Meditation has been my crutch and my salvation. It has stilled my world of thoughts and distraction so that I could hear my heart. The value of meditation has been extorted by many for years; I’m not going to rehash that. Let’s talk about what it’s like to stop.
After eight years of meditating from three to forty hours a week, I stopped. I wanted to bring a new perspective and a different energy stream. I stopped meditating for thirty minutes every morning and began spending thirty minutes every evening walking my dogs. I increased the vegetables I ate and decreased just about everything else. I built muscles and stopped sitting as much. It was, in fact, exactly what the doctor ordered. I’d occasionally cheat and meditate an hour here or there just to keep my sanity. And several nights a week I’d make a quick spiritual check-in as I laid down to sleep. Those were critical moments that returned me to center, provided I could stay awake to finish.
I lost thirty pounds and my legs are much stronger. The doctor is happy, but what about me? I found myself listless, bored with everything, and generally intellectually restless. So, seven months later, I’m returning to a daily meditation. Was my hiatus worth it? Not really. I left for work thirty minutes earlier, but I arrived only ten minutes earlier – a bit of a loss in my view. I didn’t get anything accomplished besides the exercise and healthy shift in meals. If I had a creative moment, I soon lost it. I spent more time confused and emotional. My writing plummeted and my creative projects lost inspiration. My feelings of inadequacy ran deeper and stayed longer until I couldn’t see an end. There was precious little to hold onto.
But when I review those months without meditation, I also saw spiritual progress. Without the habit, my bedtime meditations were short but much more intense. At the end of the day, I had to be quick or I’d drift off to sleep. I developed techniques that cut out all the rituals and got down to business. At that deeper place, I learned ways to go even deeper and faster. What a surprise! And I still found my heart; that’s where all those emotions came from, right? Not really. The emotions of inadequacy and worthlessness were just misdirected thoughts– things I was taught as a child and thought were true. It was meditation that had kept those false emotions at bay. When I meditate, those feelings are seen for what they are and fall away. It brings a clarity that can accept the feelings that are true for me in the present: love, belonging, and self-compassion.
It was a worthwhile experiment, but I know where my sanity lies. My meditation practice has returned, new and improved, but vitally intact. Next time I want to make a change, I’ll cut something else!
This article was originally published in Sibyl Magazine, March 2017, p. 18.