Day 58- temple of silence

I haven’t practised yoga since Puerto Escondido. That is about a week. It has also been about a week that I have been expecting my period. I try not to think about the significance of this as I arrive on my yoga mat; however the truth is I never really arrive. I am moving through my Vinyasa but my mind is a million miles away. I realise that I haven’t been able to walk down the street lately without seeing a pregnant woman. When I turn on the TV, I watch the episode of Sex and the City where Miranda considers an abortion and then eventually decides to keep her baby. This morning, my favourite movie from my childhood is on; Bedknobs and Broomsticks. It is about an apprentice witch, studying by correspondence (like myself) who must unwillingly take on children. The law of attraction would suggest that the only reason this is occurring is because I am thinking about it, so I am attracting these “signs” into my attention. I can’t help but wonder…

As I try to move through my yoga practice I can’t get my mind off the possibility of pregnancy. I am silently calculating when the baby will arrive, trying to figure out exactly how many times I drank more than two glasses of wine, when I find myself (ironically) in child’s pose. Deuter’s angelic song, Temple of Silence, has brought me to my knees and in awe and I lay my third eye centre down to the earth. In this moment of certainty, I have no choice but to surrender to the higher power. If it is meant to be, then it won’t matter how much I want to control my life because my destiny has already been decided. I slowly move out of child’s pose and flow through the rest of my practice with ease. I meditate on this feeling of surrender until I let go of the inner conflict and fear. Finally, I walk to the shops. It is time to find out.

Single line. Not pregnant.

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Day 57- backyard meditation

I am visiting my Tio Cesar and Tia Alma in West Covina and over dinner, Alma brings up meditation. I had not mentioned it, in fact she didn’t know anything about this bliss project so I am surprised when she is telling me about her backyard and how she loves to meditate there. I wake up late, but it is still chilly when I go outside. It is 9am and for some inexplicable reason the grass feels kind of warm. I sit down in front of a tree and close my eyes. I can hear the birds around me and I realise how long it has been since I simply sat down with my eyes closed. A different meditation every day, moving around constantly and travelling I feel so restless. Now I realise how beautiful it is to sit down and hear myself breathe. After twenty minutes I roll forward onto my head and do a headstand. When I stand up I make a weak attempt at a handstand. When I go inside I spend some time reading some meditation tips form the swami.com website. It recommends following a goal for each day of the month and today the 25th of February, my goal is: to be aware of how you adjust to changing circumstances around you.

We visit the Old Mission in San Gabriel, which is a weird mixture of Native American and Catalan Catholic history. I wonder around the gardens but feel little spirit within these walls.

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None of my circumstances really change today, except dinner plans.

Day 56- sadness meditation

“Crying is one of the highest devotional songs. One who knows crying, knows spiritual practice. If you can cry with a pure heart, nothing else compares to such a prayer. Crying includes all the principles of Yoga.”
― Kripalvanandji

It could be PMS, it could be post-holiday blues, it could be that I have eaten too much wheat… I just feel sad. I suffered from depression from about the age of 15 until very recently, just before I turned 25. The only thing that changed? I took the contraceptive rod, Implanon, out of my arm as it is said to exacerbate mental illness. For the first time in nearly ten years I was not taking a regular form of contraception and for the first time in almost ten years I was no longer being followed around by a big black dog. In the depths of the worst of my despair, I had felt unspeakable loneliness, isolation, deep heartache, anxiety, emotional breakdown, as though a storm cloud was forever building in my head and if it rained, I could cry uncontrollably for hours and if it was just cloudy, my entire brain would be useless as I wondered around my life despondent and apathetic.

How do I know that this isn’t depression creeping its way back in? Well, it feels different. I have heard people say that they get attacks of the “sads” or the “blues” and that they just get on with it. When I felt depressed, it was more than a case of blues, it was more like a case of the blacks and from that pit of despair there was no possibility of just “getting on with it”. The cloud of isolation makes you feel completely handicapped. Breathing is difficult, speaking is more than a challenge and the basic mechanisms of life are impossible. Today I am just sad.  I can easily get on with it. I talk endlessly on the phone with my cousin, laugh, and generally forget that I am sad until the invariable moments waiting for the kettle to boil when that empty feeling in the core of my being comes bubbling back up.

I look up sadness meditation on the internet and find a few different sources. It seems I can turn this experience into a meditation.

