How often do we want guarantees that we are going to win before we enter the arena? How many of us sit in the stands because we can’t stand the uncertainty of walking into the arena and getting our asses kicked and LOSING. It’s too uncomfortable for us and so we never move from our comfort zone in the stands, watching everyone in the arena getting medals and winning and wondering why oh why that doesn’t happen to us.
I know this because I have been there.
After my kids were born and I left my career, after I struggled from and started healing postpartum depression, after multiple part time jobs that I got fired from, I sat in the stands and watched all the mommy biz owners kick ass and wondered what the fuck was wrong with me that something that awesome couldn’t happen to me. I sat, and I watched, and I couldn’t bear the idea of putting myself out there for fear I might be rejected, or worse, ignored.
The gremlins in my head mostly chattered on about my unworthiness, after all, who was I to share my story? Who was I to post blogs and presume to be an expert at anything. I had been fired from part time jobs that a monkey could do and succeed, how could I possibly succeed in business on my own? I was clearly an idiot and a failure and shouldn’t even bother.
So bother I didn’t, for a long time.
What happened was I stayed safe. I didn’t fail, but I didn’t succeed either. I just existed, and became more and more bitter and bummed out the more time passed.
Then something happened I didn’t expect.
I read a book called “Hand Wash Cold” by an author whose first book had helped me start to climb my way out of the BIG BLACK PIT that was postpartum depression. I read her book and I started meditating, every day.
When I started, I sat for five minutes.
I sat for five minutes everyday and trained myself to notice my thoughts and return my attention to the flow of my breath. Then I got up off my cushion and went about my day.
Slowly I started to notice the stories I was telling myself about myself, and I started to wonder why I was being so hard on myself? After all, aren’t I on my own side? I decided to put a stop to that and adopted the mantra “I will no longer harbour unhealthy thoughts.”. Like a port master, when I noticed an unhealthy thought trying to take shelter in the harbour of my mind, I would tell it gently that it wasn’t welcome to drop anchor here, and it would move on.
And as my thoughts became less corrosive, my life began to look less bleak.
Over time, as I felt ready, I would extend my sitting time by a few minutes, and as the minutes increased, so did the changes in my life.
I found myself more about to tolerate challenges, to tolerate risk, and to tolerate the vulnerability it took to show up to the arena when there were no guarantees of success.
I got knocked down, and I got back up.
And I survived.
Why am I telling you this?
I am telling you this because our mind is a muscle, and like any other muscle, it can be trained. Meditation is practising noticing your thinking and returning your attention to your breath. You are practising awareness, and as you continue to practice, your awareness grows.
I want to end this post with some words from the author I mentioned above. Her name is Karen Maezen Miller, and her work saved my life. Maybe it can help you too.
“When folks begin to practice Zen, they can be set back by how hard it is. They might have expected to be good at it—for certain they expected something—but what they are good at is something else altogether.
Why is it so hard to just breathe? Because you’ve been practicing holding your breath.
Why is it so hard to keep my eyes open? Because you’ve been practicing falling asleep.
Why is it so hard to be still? Because you’ve been practicing running amok.
Why is it so hard to be quiet? Because you’ve been practicing talking to yourself.
Why is it so hard to pay attention? Because you’ve been practicing inattention.
Why is it so hard to relax? Because you’ve been practicing stress.
Why is it so hard to trust? Because you’ve been practicing fear.
Why is it so hard to have faith? Because you’ve been trying to know.
Why is it so hard to feel good? Because you’ve been practicing feeling bad.
Whatever you practice, you’ll get very good at, and you’ve been practicing these things forever. Take your own life as proof that practice works as long as you keep doing it. Just replace a harmful practice with one that does no harm.”
Excerpted from Paradise in Plain Sight ©2014 by Karen Maezen Miller.