A few months ago, I attended a 10-day meditation retreat. The accommodations were simple and definitely nothing fancy, but being able to experience a beautiful mountain backdrop and silence from the noise of life was priceless. The meditation schedule was pretty strict and I purposely used it as a time to experience deeper states of listening and to develop discipline in my practice. I went to the retreat expecting massive revelations about life to come into focus and thought I’d essentially come down from the mountain a la Moses with the rules of living a great life in hand. After seven peaceful, uneventful days, something unexpected happened.
There is a particular hour at the beginning and end of each day where we were required to sit completely still during our meditation. We were told not to move, twitch, or scratch despite the impending leg cramps, nose itch… I could name a thousand of these but you get the idea. In one of my stillness meditations, just as I was getting cocky about how well I was doing, I began to cry uncontrollably. I’m talking sobs people, the ugly cry.
It started when I happened to think about a family member who had passed away. The tears began to fall harder and faster as I mourned that loss and reflected on all of the things I would never get to do with this person. What’s crazy, the passing of this person happened ages ago and I thought I had already healed from this hurt. Not so. It came back, and within 10 minutes my ugly cry turned into uncontrollable pain.
Here’s the thing about pain, there are so many ways to mask and conceal it from ourselves (both consciously and subconsciously), that when it reappears it can take us completely by surprise. I wept for everything I thought I’d missed out on and mourned for every embrace that I would no longer feel, but most of all, I cried because I couldn’t do anything to change the situation. In this meditation class with about thirty strangers, I finally let myself fully grieve the loss. And then it was over. My mind no longer felt the need to cling to that story of “what if” and “I wish we had a chance to….”
If it hadn’t been for that complete stillness meditation, I most likely would have tried to get up and stop the experience or do just about anything else to distract me from having to go through it. After that session was over, I felt like 10 years of internal, subtle anguish was finally gone.
So many of us hold on to our past hurts and pains because we are afraid to fully feel them. I don’t know about you, but I held onto that pain for so many years because I kept telling myself I had too much to get done and didn’t have the luxury or time to fall apart. What I didn’t realize is that falling apart was not fatal. Masking my pain, minimizing it or avoiding it altogether was what held me back from growing through the lesson. Once I let go, I was able to accept that the situation was what it was, but also, that it no longer needed to define or shape how I showed up every day. I was creating my own misery by staying stuck in my feelings rather than giving myself permission to let it go. The past only lingered because I allowed it to be present.
THE BLACK ZEN TEAM