image via my hd wallpapers
Passing through the mid-point of my 100-day journey through meditation, I’ve made a number of interesting observations. I’m sure I’ll touch on more of these as time goes on, but for now there’s one particular thing that I
want need to focus on here. This is something incredibly difficult for me to share. So difficult, even, that I’ve procrastinated writing this post for a while now. The surprising (and frustrating) revelation/observation that I’ve recently experienced in my daily meditations is the crippling emotional upheaval that has come on rapidly, and almost torturously, in the last few weeks. This post is not for the faint of heart.
Meditation practice gives us the space to sit back and notice what’s inside the mind. And, often, the mind is highly cluttered with thoughts and emotions. Imagine the mind and this clutter of the mind as an old attic, full of stuff. Some areas of this attic hold precious, well-preserved keepsakes. Other areas are just dusty, jumbled messes that need some attention to clean up and separate the trash from any valuables worth keeping. In this attic of the mind, there are buried treasures just waiting to be uncovered and polished. We are happy to find these precious thoughts and memories and may even decide to hang them on the walls of our mind now that they have been uncovered again.
Then, there are the dark, hidden secrets and painful moments that were stored away for the purpose of avoidance or to simply forget. Sometimes these thoughts and feelings are carefully packed away and stored someplace safe. Then, other times, they’re haphazardly thrown into the mounting pile of clutter, left to be forgotten. But thoughts and memories of this nature are never truly forgotten, not dark secrets. They get buried deep in hopes that they won’t resurface, but, eventually, they always do. So, it’s better to purposely find and confront them than it is to allow them to find their own way out…
Even though I’ve been consistently meditating almost every day, sometimes multiple times a day, I still freak out (at least on the inside) when stress rears its ugly head. For the most part, I’ve always managed to remain fairly calm and collected during moments of anger and frustration. Looking back, I think that this may have been a coping mechanism brought on during the years of my youth, growing up as the oldest of 4 children (all girls, my poor father). It was often chaotic in my home and while I didn’t always manage to keep everyone in line all the time, I was often the in-house mediator; the one who handled the fights among my siblings.
Don’t get me wrong, I have my moments where I lash out and yell (I’m not some emotionless robot), but it usually takes a lot to get me there. I have more patience than most people I know. But, even if I can remain cool and composed during moments of anger or frustration, I still feel the effects of the emotions surging through my body when they arise.
When anger takes over, I immediately sense my blood pressure rising and the release of testosterone flooding my system. Oh, I feel it! Maybe even more intensely than some others because of the connection I have through yoga to my physical body. The difference between someone like me and someone like, say, the Corporal, is that I actually have the ability to exhibit control over my emotions, even when they come on strongly.
And, even when I’m faced with situations that are sad or upsetting, I almost never cry. In fact, I rarely cry at all, even when I’m alone. Sometimes I feel the tears welling up in my eyes, but then, some ingrained or instinctual force comes over me and I manage to hold back. Again, I think this goes back to childhood where I had to remain level-headed in emergency situations with my siblings. It was important to have the ability to react rationally rather than get emotional.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t feel sadness or fear. Hardly, it just means I can control my emotions; sometimes, to a fault. In an effort to utilize impulse control, I often forget to actually FEEL my emotions and instead, tuck them away someplace into the nether-regions of my mind until I’m ready to deal with them. The problem with that is, I rarely take them back out and actually work through them. Yes, I already know how unhealthy this is and am working on finding ways to process and properly feel these emotions when they arise more often. It’s a daily struggle.
So, what’s the point of all this discussion about emotional control, you ask?
Well, lately, I’ve been experiencing a steady increase in emotional instability. In fact, I’ve been a bit of an emotional wreck over the last few weeks. This is completely uncharacteristic of me and I’m beginning to question my ability to keep an even temperament anymore. True feelings of overwhelming ANGER, SADNESS, JOY, BLISS, DEPRESSION, and yes, even LOVE (thank you, you know who you are <3) have been coming out in ways that I haven’t experienced since I was a dramatic, hormonal teenager (and, at least a few times, while I was pregnant).
It all began during a meditation session a few weeks ago. Going through the Acceptance 10-day meditation pack on Headspace, I was into about the 3rd or 4th day and was having trouble concentrating for a few previous sessions prior to this day. I had been searching for something in my recent meditations, anything, hoping to find a way back to the euphoria I had experienced during my practices leading up to these.
Gradually, everything was beginning to feel different in meditation practice. Instead of being able to sit back and watch my thoughts, something kept ‘scratching’ at me… constantly, though quietly, seeking my attention. I tried to sit back and just watch this feeling, but it became more pervasive with each passing session.
