So today we are doing walking meditation and I’m holding the mudra I was taught to hold during walking meditations. As usual, after a while my fingers hurt fiercely and feel numb. Not because I am doing it wrong or because the posture is so difficult to hold. It is actually easy, if ever so slightly awkward at first. The trouble is that I get very anxious. There are a bazillion reasons for my anxiety, starting with doing my meditation practices right to getting anxious about some event in my life that skitters through my mind while I’m walking. All of a sudden, I’ll notice I’m clenching my hands together fiercely. The pain and numbness seem to be all that will make me aware I’m clenching. I can’t seem to just notice I’m tight before there’s extreme discomfort…This mudra is clearly teaching me how much I numb myself out mentally such that I don’t immediately notice pain and discomfort. Wow…Yanno? When I notice my clenching and the pain I’ve caused myself I always think to myself, “Jeez! Relax! There is no need to be this anxious.” Yet I’ll do it again a minute or two later. Over and over again, I’ll find my hands numb and aching as I walk for the ten to twenty-minute meditation. It is definitely a metaphor for my life. Isn’t that true of almost everybody?
I am not always like this…so anxious I mean. When I am though I’m really, really anxious. I am so anxious to get everything right that I wind myself into clenched up balls just like I see myself doing with the mudra. My anxiety is over so many things, but none so obvious to me than my social anxieties. I’m always so anxious that something I say to someone that it be heard just as I intended it. I am so anxious that I do everything I can to meet this goal I have to be venerable. I want to do it right. I say that with the jaw clenching determination that people feel when they want to force life, themselves, others into the “right” path…to save them from themselves!
It is exhausting to me that I do this to myself.
I was thinking how toxic self-doubt is…how harsh and unloving it is. So frequently when I notice myself doing this, I listen to the self talk. It goes something like this: I replay this or that thing I said or wrote and think, “What the fuck? Why did you say that?…” Or I’ll think, “You should have written it this way or that way because it sounds like you have judged someone, because the fullness of your emotions simply isn’t expressed in the words on that page there… What were you thinking? How could you be so damned inconsiderate? You know better.” I go on and on and on muttering to myself about all these mistakes in expressing myself or on and on about this or that error in judgement or this or that thoughtless choice. I belittle, and embattle my heart over everything inside me…even over stuff that happened many years ago. Can you believe it?
Unless, I am very loyal and diligent in my daily spiritual practices I do this to myself every single day, and sometimes even when I sleep. If I am diligent, then I interrupt that old pattern of self-contempt and recrimination that I developed when I was a child after moments of abuse. Once I interrupt myself and fill myself to overflowing with love, then the more developed Self takes over and I believe firmly in my worthiness just as anyone should who is aware of the majesty of every being.
In those moments,I am able to be vulnerable with myself and others. I am able to express more gracefully and compassionately what I think and feel. I am able to give myself compassion generously, to hold myself with a smile and with humor. I am so happy and content. I’m so firm in that happiness and contentment that it can’t be disrupted easily, not even by what’s going on with others. I am able to accept them just as they are and to see the good in them. Even if they are acting very, badly indeed.
I have been meditating for over 20 years. I love to sit for hours on end in meditation. I love it. It feels like nourishment in the way we think of a really fine meal. It makes me feel replete and very happy.
Yet, there is something in me which resists. Despite how good it feels, I have to struggle for it at times. There are times when my life circumstances jumpstart me into being diligent and self-loyal about my practice. I’ll be consistent with myself for weeks or even months…and I’ll flourish in every way. I lose weight. I get into good shape. I sleep well and eat well. I am far less shy. I’m more effortless about everything. But then the pattern of self-neglect somehow starts again…and soon after that the pattern of self-contempt and self-doubt creeps in. Then a general lack of gratitude and lack of patience and contentment creeps in…and then I’m grouchy over nothing and shout at traffic or snipe at someone. I gain weight. I lose perspective on situations in my life and don’t see them clearly because my ability to see clearly has become so flawed with self-contempt. It makes for a very cloudy viewpoint of life.
Today, while I walked I realized yet again how hard I am on myself. That harshness with myself puts an edge on everything I say or do without meaning to at all.
I felt profoundly sad about being so hard on myself and I felt tears well up.
I thought then about vulnerability and how I am worthy of self-love. I should just hold myself close like a child in serious need of comfort and protection…
So I did. I imagined hugging myself close and we walked together…
That inner critique is quiet again for the moment. I feel pretty tired from trying to get her to be quiet the past few weeks. I’ve tried so hard to get her to relax and stop doing battle with me. She’s really quite exhausting. And yes. It really does feel like, in this regard, there are two sides of my personality to contend with; a habit energy and a true self energy. I feel there’s a highly developed Self with all kinds of access to wisdom and love, so much contentment and so much to share….and also a really harsh stubborn self critique…
I would like to dissolve into the former fully.
It is the oddest place to be to know exactly what the solutions are to utter happiness and still find myself not applying one blessed bit of it…or at least not enough of it as makes any tangible difference in my inner life experience. Sometimes it is this way for months on end. Just like the past few months. My red flag for harsh this state of being is that I’m irritable. I truly am not irritable about small stuff when I’m feeling relaxed into my developed Self.
It is amazing to me that once upon a time, I had no clue what made me happy or what it took to become and stay happy. Now I know. I have no doubts. I have proof of it in fact. I have lived the proof. It is amazing to me that I would ever do anything different than what it took to be happy each moment of my life.
It is the silliest thing that I don’t do it.
It is the silliest thing that I let fears of what will happen next if I’m really truly happy bring the activity that brings my happiness to a full stop. I wish that there would be no more wavering; no more back sliding.
Yet I fear what’s next. A lot.
All I know to do with that fear is just be with it until it melts away…
I know that works. I’ve done it before. It’s how I get months at a time when I’m bubbling with joyousness and contentment.
I also know that forcing myself is only going to jump-start the critique back into her toxic babbling…so I’m just sitting here being gentle…and honest…and transparent…and vulnerable.
Sometimes I need to be vulnerable in front of others in order to reinforce what I’m doing inside…because it’s simply not enough to be alone with it. I have to make the insides and outsides match.
One place that I’m struggling monumentally is being vulnerable in the face of Bellatrix who dislikes me immensely. Right now she’s my best teacher for this entire cycle of tension and relaxation I’ve just described. I’m not succeeding very well.