My name was called to sit in a row of students. We were propped up in chairs, our spines erect, staring at a blank wall, waiting for our turn to have an interview with our teacher, Michael Stone. It was my first silent meditation retreat. An interview is a meeting with the teacher, where the student has the opportunity to ask questions and recieve guidance. I knew exactly what I wanted to ask. My father was back in Wisconsin, slowly succumbing to cancer, and I wasn’t with him. I was living in Portland, and I had made the choice to move, knowing I wouldn’t be there in the last years of his life. I was overwhelmed with shame, and it was consuming me.
The bell rang… it was my time. I rose from my seat, turned to my right, and walked into a small room, where Michael was sitting. I bowed and sat on the cushion in front of him. As I spoke, tears silently rolled down my cheeks. I told him I felt like a bad daughter… actually, a bad person. Compassion and clarity radiated from his face, his body posture, and through his language. He simply and directly said, “Stop the narrative. Stop the story you’re telling yourself about how you’re a bad daughter, or how you should be with him. Just stop. Feel the emotion in your body and be present with it, but stop the story and notice what happens.”
It’s not an exaggeration when I tell you that, in that very moment, the experience of my emotional life changed. I stopped telling that story, and allowed my body to process the shame. I was no longer trapped in that cycle of suffering.
For the last seven years, meditation has been the foundation of my practice. Learning to sit with discomfort, and learning tools and techniques to help me navigate the sometimes-stormy waters of my emotions, has profoundly changed my life. My formal meditation practice seeps into my time off of my cushion, allowing me to take leadership within my mind, and that translates to leadership in my life. Our mind colors every moment of our lives. In meditation we aren’t ignoring or denying our experience, we’re becoming more intimate with it, and we learn to become aware of those times when we’re perpetuating our experience of suffering.
I’d like to share all I’ve learned about this practice. This includes the time I spent in India, where my teacher Swamiji Tureyananda taught me the technique that empowered me to sit every day, as well as my time with Michael, and my continued practice. Join me, this Saturday, February 3rd for the Meditation workshop. I’ve designed this workshop for the student who wants to start a meditation practice, or for those who have already been sitting, and want guidance on technique. You can find more details here. Please join me.