I’ve never been good at being alone.
Never been comfortable with silence. Which explains why I resisted meditation for so long. Even when one of my favorite writers/teachers highly recommended it for writers, coming just shy of touting it as the magic key, I still refused to sit with myself in silence.
When I first went away to art school, I arrived before my roommate. I had the apartment to myself for almost a week and I didn’t know a soul. I didn’t have a TV. This was well before personal computers, much less iPhones. I didn’t have a stereo. I think I did have a cassette player with earphones. And books. And myself.
Those few days were excruciating. I remember sitting on the couch in view of the apartment across from me where I saw other students, hoping, praying they would notice me, take pity on me and invite me over.
When I was a young mother, I craved time alone, even if just in the bathroom. When I was lucky enough to get any time to myself, I almost always squandered much of it in front of the TV. Or I’d call family or friends and talk to them. Anything to fill up the silence. Anything to avoid being alone with myself.
Now, my daughters are both away at college. This week my husband is out of town so it just me and the dog and cat. And the silence.
As I sit in my cozy reading/writing nook in the living room I hear the tapping of these keys, the gurgling hum of the washing, the clock ticking over the mantel and the muted thrum of highway traffic. That’s it. No TV or radio or music to fill the silence.
No barriers between me and myself.
I no longer resist silence or being alone. I embrace it.
What changed? Me. I don’t know when exactly it happened but it’s been since I started practicing yoga, since I finished my YTT. Yoga has allowed me to dive deep and figure out who I am, how I feel and to, you know, actually feel those feelings.
I think I was afraid of feeling too much so I avoided being alone, avoided creating space where feelings could surface.
I am no longer uncomfortable being alone. It no longer feels lonely. It wasn’t because I didn’t like myself. I didn’t know myself. And I am not always comfortable with being alone or with silence. Sometimes I still get that feeling of wanting to crawl out of my skin. Of wanting to fill in the gaps of silence that press on me.
The difference now is that I allow myself to feel comfortable with being uncomfortable.
And that is something that has definitely emerged from my yoga practice. I find my edge in poses that aren’t comfortable but I stay there, I breathe, I feel my body, I note my resistance and choose to stay.
Staying there when I want to flee is where the growth happens. It’s like a muscle that I push to its limit and it grows stronger. That space of hanging in past resistance helps in my writing as well.
So, as I find myself sitting in the utter quiet of my home, I note the butterflies in my belly, I note my shallow breath and the urge to turn the TV on. But I don’t.
I choose to embrace the silence.
And in embracing the silence I am embracing myself , exactly who I am in this moment. I wish eighteen-year-old me had known this. But she was young. She didn’t know or appreciate the beauty of all of who she was.
That’s okay. We know now.
As part of an on-line program, Spring Equinox 30 Days Back to You, I did a full two-hour vipassana meditation this morning. It is a practice of seeing ourselves clearly, of staying present to exactly what is happening in the moment, gradually purifying the mind and getting rid of attachments which are the root of suffering.
Where to start? At the beginning I suppose.
First up was the question of where to do it. I thought I should do it in my yoga room. Then this morning I decided I would sit in my nook in the living room. It didn’t look like I pictured it “should” in my mind—me sitting on my mat, in my yoga room, spine straight. But I decided I needed to make it as doable as possible. This chair is comfortable, it is cozy, I had the house to myself so I wouldn’t be interrupted. It made me wonder how often I tend to sabotage myself before I even begin by not making what I want to do as doable or accessible as possible.
Lately, I’ve been meditating and practicing self-reiki in bed as soon as I wake up. I used to think I “should” be doing it on my mat, after I practice. But this works for me. I wake up and before I do anything else, I do some reiki. I am still in that soft space after just waking, this keeps me there then it leads me straight into a sweet meditative space.
When I first read that I was going to have to meditate for two hours by first reaction was,”NO FUCKING WAY!”
But I was also intrigued.
I thought it would be so hard, so tedious. I thought it would be painful physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.
But I also thought it could really interesting.
I went into it without expectations. I deliberately didn’t read about others’ experience with it before I experienced it myself.
I got my cozy blanket, a glass of water, lit a candle, put my phone on airplane mode so I wouldn’t be disturbed, set the timer and just did it.
At first it was loud in my head. It felt like “Inside Out” in there. I had the rebel dressed in black muttering, “This is bullshit.”
There was one wringing her hands worried that we weren’t doing this right at all.
Another desperately taking notes so we could write about this afterward.
Another patrolling with a ruler in her hand, enumerating all the ways this was an utter waste of time.
The first time I checked the timer only 15 minutes had passed.
I shared the space with my dog, Izzy. She slept on the couch then at some point got up and moved to the recliner closer to me. I thought, her whole life is a vipassana meditation. She is always just in the moment, doing what she is doing. I tried to be more like her.
I was acutely aware of my body and the shapes it made. The places where my body connected with the chair, that line or veil between the two seeming to dissipate.
I was hyper aware of my face and neck.
I heard the clock above the mantel ticking away, the hum of the refrigerator, the creaks and groans of the house, distant traffic, a siren.
Odd images would flash behind my eyes. It felt like I was watching a movie.
It felt like that limbo between wakefulness and sleep though I never teetered over the edge into sleep.
The next time I looked I had 37 minutes left.
Then only six.
Then the timer dinged and I came back.
And it felt like coming back.
From where, I’m not sure. A journey of some sort. A deep inner journey.
I don’t remember a lot of the details. I am stunned that two hours went by.
I am surprised that it wasn’t more of a struggle. I’m surprised that I was able to just allow my mind to go where it went and didn’t engage with it. I felt like an observer. A curious, compassionate observer.
I stopped struggling to remember everything that I experienced and just allowed myself to experience it.
Just allowed myself to be.
Just allowed myself to see my Self more clearly.