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Rising in the Dark

Over the years, I have developed a number of approaches to work around all the ways resistance shows up when I sit to meditate. (In case you are wondering, yes, it still happens – as my dear friend says about many of life’s experiences, “You never get it done and you never get it right.” I have yet to meet anyone who has mastered life.) I can thank my athletic years for that determination to find ways through, because many a morning back then I did not want to get out of bed and train, and yet I longed to be better conditioned and skilled. What those years taught me about my mind is that there are only so many times you can come up with a motivator or reward or pep talk on the fly, especially at 5:30 am, so you had better plan for resistance and be ready. Back then, my resistance was centered on the body: I was tired or sore, wanting more sleep, didn’t like rising in the dark, or alternately, wondering whether all this time and effort was going to be worth it. I learned to slow down, breathe, ask myself what’s really the matter. That simple act of cooperating with my system would more often than not clear the path. What I needed to honor was generally a version of this inner dialogue: it’s not about pushing or straining, ease in, ease in, stretch a bit, feel your way, but still go. Sometimes I still needed to bribe myself with the promise of a chocolate chip muffin after practice, but just attuning to myself was increasingly enough.

These days, the resistance is more emotional. For example, maybe I am avoiding the sense that I will become aware of truths in my meditation that will require a shift in my action or thinking to stay in my integrity. Sometimes I am under time pressure. Sometimes I can’t settle down. Resistance takes many forms. When I have that, “I don’t wanna” feeling - you know the one, when you feel like a cranky toddler, and all you want to do is indulge yourself - I take a few deep breaths, tell myself, just take three minutes, and listen in a little deeper. Listen to your home signal, as I like to call it, a combination of what’s emanating from the sensory, the emotional, the neurological, the egotistical, and, if I stick with it long enough, an overall sense of consciousness. On the tough days, I find observing myself like a character helps. So I ask myself, “If I was a fictional character, what would Anne want me to know?” And then I pull it in more personally, “What is it, what is it you want me to know?” It’s not about pushing or straining. Ease in, stretch a bit, feel your way, but still go. A word might emerge, a thought, an image, a snippet of something or other, usually about fear or about being enough - the greatest hits! – and I just make space for it, I see, I see, yes, I see . . . and ease in a little further. Pressure both builds and eases simultaneously. Awareness both intensifies and drifts. And then there is a tipping point, that elusive, astonishing edge at which ego relaxes, body stills, brainwaves slow, peace overtakes perception and I am merely aware of luminosity and being breathed.

That moment alone, whether it lasts for seconds or minutes, is always worth rising in the dark.

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