According to http://www.leben-sterben.de/sadness_meditation.htm, sadness is an opportunity to enter yourself more deeply. Emotions are always feared, so rather than pulling away from the sadness, meditating on it and embracing it allows one to come through it and feel lighter on the other side. I sit down by myself and take deep breaths in and with each exhale, let out a groan. With every exhale, I release and let go. Eventually I am crying. It comes naturally and I don’t allow myself to justify my tears with any reason. I just know I am sad and need to let it out. Eventually I grow quiet and I feel a single tear roll down my cheek. I wrap myself in a hug and close the meditation.

Day 55- unsuccessful

Today I am tired. More than tired, I am exhausted. We stayed up late for our last night in Mexico and after only 2 hours of sleep, I wake up because my nose is bleeding. I stand sleepily over the sink until the blood clots and then wonder back to bed, this time lying on my back so that I don’t mess the bed if my nose starts again. After less than an hour, my alarm goes off with AC/DC’s ‘Back to Black’ and I turn it off in a zombie-like state, then lie down, willing my eyes to open. Once a week in Mexico, to reduce pollution, each car must abstain from driving between 5am and 10pm. This morning is my cousin’s turn, so he has to get us to the airport by 4.30am so that he can get to work by 5am. Our flight is at 7.55am anyway. We wonder through the airport, absorbed by the emails, blogs and Facebook notifications of which we have been deprived for the past four days. I can’t help it, but my life revolves around this intangible and mysterious phenomenon called internet. Often I try to remember what it was like before the internet ruled my life and with horror I realise I can’t. The only time of purity I spend where I am completely shut off from the world is when I am on the boat. The greatest thing about that, is that after I forget about the internet for two weeks, it seems to forget about me and after several sea trips, I eventually realise that I barely miss it. This year is harder since I have committed to blogging about my 365 days in Bliss meditations and I wonder if, somehow, it is creating a conflict between the purist intention of non-attachment to the material world, and withdrawal of the senses, to having to write about the meditation and upload it on the internet? Obviously I don’t get a chance to upload the post every day but I do have to sit down and open my shiny little Macbook Air every day to write about it. I have no answers to these ponderings today, so all these questions must be thrown into the rhetorical basket for now.

We board the plane and I finally feel like I can close my eyes and do a morning meditation… Three hours later I wake up. Damn it, I fell asleep straight away. Lorin Roche says that if sleep is lacking it will ALWAYS take priority over meditation, and why shouldn’t it? We need to sleep.

In fact, when I don’t sleep, I feel moody, slightly despondent, a little less intelligent and… constipated. In every way. My brain seems to clog up with dust and all the intake of thought sits there, undigested. Similarly, my skin seems to feel a little oily, like it is holding onto the pollution I am breathing and the food I am eating. My stomach, worst of all lacks the energy to do anything with the pancakes and hot chocolate I had for breakfast or the healthy quinoa salad and stuffed mushroom I have for lunch. We go shopping and I have forgotten my bottle of water so I wonder around the shops staring blankly at the clothing and shoes, coming home with only a soft white beanie. In my simple frame of mind, I am way too amused by the pom-pom on the beanie. After we shop, we walk down the pier on Manhattan beach, trying to feel some late afternoon fresh air. I have barely spoken all day, my mind just seems to be flashing with ERROR CODE: NO COMMENT. By late evening we just drink some wine and eat some cheese and I barely get through the end of the movie before I am asleep again. In the back of my mind, I know that I have not taken any time to meditate, but all I want to do is sleep.

Sleep and internet. The prerequisite and post requisite to each day of meditation. When I ask the internet what the importance of sleep is, it’s first answer is from Harvard, (a source synonymous with intelligence). This is what I am told by http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/importance_of_sleep_and_health

  1. Learning and memory: Sleep helps the brain commit new information to memory through a process called memory consolidation. In studies, people who’d slept after learning a task did better on tests later.
  2. Metabolism and weight: Chronic sleep deprivation may cause weight gain by affecting the way our bodies process and store carbohydrates, and by altering levels of hormones that affect our appetite.
  3. Safety: Sleep debt contributes to a greater tendency to fall asleep during the daytime. These lapses may cause falls and mistakes such as medical errors, air traffic mishaps, and road accidents.
  4. Mood: Sleep loss may result in irritability, impatience, inability to concentrate, and moodiness. Too little sleep can also leave you too tired to do the things you like to do.
  5. Cardiovascular health: Serious sleep disorders have been linked to hypertension, increased stress hormone levels, and irregular heartbeat.
  6. Disease: Sleep deprivation alters immune function, including the activity of the body’s killer cells. Keeping up with sleep may also help fight cancer.
My own addition:
7. Meditation: Sleep will replace meditation, whether you like it or not.
This is where I have to let go of attachment and forgive myself. I did not succeed in meditation today, but tomorrow is another day.
zzzzzzz

Day 54- the wisdom of children

I wake up to my last day in Mexico. I am so sad to be leaving but at the same time, happy to have been here again, among my heritage and my family. When I pick up Sophia, my little niece, from school she runs to me, crying “Tia!”

