Meditation Myth Number 2: When we meditate, we should be feeling great all the time like we're thinking about bunny rabbits and cotton candy and love and light and unicorns and fairy dust. . .
Yeah no, in fact, yeah just no. I mean you can try, but when that mask falls off it's going to make one hell of a thud.
A friend and colleague of mine says so well "the first six months of a spiritual practice are a honeymoon, then the reality of spiritual practice will grab hold of you and shake you to the bone". When we meditate, we come up against the thing we have most feared our whole lives, and the thing for which we have constructed enormously elaborate coping mechanisms with which to avoid. We come up against ourselves. We see ourselves in all our glory and all our dysfunction. We see our light and our darkness, all our orderliness and the all our holy hot messes. We see our angels and our demons, our capacity to heal and our capacity to harm. We see it all. And that total self-vision is both a life giving relief and also, frankly, a giant inconvenient pain in the ass. We just can't get away from it all anymore, our coping strategies begin to fall apart, and it can be scary and feel distressing.
One of the reasons we perpetuate this inner "happy all the time myth" is because we can't believe a practice like meditation would take us into a place like this. "Who in the name of god would want to be here?" we think, "This must be a mistake. I need to just keep pretending I'm happy so I get out of this 'wrong' place." But in reality this place is not only exactly right but it bears great good news. It is where we get to stop running. It breathes real love into our hearts. It is where we realize we can rest, recharge, and rebuild. It is where all true, lasting, mature, and permanent change begins.
Meditation is the place where we start to be able to see the reality of ourselves and smile. It is the place where we no longer need to hide from all of the scary stuff. We see all of our internal landscape and feel a sense of love for our own fragile humanity. This love, this real compassion, is what will not only deeply change us individually but also the entire world. When we develop total love for all our internal hot messes, we forgive others for all their internal hot messes with greater ease. We let go of little irritations much more readily. We see in others the same fears, insecurities, and dysfunctions we see in ourselves. And, because we are cultivating a new loving relationship to our total self, we naturally radiate that new relationship to others. Little by little, that new relationship begins to permeate the fabric of human connection and we all begin to live in a different reality.
Love is not a police state. Love does not demand us to be any certain way before we are loved. Love does not say we're ok when we're happy and not ok when we're upset. Love does not ask us to be different than we are. Love loves. It is in meditation that we begin to open ourselves to that sort of love, as awesome, as terrifying, and as inconceivable as it is. We need not force ourselves into some false "happy" to pretend we're "getting somewhere" or show people we're "spiritual" to be loved. Love based in truth is the universal solvent, for everything yields and shifts to the presence of true love. When we apply love and openness to the totality of ourselves, we marvel at the seemingly spontaneous shifts that begin to happen. We notice that we are indeed happier, not because we work to change something, but because we truly accept and love what is already there.
The demons and the angels need the same love. The mess and the order need the same attention. We realize we are not a problem and that our total self is valid and ok. Letting everything be as it is gives us such relief. Some days when we sit we'll be happy, and some days when we sit we'll be sad. Some days the demons need love, and some days the angels need attention. Whatever appears is what is supposed to be there and nothing is a problem. If we can practice in this way, meditation becomes more healing and so much less stressful. Let go of how you think you should be when you sit and just be as you are, and watch the subtle benefits that begin to flow from that loving approach.