On this particular afternoon, I sat down to my practice as normal, but was completely incapable of following my normal routine (breath awareness, into acknowledging the purpose of my practice, into quietly watching my thoughts come and go, creating space). Instead, I was distracted. So distracted, that I didn’t even notice what Andy was saying as his voice attempted to lead me through my practice.
A few minutes into this ‘meditation’, a sudden, though SOFT feeling of being led by the hand came over me. Some unseen force walked me through the attic of my mind and pointed me towards a pile of clutter, behind which, I instinctively knew there was a door. Hidden behind all the piles and piles of stuff that had been strategically placed in front of it, I knew that this was a door I was meant to open. And, indeed, the benevolent force urged me to do just that.
In that moment, I physically felt my lips quiver and tears sting my eyes. I literally said out loud, ‘I don’t want to…’ The gentle force repeated. Open the door. Again, tears now streaming down my face, I cried out loud, fighting the guiding force, ‘I can’t. I don’t want to! I can’t do it. No! Don’t make me…’
Suddenly, Andy’s voice resonated calmly and clearly through my headphones. He was asking the same question that he urged listeners to ask during every meditation practice in the Acceptance pack. I heard Andy’s gentle voice ask, “Who or what are you resisting in your life right now?” Oh. my. god… I was obviously resisting opening that door or, more to the point, I was resisting confronting whatever was lying beyond that door in the attic of my mind.
Clearly, I had to get past all the junk and open that damn door. I stood frightened and silent in the attic of my mind and then quietly and easily reached past the piles of purposely placed clutter. I opened the door. As soon as I turned the knob, an enormous tidal wave of emotions crashed through the open doorway and washed over me, knocking me off of my feet. Suddenly, just like the ocean of tears in Alice in Wonderland, I was drowning in a sea of emotion. STRONG, INTENSE, OVERWHELMING, WET-YOUR-PANTS EMOTION.
I began crying hysterically. Straight up blubbering, ugly crying (thank goodness the bunnies were napping, I don’t think they could’ve handled seeing mommy lose it like that). I cried through the remaining 10 minutes or so of my meditation practice and long afterwards. I don’t even know why! There wasn’t any reason attached to the overwhelming feelings. The only thing that I could identify in those drawn-out moments were pure, raw (scary as f**k!) emotions.
I cried long and hard for about 20-30 minutes. There were no thoughts or judgements attached to the tears (aside from the fear I experienced from finally knowing that this ocean of emotion existed within me and I hadn’t even realized it). That single session was the catalyst to an onslaught of deep-seated emotions about the last three+ years of my life, that were now allowed to have their freedom and space. I would later realize that this enormous flood of emotions, were my true feelings for the Corporal. Feelings I didn’t want to know or understand, but were smacking me right in the face, so I obviously couldn’t hide from them or ignore them anymore.
Each and every meditation practice since then, I have cried actual tears. Me. The girl who almost never cries. EVERY TIME.
Just as I have finally begun unpacking all the boxes from my sudden move those long four months ago, I have been similarly unpacking my many different emotions for the Corporal that I had carefully stored away in a sort of metaphorical box (Pandora’s box, in many ways). Feelings that I still have yet to allow myself to experience on the full, raw level that they need, that they beckon me, to do. But, I have acknowledged them and begun to know and understand them on a whole new level.
The first feeling that came out of the box, the one that I least expected and most wanted to avoid, was LOVE. Yes, love was right at the top of the carefully packed box. I know that I must have purposely placed love on the top when I packed and stashed this box away in the corner of my mind.
Love, (the one emotion that I thought I had completely and totally lost for the man who beat me and put me through a tortuous hell as often as he could) was now gently staring me down, attempting to penetrate me to my very core. I still loved the Corporal.
No, not in that ‘I want to get back together’ way, but in the way that I’m certain I will always love him: as the father of my children, as the man who taught me how to overcome adversity, and who has pushed me to take the hardships of my life and better myself. I get to experience personal and spiritual growth thanks to him. Don’t get me wrong, as you can clearly see, growth is painful, hard and kinda, sorta, REALLY sucks while you’re in the middle of it. But, it sure is worthwhile. Anything difficult usually is.
So, while it was a challenge and heartbreaking, I accepted that I still do and most likely always will love the Corporal. This was a crucial revelation for me. Primarily because I was beginning to think that the Corporal had ruined me. That I had lost a part of myself to the pain that he brought into my life. That I had somehow become less than I was when I first met him. But, finding that love and having the ability to acknowledge and feel that love meant that I (the magnificent, beautiful light of my soul) was still inside this bruised and battered body. I could still love, even him. I knew this meant that I would be OK.