In the car I help her read. She sounds out the words and looks up at me inquisitively to see if she got it right. We stop for an ice block then to pick up food and she balances her bright red frozen treat in one hand and a plain maize tortilla in the other over her reading book. After reading she wants to do sums. I throw small numbers at her and even without using her fingers she comes back quickly with the answers.

We didn’t get our passports stamped by immigration on our way into Mexico so we need to spend an hour at the airport tonight sorting this out, paying fines and signing pieces of paper. On the way home Sophia falls asleep with her head resting on my shoulder. The entire world disappears around me as I become entirely enveloped in this feeling of pure, sweet, innocence. I can’t get over the beauty of her smile. How do children just fall asleep anywhere and remain completely comatose, no matter how you move them about? By the time you’re all “grown up” sleep is an elusive and dearly missed luxury. Every night I have a ritual of facial treatment, dental care and herbal tea to slowly lull me into falling asleep by the time I lie down in bed. Then, once lying down, it takes at least several complete revolutions from lying on my back to my side to my other side to my stomach and back to lying on my back before I finally drift off to sleep. I always know when I’m falling asleep because the constant stream of thoughts starts to turn into dream while I am still conscious of them enough to realise how weird they are. Then there is a final twitch as though an electric current has suddenly run through my whole body and finally I am sleeping. Until that herbal tea is banging at the walls of my bladder and I wake up at midnight to go to the bathroom. If I am lucky, I fall asleep again straight away.

I look at Sophia and her mouth, slightly open, lets out a tiny snore. We all let out an “awwww” and I keep watching her for a while. She is my meditation. She is that feeling of purity and wisdom. She is peace and bliss. She is enlightened, innocent and uncorrupted by life. Tears are running down my face, but it is not sadness that makes me cry. I am weeping for the perfection of this moment, for the beautiful and tiny life in my arms and for my own inner child who can still sleep so sweetly when I meditate.

Day 53- the inner waterfall

Mexico City is 2240 metres above sea level. It is cool and dry right now. So dry, that my usually dry skin is feeling the pinch. Our noses bleed easily and each morning are filled with bloody corn-flakes. We are again at the tattoo shop. This time Andrew is doing a cover up which will take about four hours. I read for a while, but soon the day heats up. I play with the small turtles in the tattoo shop and wonder if they can help me meditate. I wish I was in a big tank of water right now, it’s so hot.

I sit back down and close my eyes. I feel water washing over me, like a waterfall of energy. It is cool and refreshing, like a long drink of fresh water. I am cooling down slowly, finding that now familiar place of bliss and peace.

The tattooist is speaking to me. He thinks I have fallen asleep from boredom. I don’t get upset, I just gently come back to the room and go stand in the sun. Though my life is restless and inconsistent, my one constant is that moment of bliss. The method, the place, the people may change but at the centre of the meditation is always that same feeling. The void, the space where my soul rests in complete contentment. I may stay there for a moment, for minutes or for half an hour but it always feels like home and it always leaves me feeling like my life is better in just the smallest way.

Day 52- drenched in freedom

The Radiance Sutras, sutra number 23:

 

Forget all of your ideas about the body –

It’s this way or it’s that way.

 

Just be with any area of it,

This present body

As permeated with limitless space,

Drenched in freedom.

 

We have been conscious of our unhealthy eating habits lately and both of us are feeling like we have put on weight. I know from the sporadic bouts of emotion that I am also pre-menstrual, so a little extra water weight is certainly not helping my body relationship. Like any relationship, the one with your own body needs work. It can’t be neglected and deserves as much love in terms of healthy eating, exercise, skin care and attention as you would bestow upon any loved one. I wake up and go outside to sit in the sunshine. I have the sutra opened before me and with a dab of Meditation Balm on my temples, I close my eyes and sit with my belly. The centre of digestion, of hunger, of food, as well as the organs below, the womb, the lunar cycle. I see this space in my abdomen as permeated with limitless space, drenched in freedom; the freedom to love, to accept, to let go of conditions and expectations.

Forget all of your ideas about the body…

As Andrew always says, “If you’re hungry, eat! If you don’t eat you don’t shit, and if you don’t shit… you die!”

 

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