That's What I Thought....my Brain's a Liar

I have not been meditating in the 'traditional' sense lately.  It's been completely useless to track my thoughts because most of them are gargantuan shadows of my ex and the apartment I thought I'd be living in and the conversations I must have misunderstood, etc.  You know.  If you've ever broken up with someone, you know.  I broke up with wine and my boyfriend in the same month.  I loved these things (for different reasons, obvies) and I am struggling to not fixate on them both throughout the day (at different times.)  The process of taking seated meditation and concentrating on my breath is not impossible, but I've had to take some very specific steps FIRST in order to get on my ass (like that one?) and meditate.

Before I tell you exactly what these steps are, first let me say that something incredible happened to me a few days ago.  I was at an amazing gallery in Houston, surrounded by art patrons and their children and celebrating the publication of a beautiful collection of mermaid stories and I was with a dear friend.  

We talked about all sorts of things, including my recent breakup, which I gracefully brushed off.  Several people offered me champagne, which I politely refused.  The weather was gorgeous.  I was wearing new clothes.  I felt fancy and pretty and energized;charged.  
Nearing the end of the event I decided it was time to go, to get myself some dinner and figure out what I'd do for the rest of the evening.  

The charge of being out and looking nice and engaging with others around a creative production made me nostalgic for my relationship... Without going into the details, I began to fixate on how nice it would be to go to a movie with my ex and spend time together and have that old familiar level of comfort and friendship and stimulation on a night when I was feeling so good- I didn't want to just go home alone!  So I called.  No answer.  So I decided that I would buy a bottle of wine at the store and spend the evening alone.....

At the store I walked a walk not unfamiliar to me.  I ended up in the wine section of Whole Foods (hoping I wouldn't see anyone I know- RED FLAG # 68) and the strangest thing happened: I became sick to my stomach.  I wandered up and down the aisles I know so well, and it was like I didn't recognize what I was looking at, my head began to spin, my stomach started to churn and I felt suddenly very anxious.  I tried to convince myself to just grab any bottle and get out of there, but my physical response was too strong.  I made a salad, I bought a ginger ale and I went home.

My mind was so intent on fixing the subtle "charge" of discomfort and unfamiliar territory of being out and alone and without a partner to connect to that I wanted to ignore all of the work I've done over the last eight weeks; or so I thought.  Suddenly I understood what my teachers (and ME!) have been saying about this practice for years:the discomfort doesn't stop.  The thoughts aren't real.  Your thoughts are not your inner guidance or wisdom.  Your thoughts are the products of your habits, your stress level, your blood sugar and everything you've taken in through your organs of perception.  

So the practice, which I can't overestimate in power, is to stop wherever you are, whatever you're doing.  Get still.  

*Track your physical sensations- give yourself time to really sense temperature, tingling, pressure, numbness, etc.  Allow an image or a word to come through.  *Drop it.*
*Track any emotions or feeling states that are present.  Again, don't just take it at face value- what is the "nostalgia" after 30-60 seconds? Allow an image or a word to come through.  *Drop it.*
*Track your thoughts and mental state (distractibility, sensations, patterns, words.)  Notice any correlation or discrepancy between your mental state and physical/emotional states.  Allow an image or a word to come through.  
*Drop it.*
Finally, where is Spirit?  Where is that essential you in all this?  Can you feel anything in or around you that resembles your essence?

Get a pen, markers, pastels, paints, whatever, and get to work.  Get down on paper what you heard, saw, felt, needed, wanted, hated, smelled, etc.  Take time with this.  Be with what is moving inside you.  The more time you spend with this language the easier it is to understand when habit and old triggers get the best of you.  

This practice is not a substitution for more traditional methods of meditation, it is a supplement- a meditation that moves with you through your day so that when it comes time to sit there's a baseline level of clarity about what might be masquerading as truth in the recesses of your mind.  We can practice yoga and eat all the right foods and sit on a cushion for 20mins a day, and we are still human with an ever-present need for attention to the present moment.  You are a vibrant, subtle, sensitive being and this work of embodiment will allow you to gracefully navigate the task you've been assigned, whether that's to survive a breakup, to get sober, to be a mom, to sit in Houston traffic or to vote in the 2016 election.  Stay vigilant.  Be soft with yourself.