. You can definitely use it as a tool to calm yourself in immediate stressful situations. Counting your breath and stopping yourself before reacting. Training your brain to acknowledge a negative loop and allowing yourself, without judgement, to accept the situation and move beyond it. As an everyday practice, as you meditate you are stripping off layers. These layers can be full of trauma. These layers can be full of under rug swept situation covered up in craft beer and candy bars, smothered in Facebook and Instagram.
My advice. Do your research. Start out one step at a time. Allow loving kindness and forgiveness to your thoughts and feelings. If thoughts are coming to the surface that cause you discomfort, anxiety, depression, or anger than realize that you may need to seek additional therapy. I see a therapist weekly. She is amazing. She even practices meditation. I am not prescribed drugs as I do not need them. I need to talk through my thoughts. Also, talk to someone else who meditates about how you are feeling. This way you can talk through the good and the bad of it and realize these things are normal. You may also want to keep a meditation journal. This can coincide with a journal you have already started. Maybe this is an art and meditation journal ;). DO NOT let meditation be your only outlet. I workout, take local art and dance classes, talk with my friends, journal, AND see a therapist. Meditation helps me stop and spend time with myself. It is not always pretty. 
I believe in mindfulness meditation and creative art play. I believe in it so much that I want to live it everyday. I also do not want to be blind to anything becoming a cure all. There is no miracle pill and there is no perfect solution to all of our own individual problems. In the end YOU do YOU. 
~Dorothy Verbick



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