Monday, May 25, 2015

PART 1: My Journey With Meditation - Back Story

What is this nonsense? --- I've started a personal line of study into Meditation and Prayer. I want to do some writing on the subject to challenge myself to digest the information I'm gathering and be able to speak coherently about it. (You know, so it's not in one ear and out the other.) And also to keep myself accountable to continue with the goal I've set for myself.

I've debated about how to start. I've decided to start with a story. True story.
I'm going to tell my story of how I arrived here... because origins and journey and evolution are important in an topic like this.

(And a teeny weeny yogini with a goofy face, just for funnies to break up text. My first born @ 6months.)

Why this topic? --- I found "Mindfulness practice" on the brink of a mental breakdown about 4 years ago.

I went to a counselor and said, "I totally get why people do drugs to cope with life! My mind will NOT shut up. I can't sleep. I can't relax. I edit EVERYTHING in my head. I'm borderline OCD and getting worse. I am on the brink of breakdown. It's a hot mess up in here."

And my big fear:  "What if this is who I am? What if I can't escape this hell in my head because it's who I am?"

He pointed me toward the book, "Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, & Wisdom." The jist of the book = We can change our brains. We can build "peace" muscles in our thoughts. Neurons that fire together wire together. If our brains are whipping us real good like a rag in a hurricane... we can stop the wind. (Mindfulness is having quite a moment right now, so this discovery is not ground breaking or new... I'll talk more about it later.)

He gave me some exercises. I practiced. And practiced. While brushing my teeth, while driving to school, while laying in bed. And slowly a small space deep in my turbulent brain (and I mean REALLY SMALL and REALLY DEEP) began to hush.
It gave me hope. I could control the situation. I didn't collapse.

Then I had kids. I could NOT control the situation. And I did collapse.
Lost my ever lovin' mind. Total mental breakdown.

(They don't call it that any more, by the way... it's called a Major Depressive Episode. But mental breakdown is a better description... because my mind broke. No ability to operate normally. I had never understood people who said, "I can't get out of bed in the morning" until I couldn't physically get out of bed in the morning. It's real folks. It's stupid and it's weird, but its real. Like a broken leg. Ok that's enough of that tangent.)

Many things worked together to save me, but a yoga class was one of the best tonics for my broken spirit. The teacher would say, "Feel the calm expanse of deep peace inside you. This is your true self. Know that you can return to it whenever you need to throughout your day and your week."

But I was faced with a challenge:  As a deeply committed Christian believer, how could I resolve the friction between the Buddhist thought and practice which were saving my life and the faith that I held to be true? Christianity told me that this peace and light were the antithesis of my nature which was black and sinful and fallen. Did I have to let go of my life-raft to keep my soul?

Hard questions if you are in the habit of taking these things seriously.

I began testing the concepts against doctrine and scripture to see if they could hold up.
What I found was surprising to me... and liberating and life-giving and life-changing... and that's the cliff hanger for tonight folks.

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