The next feeling that came out of that carefully packed box of emotions is one that I usually tend to avoid more often than not. It’s one that I don’t like feeling and even fear because I don’t want to be consumed by it, or to lose myself in it. But, when I let it come on fully, it freed me in a way I didn’t even know was possible… it was the intense ANGER that I felt towards not only the Corporal, but towards what happened as a result of his actions. How could he DO those things to us, the bunnies and I?! What kind of monster thinks it’s OK to lie like that? To value himself above the needs of our children over and over and OVER?!
My anger took on a form that I never knew existed and brought me out of the depths of my denial and placed me square in the sights of reality. I had been living in a world of excuses up until this moment. Even up until a few weeks ago, I was STILL making excuses for the Corporal’s actions. ‘He’s doing this because he’s just hurt from suddenly losing his family [us, the bunnies and I]’ or ‘He doesn’t mean to be a jerk, he just doesn’t know any better… he was mistreated so much in his own life.’ I was always making excuses for him.
Like, the night that the Corporal held me down and smothered me with a pillow while I was 9 months pregnant with bunny girl and holding bunny boy in my arms. He was toying with the notion of killing us and then committing suicide that night. Two days later, when he came to me crying, saying he knew he had messed up but just wasn’t himself, I made the excuse that he had just been feeling the pressure about the new baby and living together again weighing down on him.
I made excuses and played down his behavior to my family, who took bunny boy and I in at 1 a.m. that night, so that I could go back home to my life with the Corporal without my parent’s giving me a hard time about it. I made excuses to my friends about the finger-shaped bruises on my neck and face from where the Corporal had squeezed my jaw and yanked on my face to force me to look at him while he was berating me, because it was rude to look anywhere else but in his eyes while he accosted me.
No, I was finally DONE making excuses for the Corporal. Instead, now I was ANGRY and I let myself feel it. I mean, really feel it. I walked around the house for days yelling at him (out loud, even though he wasn’t actually there) about how he was wrong for his actions. I let it out and felt my blood boil and released as much as I possibly could in those 3-4 days or so. I still have moments here and there of residual anger that comes to the surface some days, but I think most of it is finally free. I am finally free.
The latest emotion that I’ve unpacked has been the hardest one for me to face, feel and to deal with, and I am still smack-dab in the middle of it, even as I write this… it is of overwhelming DEPRESSION. Feelings of hopelessness accompanied by intense sadness. It comes and goes in waves.
I often find myself diving deeply into the depression and then other times I simply dip my toes in it. Fortunately, each time I have visited depression, I have been able to quickly come back out of it. I’m fortunate enough to have many lifelines to thank for routinely pulling me out. They consistently and lovingly reach out to me when I need them most, they are: of course, the bunnies – they bring many moments of joy into my day; my counselor (she gently keeps me on the path); my family and friends; and even you loyal blog reader, knowing you’re there cheering me on through a digital connection soothes my soul.
But, right now, I am in mourning. Mourning the end of my relationship, the loss of my family unit. Mourning the loss of the plans we had made for the future. Mourning the loss of the person I once was and the life I thought I was going to have. Mourning the love I once felt and want desperately to feel again. Mourning the illusion of love that I truly believed the Corporal felt for me and the bunnies.
It’s taken some time (and a lot of therapy), but I finally understand that the Corporal isn’t actually capable of true, pure love… and that just makes me sad for him. He’ll only ever know surficial love, the ‘love’ of the ego, until he can do the work to heal himself. Until he can take the steps towards personal growth. But, most likely, he’ll just distract himself with his next victim rather than take the plunge into the depths of his being and do the work that needs to be done for personal development. For his sake and the sake of our children, though, I hope he does find a way to change and grow. Even if it is scary, it’s worth it.
But, for now, I am more concerned with my own growth and development. As such, I understand that I am officially in the midst of the fourth of the Five Stages of Grief as laid out by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. The good news is that I’m almost out of it (4 out of 5 is pretty good progress). The bad news is that, this stage, depression, tends to be the longest and the most challenging to overcome. But, I’m up for the challenge! Come on spiritual growth and personal development! Give me your best shot!!! I might not like you right now, but I’m going to love you when this is all over. In the meantime, I still have my lifelines and, of course, my meditation practice to keep me afloat.
Oh, and one more thing. After Pandora opened the box and released all the evils of the world one at a time, there, at the very bottom… the last thing to be released was HOPE.
Namaste magnificent, beautiful souls <3