Do you sometimes not try something because you’ve already told yourself you can’t do it?
“I can’t relax because I’m too tense”, “I can’t stand up in front of a group to speak because I’m not confident enough”, “I can’t join a yoga class because everyone will think I’m bad at it” “I can’t meditate because my mind’s too busy”.
Yes, my mind does that too!
And it happened again last Saturday at my Dru Meditation Teacher Training.
How long is a long time?!
We were readying ourselves for a meditation and our teacher said “we’re going to sit for quite a long time today”.
My usual reaction would be: uh oh… Here we come, dead legs, fidgety body and my mind screaming at me to move while simultaneously telling me off for being such a bad meditator!
Now, I love meditation but I’ll be honest, after meditating daily for getting on for 18 months, I get to about 25 minutes and start to get fidgety, and dead-leg syndrome means I usually bring my meditation to a close at that point.
So, to be told I’m going to be sitting for an unspecified amount of time which is going to be longer than usual would likely set my mind into overdrive of resistance and irritation and assuming I wouldn’t be able to do it.
And yes, on this occasion my immediate reaction was that my mind told me I couldn’t do it.
But … then a wise voice within me said slowly and powerfully – “just see; give it a try”.
And so I did.
Whisperings of wisdom
The fearful voice of reaction was stunned into silence as my inner voice of wisdom took over.
I let my body become comfortable and firmly set my intention to just be with whatever physical sensations and thoughts or emotions arose.
I listened to the words of our teacher as she guided us through the initial phase of the meditation. And then we were invited to sit in stillness, resting our awareness at our hearts, silently repeating our mantra.
The minutes passed. And, as usually happens, thoughts bubbled up around “How long are we going to be sitting here for?” “How long til my legs go numb?” “Will I started feeling irritated soon?”.
And then something interesting things started to happen.
First, some workmen started working right outside the window of the room we were meditating in. I mean right outside. Banging around the windows and talking to each other loudly. Very loudly.
And do you know what? It didn’t bother me. A beautiful peace and stillness enveloped me and I was able to just hear the noises and let them go as just a part of the ever-changing present moment.
And then, my lower legs started to tingle – a prelude to them going numb. (FACT: no matter how good your meditation posture is, if you’re sitting on the floor cross-legged you’re going to eventually get tingles in your legs and/or they’ll start to feel numb!)
My mind kicks in: “Oh here we go… I’d better not move because everyone else is so still. Gosh how long can I manage this?!?!”
Then my voice of inner wisdom gently intercepts the thoughts: “Accept anything that you feel. Just watch it. It’s all part of the practice”.
So I did.
Instead of the usual irritation at myself and circular thoughts shouting “I want to move/I shouldn’t move/but I need to move now!!!” I just stayed still and watched the physical sensations in my legs as if I was an impartial observer.
And then calmly I decided “yes, it’s time to move now”. I slowly uncrossed my legs – still staying in my meditation.
Then my mind started cackling “hah, wait til that burning sensation spreads through your legs as the feeling comes back”.
Inner wisdom: “Don’t resist it. Just stay with the sensations”.
So I did… and the usual burning sensation as the feeling comes back into my feet legs didn’t happen. The vague numbness dissipated and I crossed my legs again and continued with the meditation.
For 40 minutes.
The longest I’ve ever sat in meditation. And the most peaceful and self-accepting I’ve felt in any of my longer sittings.
However, the depth of my experience here though was not really about the length of time at all, it was about the quality of the experience.
I set my intention to stay with whatever came up … and I followed through on it, very much including my mind’s best efforts to throw me off balance!
Some lessons from my experience
- If I’d listened to my fearful mind I would have made myself uncomfortable from the get-go. On this occasion I chose not to listen. These words are true: feel the fear (or negative self-talk or assumptions) and do it anyway.
- There is an inner voice of wisdom within which knows the best and most nourishing path for us in any given situation. Quietening the body and mind helps us to hear it. The skill is in choosing to act on the quiet voice of wisdom rather than the loud voice of fear.
- No matter what is going on in our immediate environment (e.g. noisy workmen when you’re meditating in silence) or, whatever sensations we’re experiencing in our body (e.g. dead leg syndrome) and no matter what thoughts are chattering away in your mind (e.g. how long til my legs go numb?) we ALWAYS have a choice of how to act / react. We can choose to get annoyed/irritated/frustrated or we can choose to watch/observe and let it be or let it go.
Change your mind
Last Saturday’s experience has brought about a shift in my attitude and in my mind.
My mind now knows it actually can do something it thought it can’t. My body/mind CAN sit for 40 minutes and enjoy the experience!
I’ve created a new, positive physical and mental/emotional memory for it to recall each time I sit in meditation.
I feel my mind now trusts my inner wisdom more. I feel a sense of spaciousness and inner peace because of this experience.
So, next time your mind is telling you that you can’t do something – whether it’s a yoga pose, sitting in meditation, standing up to a bully at work, public speaking, getting stuff done to meet a deadline, remember these words:
“Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right” ~ Henry Ford.
Try thinking you can, and see what happens!