I Am: A Lesson in Duality
I have a little secret. Meditation has never been easy for me. My mind wanders, I get bored, I find myself “seeking” answers to questions as if they will suddenly appear in my mind if I spend my entire meditation reaching for them. It is so difficult to let it all go. Expectations, agendas, grasping, attachment to outcome, my ever-expanding to do list. All. Of. It. My inner chaotic mind-storm, sprinkled with a dash of perfectionism, anxiety, and topped with a mild, self-diagnosed, case of ADD is probably the reason I have found it easiest to connect with vinyasa-style yoga. I can move AND meditate. Plus, when I kick my own ass with a sweaty flow, I can finally calm my mind a little easier.
As a yoga teacher, people sometimes expect that I am somehow imbued with inner bliss and peace -that I rise above the trivial, that I welcome difficulties as amazing opportunities for my growth, and that I can feel my crown chakra opening just anticipating the next trouble that life will bring. “More please!” I say to the universe when you-know-what hits the fan. Sorry, no. While I do allow my trials to be my teachers, I still often fight against them, most likely drawing those hard lessons out longer than necessary for my learning. Did I mention that I often have to learn the hard way?
Sadly, enlightenment is likely NOT on the horizon during this lifetime for me.
All this to say, when I tell you I’m participating in a 21-day writing meditation course, you don’t roll your eyes and say, “Well, of course she is!” If my track record is a predictor of how likely I am to complete this 21-days, I’d say that I would be 80% likely to NOT finish. Let’s flip that, positivity is important. I am approximately 20% likely to follow through. Anyone else out there like me? I have such GOOD intentions! I also come up with some fantastic excuses.
Now that we have it established that I am not a naturally peaceful meditator, that I often lose interest in meditation, courses, books, challenges and, well, all of it, I can finally share with you my experience of Day 1.
I was instructed to meditate on the mantra “I am” and sit in quiet meditation for about 10 minutes. It was kind of a shit-show to be perfectly honest. My dogs, all four of them, decided that it would be the perfect time to run around the house barking and jumping all over each other. It went basically like this:
Breathing in… Breathing out…
I...am…I…am...I…oh my god, SHUSHHHHHHHH! Sit! No Mojo, get OFF of Ruger!
Breathing in…Breathing out..Big sigh…ahhh finally settling back in…I’m…hungry. I wonder if we have leftovers from dinner last night…ugh here I go…focus!!! Ok…I…am…I…am...(insert loud crashing, dog snarls, glass breaking here).
Would you guys LIE DOWN for 5 minutes…I am trying to FIND PEACE!!!!
Breathing in….breathing out….I…am…I….am…still...hungry….I…am…I…am….those dogs are WAY too quiet….I…am..I…
Bell rings on meditation audio and I am finally done…I meditated?
The point is, I tried. Maybe I will do better next time. Maybe (I) won’t. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that every time is a chance to begin again. A fresh start.
I did wonder how the writing exercise was going to go since I never did truly drop-in to a peaceful meditation. I wasn’t about to give up just yet. I opened my journal, pen at the ready, hoping for inspired words to download from the cosmos, through my hand, and onto the paper. Instead, what I received was wisdom coming from my inner-knowing, a place where (whether I felt it or not) there was peace and clarity. For just a short time, I was able to tap into this place within me and the botched meditation attempt, well, maybe wasn’t so botched after all.
I am all things. I am calm. I am the storm. I am peace. I am war. I am stillness. I am chaos. I am anxiety. I am wholeness and steadiness of mind.
Duality. Light and Shadow. None of this exists in my reality except that with which I accept and identify. When I fight against shadow, this creates more turmoil and angst. It brings more shadow in. When I become aware that light exists in the same way as shadow, then shadows become smaller. Maybe they almost disappear. They definitely aren’t as scary.
Shadows (fear, anxiety, doubt, envy, jealousy, anger) exist as teachers, just as light (hope, courage, joy, trust, abundance, certainty) are teachers. One cannot exist without the other. How do I know trust without distrust? Joy without despair? Courage without fear? I can use my experiences with shadow to illuminate and experience the light more fully. It is beautiful really, this duality. Neither shadow nor light are positive or negative. They just are. Focusing on the light without acknowledging shadow is denial. Focusing on shadow without acknowledging the light can manifest as despair, depression, anxiety.
Buddha said that suffering is “the attachment to the desire to have (craving) and the desire not to have (aversion).” When we deny or attach to either the desire for the light or avoidance of the shadow, perhaps this causes more pain. Maybe, “I am” as a mantra is a way to recognize the polarity we all have - the duality that is part of the human experience. I am all things. I am light. I am dark. I, completely, “am.”