Every now and again, a girl gets the urge to give her soul a good scrubbing. The kind of scrub meant to blast away all the caked on layers of karmic goop she’s acquired through years. And when it comes time for the ultimate deep cleaning, nothing seems to power through the mess quite like meditation.
I found myself in this situation about three years ago. Desperate to get rid of the grime, I plopped myself down on the floor, closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Truth be told, this wasn’t my first rodeom. I had sat in stillness on and off since childhood, thanks to a progressive mom who hailed from the 60s as a budding flower child. But this time was different. With every attempt, I either ended up asleep or cursing my racing mind until I was too frustrated to continue (usually the last one). My extreme reactions of narcolepsy, or verbal obscenities, were proof, in my mind, that I had grown to despise stillness altogether – unless of course it meant catching up on some ZZZs.
This went on for months, until I had nearly convinced myself that my meditation days were over. Thankfully, though, I’ve never been one to give up. Not because I’m so nobly driven – let’s be clear here – because I hate to lose. And my greatest competitor has always been myself. I was going to crack this *#!*-ing meditation code if it killed me.
So, off I went in search of answers. I went to a few Buddhist temples, and sought guidance from monks. I went on a retreat, which, although beautiful, yielded the same snoozey results. I explored “walking” meditation (shuffling around in circles with a group of people instead of sitting by myself). Interesting experience – but still didn’t work. I did some credit card damage at Barnes & Noble in the “religious” and “self-help” sections. I downloaded a bunch of apps. I saw Deepak Chopra – the meditation-master himself – at a speaking engagement in Detroit – I even made it a point to meet him afterwards, thinking something there would flip a switch. Nope. I bought new meditation clothes (true story), and a meditation cushion, you know, just to make sure I was extra comfy for when I reached nirvana. But, to my dismay, nothing helped, or happened.
Until, that is, one humid afternoon about a year into the whole process. I was trying to meditate – again – in the front room of my damp, cramped apartment. My back in full spasm – my eyes, twinging from the pressure of staying closed – I suddenly felt my legs unfurl from their usual, pretzel-like position and leap forward – until I was on my feet, standing completely upright. My mouth seemed to recognize this as an act of protest, and decided to join the cause. “I – GIVE – UP!” I heard myself scream, for all tenants and nearby dog walkers to hear.
And you know what? The strangest thing happened. Instead of feeling instant mortification, and rushing to the peephole to check for neighbors – the sweetest, warmest calm, I had ever felt, swept over my body, leaving me paralyzed and totally engulfed in it.
I stood there for a while – not thinking about anything, really – just “touching” that calm with a deep sense of gratitude for its arrival. At some point, I had crumpled back down to the cushion, my eyes, closing on their own this time. From that moment on, I had a front-row seat to my own little light show. Beautiful colors burst like fireworks on the skyline of my mind, while I just sat back and enjoyed the view. And when my eyes reopened, guess what? Forty-two minutes had disappeared from the clock. Hallelujah, praise the Lord. I had meditated.
Now I meditate nearly every day – sometimes getting fireworks, sometimes getting frustration. But either way, I approach both with a smile. Because I learned something back then that's stuck with me ever since: Sometimes, you just have to soak your soul. No matter how hard you try – no matter how hard you scrub – it takes years for that kind of goop to build up, and it's not going anywhere just because you want it to. But when you stop applying the force, and surrender to it instead, all that grime will naturally loosen up. And yesterday's leftovers can finally be left where they belong – in the past.