A few years ago I made a commitment to meditate regularly. I had read a huge amount of literature about the healing power of meditation and all the positive aspects of having an ongoing meditation practice. It was hard to get started, and every day there seemed to be another obstacle to beginning the ritual. There were so many distractions and so little time. When I did finally settle into a morning schedule that made room for a short sitting meditation, it was preceded by a set of steps to help me achieve my goal to just sit down, sit still and breathe for a few minutes. I happily made an agreement with myself that 10 minutes would be a successful effort. So I began each morning splashing my face with cold water, brushing my teeth, making a hot water and lemon drink and clearing a seat in a comfortable and quiet spot in the house.
At first, the 10 minutes seemed like an hour. I gave myself permission to just let my mind wander. The notion that I was going to be able to "empty" my mind seemed a task too daunting to even attempt. Creating a space, a container for new ideas to emerge, was the image that seemed to work best for me and I was enthused by the amount of wonderful and new thoughts and ideas that did emerge; even in the short time I allowed for them to appear. As I began to sit and meditate for slightly more time each morning, I felt a real shift in my awareness. I enjoyed seeing new ideas emerge, bubbling comfortably up to my consciousness and thinking dreamily about life with a new perspective. The stillness allowed me to access deeper understanding and offered an opportunity to explore hidden truths.
The meditation time focused on heightening my level of compassion and created an open-heartedness within me that was palpable. What I did not expect was that this open-hearted and compassionate space made it impossible to stay shielded from real-world suffering. I lived a blessed life full of optimism, happy, inspired energy and a positive spin on any difficulty that managed to sneak in. Now, the combination of ongoing international news stories of human tragedies, coupled with the intimate challenges of family and friends, leaves me feeling the pain of others at an almost unbearable level. I spent decades seeing the world through rose-colored lenses, and meditation is at least partly to blame for the extreme change in my prescription. I will admit that middle age and a generally more solitary and contemplative life may play a part in these new heart-wrenching feelings, but I do not think I would have succumbed so easily if not for my meditation practice.
The rawness of emotions and feelings that surfaced for me was quite unexpected. It was as if a floodgate burst. Perhaps it was even more surprising because I have spent a good portion of my life actively working to heal people and to make the world a better place. I am no stranger to the ills of the world or human suffering. I am sure those women and men more senior and skilled in meditation than I are jumping to comment about their knowledge of this transition time for one who meditates. It is with great anticipation that I await an easier time of acceptance and understanding. In the meantime, I write this piece for all those other earnest newbie meditators who should beware of what might rise up from within once you allow yourself to sit still.
Follow Dr. Sharon Ufberg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DrUfberg