Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Then Warren Zevon sings poor, poor pitiful me


"It's painful to face how we harm others, and it takes a while. It's a journey that happens because of our commitment to gentleness and honesty, our commitment to staying awake, to being mindful. Because of mindfulness, we see our desires and our aggression, our jealousy and our ignorance. We don't act on them; we just see them. Without mindfulness, we don't see them."--Pema Chodron, from When Things Fall Apart

I've been resisting starting a meditation practice. I hector my husband to meditate, and then I go off to read a book or take a nap. The idea of meditation scares me because I fear it will be uncomfortable--and like most people, I hate feeling uncomfortable. In fact, I know it hurts because of the few times I've attempted it. It's like starting a new exercise regimen--I know it would be good for me, I know it would help me sleep, stave off my sun-deprived sadness, tone up my somewhat pudgy winter body. But it hurts to workout! I sweat and my face turns red, and my arms and legs shout and complain. With meditation, I envision sitting and struggling to knock out the intrusive thoughts one by one. I imagine the pain in my lower back, the stiffness in my legs, the cat distracting me by rubbing up against my arm. I'd do it for ten minutes max, and then wander off into the kitchen for a cup of coffee and a heaping serving of guilt.

I could try going to a class and meditating. This way I'm among others who are struggling, too. The problem with that is, I often have a hard time seeing beyond the surface with people--like at the gym when I see the runners on the treadmill who don't seem to break a sweat and can even keep up a conversation with their workout partner--I don't see how they're suffering. When I see others meditating, I think, oh, they seem very peaceful. They know how to do this properly. I'm the only one who is having problems.

This is where I need to be more mindful; this is the "stuff"I need to work with, as Pema would say. I don't always stop to find out the truth of other people's suffering--at least not people who are in my immediate circle or who live in my city. Yes, I see the suffering on the news, and I read about it in books. And as I've said, I have a hard time feeling happy sometimes when I think of what these "other" people are facing. But when it comes to the people I encounter everyday, I always assume things come more easily for them. It's a convenient lie I tell myself that keeps me thinking it's only me who struggles with meditation or working out or writing or whatever it is. No one else knows how it feels. Yeah, right.

Today I will work to be more mindful of other people. I will listen to them instead of thinking of what I want to say, and I will try to suspend judgement of what I think they're experiencing, because I can't always know the truth. Everyone has their challenges, even that woman running gracefully on the treadmill or that man who looks completely at ease on the meditation cushion.

And I'll go to Shambhala meditation class on Wednesday night instead of just thinking about it or telling Mike he should go.

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