Monday, September 6, 2010
But on the way home there was a certain amount of arguing that went on in the car, sort of playful, sort of not, and I realized an old familiar demon was appearing on the scene: our daughter's annual post-camp malaise. It's a time when we can do nothing right, primarily because this is not where she wants to be, and we can't be the friends she's so desperately missing. It always takes a while for her to adjust to the end of this favorite part of her life, and though I know she tries not to take it out on us it's not always a successful effort.
When she's going through this period, we've all learned there's not much we can do except hold her in our hearts, be as gracious and firm as we can, name what's going on, and release whatever responses emerge in us when she goes off on a tear. You kind of need the patience of a saint -- or a madonna -- to get through. So I'm reading Jack Kornfield's chapter (in A Path With Heart) on dealing with the demons that rise up in meditation with interest; coping with demons in meditation can't be that different from coping with them outside of meditation, right?
Kornfield mentions eight demons -- desire, anger, fear, boredom, judgment, restlessness, sleepiness and doubt -- but this morning, while I was walking, I decided I really wanted to add two more demons (though I'm sure they are probably just sub-classifications of fear -- or maybe restlessness?) which seem to be the ones I struggle with the most.
The first is planning, or anticipation; also known as "the shoulds." I'll be in that lovely quiet place and then UP pops something I need to do today, or should have done yesterday, or something some other family member should really be taking care of; I should be sure to make a note to nag them about it. Sometimes this one gets so intrusive it's just easier to keep a pencil and a pad of paper next to my meditation chair so I can write down whatever it is and release it.
The second is worrying, and it's the same basic deal: I'll be in that lovely quiet place and then UP pops something I'm concerned about, usually something to deal with one of my daughters. Sometimes it's a long-term concern and other times it's a short-term concern, but it's often followed by a feeling of helplessness -- which then, fortunately, leads to a short and pretty heartfelt prayer, and then circles back around to the whole process of letting go. It's not really fear, exactly; it's more this sort of probing thing, like poking at a sore tooth: How serious is this? Do I need to do something?
Kornfield has some lovely meditations for dealing with the demons; they're mostly about noticing -- where they come from, what images arise, what feeling states arise in the body -- and accepting/welcoming instead of resisting.
But then, at the end of the demon chapter he offers a wonderful meditation on impulse control -- and that's the piece I want to share with you today. It starts with an exercise you can do as your meditation draws to a close:
"Do not set a fixed time for the end of your meditation. Instead, sit until a strong impulse tells you to get up. Notice its quality... name the energy that has arisen and with it sense the impulse to move. Feel it carefully in your body, naming, "wanting to get up, wanting to get up," staying with it for as long as it lasts. (This is rarely more than a minute.) Then after this impulse has passed, notice what it feels like now and if your meditation has deepened from sitting through the whole impulse process. Continue to sit until a second impulse to arise pulls you strongly. Notice the whole process in the same way as before. Finally, after a third time of carefully being with the whole impulse process, allow yourself to get up. The depth of your attention and centeredness will gradually grow through this practice.
"If you wish," he says, "you can extend your observation to other strong impulses, noting the whole process of wanting to scratch an itch, to move while sitting, to eat, or to do other things. Being aware in this way will gradually teach you to stay centered, to have a capacity to take a few breaths and feel the changing responses to situations in your life rather than reacting to them automatically. You will begin to discover a center of balance and understanding in the face of the forces of your life."
I like this one; it feels like a way to bring meditation practice into daily life -- something I'm always hoping/struggling to do. But also I'm thinking this would be a fabulous way to control that snacking urge that arises in the late afternoon and again in the late evening. And is that tacky? To take a serious meditation practice and immediately start thinking about it as a diet mechanism? Oops, I think that's the judgment demon rearing its ugly head. Guess I'll just have to go sit with her till she goes away...
Uh-oh, here comes Hunger: Must be time for breakfast!
Posted by Diane Walker at 9:03 AM