I doubt very much I would be writing any of this, were it not for a mental health crisis that marked the end of 2010 for me.
In my early days at home from hospital, I discovered, quite accidentally, that meditation was going to be a compelling medicine during this trip back to myself.
I'd had Philip Martin's, The Zen Path Through Depression, on my back burner for awhile. I'd look at the book reposing on the shelf in front of me, and think of the people I cared about who had depression and how maybe I needed to study this so I could understand their predicament. I knew the book was a distillation of Martin's personal practice in using mindfulness meditation to recover from deep depression when he was in his 30's.
I did not think the meditations were really for me, until I hit the days on my own, before Christmas break, when my husband and son were not yet home, and there was nothing of meaning to rouse me from bed. For the first time in years, depression cloaked me. Each day, I woke to find I did not want to face myself alone. But rather than hiding beneath the covers in bed, I decided to show up and use the first few chapters to help me experience meditation.
As they say in Program, This Too Shall Pass. The Slogan is true only if we allow time to pass, and don't hinder it by clinging. I made the tiny commitment to sit for ten minutes each day. Bit by bit I began by examining my belief that life had no meaning, and I had failed. A little bit of meditation and awareness allowed a few of my worst fears to untangle.
I was surprised that after a month had passed, I had no depression to "fix." Was it because I did not fight, nor did I "give in", that it let go of its hold on me? Instead I had found a joy in my meditation that now made me curious.
It chanced that a member of my EA group, recommended a book on the basics of meditation. When I could drive again, my first trip from home was to visit my local library, to borrow that book.
Once in the library stacks, I found the recommended book by Thich Nhat Hanh. But I did not find myself as thrilled with the book as my program friend had been. That would change. But right then, I needed to find comfort and to save myself from isolation. Another title gave me permission to stop running from myself. I'd found "The Wisdom of No Escape."
As I sat cross-legged in the stacks of that library, I intuitively knew that I needed to study Pema Chodron's words as if my life depended on it.
When I opened to the first chapter, I read how my pursuit of comfort might keep me being fully me. I would not escape discomfort, using meditation. Nor could put off facing my demons.
In Pema's optimistic hands, I felt I could face the rawness of the shadow side I'd uncovered. My craziness. Which both frightened and attracted me to further study.
Chodron spoke of developing a gentle curiosity, "not caring whether the object of our inquisitiveness is bitter or sweet." I breathed a sigh of relief. She gave me hope that I could be curious and accept my vulnerability, yet not fall into the abyss. How much kinder and joyful and interesting it would be, to develop this curiosity-- without trying to fix myself or make my life pain-free!
Today I thank my Higher Power, for presenting the choice to make Pema Chodron a key member of my biblio-therapy team, as I put meditation into practice. With her words of gentleness, I would learn to apply a kind of neutral curiosity to everything from a relapse, to the sudden news that my husband's workplace to be cut from the federal budget.
Chop, chop, chop. And the process would be slow and tortuous. Perfect conditions to practice meditation~