Saturday, March 3, 2012

It's Ok to Suck at Meditation

The 28-Day Meditation Challenge is over now. You can read the blog entailing my experiences with it here. I had high hopes at the beginning: I really wanted to finish out the month with my meditation practice cemented in my daily routine, an unbreakable habit. I wanted to experience long stretches of mental quiet, just me and my breath. wanted to recognize my thoughts as they floated past, and release them easily. I wanted to observe my fluctuating emotions and sensations from a place of inner stillness and peace. Well, I can tell you after four weeks of experience:

That stuff is hard as shit!

I spent a lot of the practice asking myself if I was making any progress yet. It didn't seem like I was, and I wondered, off and on, if I was doing it right, or if it should be taking this long. Then this happened...

On Thursday, the first post-meditation challenge day, my sister-in-law had minor hand surgery, so I kept her mom company in the hospital, and stuck around to help them both get home and settled. We piled into the cab that was taking us from the hospital back to her campus, a bit exhausted, obviously, from the experience. The cab driver pulled away, and I forgot to tell him to stop at a drugstore before going home so we could pick up the Tylenol she was supposed to be taking for the pain.

About halfway through the trip I remembered, and I asked the driver to please take a detour so we could run that errand, and he just got so upset. He berated me for not telling him before, pointed out he had come all the way across town and didn't know where a drug store was now, and was just totally thrown for a loop. I apologized for not telling him sooner, recognizing the inconvenience I had caused him, but insisted that this was important and I needed him to turn around. He only got angrier once he had, waving his arms and yelling. My poor sister, overwrought from the anxiety of the operation, and probably still dealing with the anesthetic in her system started crying, and of course her mother was furious, and trying to comfort her at the same time.

"That is enough." I stated in a voice certainly not free from an angry tone, and loud enough to be heard over his ranting. I reminded him that I had acknowledged the inconvenience I was causing him, and that I had apologized, and while I understood he was upset, he had expressed that already, and he could not keep yelling at us for the remainder of the ride.

It didn't actually stop him, of course, he just got on his radio and yelled at the dispatcher instead, who also told him he needed to calm down. I pointed out he might give himself an ulcer if he carried on this way often. We pulled into a grocery, and my mom-in-law ran in to get the medicine. Meanwhile he left the car to call the dispatcher, thank goodness, giving us some quiet in which to regroup. The next thing I knew he had thrust his phone at me, and was yelling at his dispatcher to "tell HER that then!"

I took the phone and calmly explained to the confused dispatcher that I was the fare, and he had handed the phone to me. The dispatcher was able to explain that since the ride was being expensed to the school, there was no way to charge them for the time spent waiting in the parking lot. I apologized, and explained I hadn't known that at all; our driver hadn't said anything about it, and offered to pay the difference myself. By the time we left the parking lot, the dispatcher asked, very apologetically, that I give $4 to the cab driver and we'd call it even. He was silent the whole way home, and when I handed him the money, I thanked him, and suggested that in the future he might want to try calmly explaining the situation instead of losing his temper.

We were all fine, of course, and went on with our day. It wasn't until I got home that night and read the final section of Sharon Salzberg's book, Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation, which the challenge was based on that something clicked.

"I think the meditation is working." I said to the husband.

"Oh?" he asked.

"No matter how out of control that cab driver got, even though I was angry with him and knew it wasn't acceptable how he was treating us, I never lost track of the fact that he must have been coming from a place of great pain or fear to be responding like that to a simple request. I really felt sorry for him. I didn't lose my temper, or feel overwhelmed, or frightened, or hurt because I knew that this was something that was happening to him, not me. He was hurting himself, and we just happened to be there. He wanted to be happy just like us, and wasn't very good at it yet."

So what was in that final section that made it all fall into place? Something that I think should be heard at the very beginning of a meditation practice:

"We don't meditate to get better at meditation. We meditate to get better at life."

So the next time your crazily careening brain tells you you're no good at meditation because sitting still makes you antsy after five minutes, you can tell it to put that memo in its pipe and smoke it!

Meditation will change your life. That's something I can promise you.

Live Omily,
~em

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