When I first began my meditation practice, each time I’d sit I’d experience tiny little twitches. My hands, mostly, and my arms, would suddenly and involuntarily pop up out of the stillness of my seat.
Stress is basically a chemical cascade in your body, caused by bundle of thoughts that have been repeated over time, thoughts that negate the natural flow of evolution; thoughts that point to inner suffering – doubts, fears, anger.
Each thought creates a certain chemistry in our system, and when our mind gets accustomed to thoughts such as those, we begin to develop “stress chemistry,” which feels like nervousness, anxiety, haste, doubt, and fear. This chemistry, when repeated, creates a familiarity with a certain set of connections in our brains, so once it happens, we’ll be more likely to become nervous and anxious (or whatever we do along those lines) more readily and frequently – until we can stop the train.
The good news is that each time we sit, we’re letting the body land in a space of healing, wherein our cells are freed up to release long-stored, maladaptive habits – and once released, they’re gone. Train stopped. This is the function of meditation. And, upon several months of self-observation, I’ve learned that my tiny twitches were actually the moments in my life when I actually felt the need to hurt myself – literally to hit myself in a sad attempt to garner more attention and love. That sad, desperate habit has been mostly released from my cells over the course of many months; now I sense the sweet luxury of stillness. Every now and again a little mild twitch happens, and I now know that I’ve just released something that needed to go.
Essentially, in the same way that we build up our habits of being anxious and stressed, we accrue time in the space of calm when we sit, and that calm becomes increasingly familiar and likely. And of course, I want to know how long that takes. Having spent too much time frustrated and short-tempered (whether internally or overtly) and wasting valuable energy on these negating behaviors, when I sat with my teacher recently, I asked him point-blank, and with some impatience, for a timeline.
“When am i going to finally really be done done done with getting angry at myself and my son? I sit, I am mostly calm, but still these bursts come – and I’m ashamed, I’m apologetic, and I’m ready to pave a new path inside my mind. How long will this take?”
He chuckled and sparkled as he always does when he responds to questions such as these. There I am, feeling silly, knowing that I’m rushing myself through my own evolutionary process. But his subsequent response changed how I see all of it, and helped me take a good deal pressure off myself.
He told me that my stress reactions are not the issue. Hmm.
“Elena, the question you’ll want to ask yourself is, ‘How long do I want to STAY in this reactivity?’ If you find that you’re reacting beyond the relevance of the circumstance, THAT’S an issue.”
Translated, if I find myself continuing to belabor these reactions for the better part of an hour or a day, then I’m really doing damage. He went to talk about how even though everyone experiences him as very relaxed and easeful, he too has all kinds of little bursts inside… but the question he asks himself is the same. “How long do I want to hold onto this?”
Suddenly it became a matter of how fast I can turn things around in my mind, and get back to a relevant response, rather than how BAD I am for going back to that negating habit in the first place. Feeling bad never helps.
Here’s the gold of this teaching. The idea of meditation is to offer the mind something that’s more charming than the usual train of thought – and give it a new direction. Steer the mind away from the irrelevant thoughts and habits, for 20 minutes twice a day, in order to turn it towards a more relevant, adaptable way of being.
This week, the few times I’ve noticed myself going into that tight, impatient, irrelevant space, and I’ve called upon my meditation memory of the day to create the connection with that far-more-charming space inside. I was able to turn several moments into calm chances for other opportunities to arise. We’re looking to evolve – to expand in the direction of elegance – and meditation gives us time each day in that space, so that spacious elegance becomes the new habit.
The Art of Attention Audio Meditation Course has been lauded as a way in to both begin or boost your own practice of meditation. It’s self-directed, more than five hours of meditations over four modules. The modules include gorgeous imagery, archives to help you keep track, contemplations to keep you creative, and points of focus to keep you both steady and spacious. May this course help you cultivate TRUST, a quality of ADVENTURE, an appreciation of your innate ABUNDANCE, and a sense of HARMONY in all you do.
“The course is a game changer on so many levels. Your words, the music, and the sittings gave me the space to reconnect to a deep, unshakable trust and belief in myself… I’ve experienced a palpable shift that continues to guide everything I do.”
– Erin, London