One thing about meditation - you begin to notice EVERYTHING.
This is good and bad. For example, when a bad mood is coming on, you can feel it almost creeping up behind you in a way that you probably didn’t before. It makes the anticipation of it frustrating and the feeling itself, sometimes even more irritating. Granted, one could argue the best way to use this increased capacity of foresight would be to change the direction of that mood and proactively make choices to halt its progression, or avoid it altogether. To that I say, “Yes…and…there are plenty of times in our lives when things go south and you just have to let it happen." Just because we meditate, or may even have an established, consistent meditation practice, it doesn't mean that sometimes things won't suck, or that unfortunate circumstances won't arise. Even when we’ve developed better coping mechanisms for these stressors, it’s still possible to have a bad day, be in a funk, or need a personal day. And that’s okay!
There seems to be an idea that we’re not allowed to have a momentary slump or wake up in a bad mood, and especially as a regular meditator. I can tell you from personal experience, it happens and can happen more frequently than we'd like! What people may not know, is that being a meditator means being more of a whole person – the good, the bad and the ugly. There are a range of emotions to feel and experience throughout life. It’s the lens that looks deeper into the “why” of these emotions that separate those with a meditation practice and those without.
While we would all love to have that sustained, undisturbed peace that meditation can provide, we’re still “workin’ through some things.” In as much, let’s not hold ourselves up to an unrealistic expectation of perfection, and through meditation, look to seeing our frustrations from a different angle.
A lesser known fable about Hercules and the wagoner comes to mind. If you haven’t heard this story, the short version is this – It starts out with a wagoner driving a heavy load along a muddy road. He comes to a part of the road where the wheels sink half-way into the mire, and the more the horses pulled, the deeper the wheels sank. So the wagoner threw down his whip, knelt down and stood in the mud gazing at his misfortune. He prayed to Hercules the Strong, “O Hercules, help me in this my hour of distress.”
Hercules appeared to him, and said: “Man, don’t sprawl there.
Get up and put your shoulder to the wheel.”
In my pre-meditation days, I would have thought Hercules was just being a dick. No seriously, think about it. He’s got all the strength in the world but he still won’t assist this one helpless guy and get his cart out of the mud??? My post-meditation self sees that the man had other choices. Rather than getting off his cart and staring at his problem, he could have done some active things to help get himself out of the muck. It turns out, he may not be as helpless as he believes.
We have all, at some point, felt like that wagoner – like we’re out of options and that for some reason, the world has transpired to ensure that our day is as difficult as possible. The bright side is, the situation is always temporary and you have more choices than you think. Meditation helps to not only develop broader perspective, but also helps widen our expectations of what is possible in our circumstances so we can go about changing what we don’t like.
So the next time you feel one of "those days" coming on,
here’s a few tips to help get you out of the mud:
- Allow yourself a moment or a day to feel how you feel (Note: It’s important not to linger on step one. This can be a gateway to creating and joining your own pity party and that’s not helpful!).
- Meditate … consistently.
- Understand the problem is temporary. Remember the old saying, "And this too shall pass."
- If you still feel terrible, go back to number 1.
If you have a meditation "success" story, we'd love to hear it! When has meditation helped you gain perspective, or lifted your mood? Share your story in the comment section.
Your revelations could help someone else going through it!