Sunday, 9 January 2011

Warrior-in-training

Bodhichitta: Chita means ‘mind’ and also ‘heart’ or ‘attitude.’ Bodhi means ‘awake,’ ‘enlightened,’ or ‘completely open.’ -- Pema Chodron

Oya, Warrior Goddess - Artwork by Francisco Santos 
I met a friend of mine for drinks the other night to catch up and share about the holidays. We went to a lively pub just down the street from where I live. It’s a favourite spot of mine: there’s always a good crowd, and the cozy atmosphere makes me feel like I’m sitting in my living room – albeit much louder. As we sat and talked, our voices became part of the growing chorus of Friday night post-holiday gatherers coming together to set the tone for the New Year.

Reflecting on our different holiday experiences, I realized that I had some sadness related to my family. Even though I love going home and being with my siblings, parents, nieces and nephews, I often leave feeling a bit disconnected from them.

Living in a different province from where I grew up makes me notice how quickly life changes. The short time together after months apart really highlights how my choices and values differ from those of my family. Living a life outside of where I grew up makes me feel worlds apart from the people I felt so connected to as a child. And sometimes I feel like they just don’t agree with my choices and lifestyle. I find myself hiding who I really am or editing out certain parts of my life.

As a result, I come away from the holidays feeling happy from the comforts of home, while at the same time, frustrated by certain conversations, upset by disagreements, and deep down, feeling like I don’t belong.

I also noticed how difficult it was to maintain my regular meditation practice. I came up with lots of excuses to not practice, such as: I “deserve” the break, it’s too difficult to meditate outside of my usual space, and I should be spending more time with family rather than myself.

When I did practice, I found myself distracted, agitated, and counting the seconds until the time was up. This "resistance" feeling led me to recall my early weeks of meditation.

It was October and my third week of my meditation course when I began experiencing an incredible amount of anxiety during seated meditation. It started in my belly, and as it grew, my whole body would heat up like a furnace. It took all of my energy, focus and concentration just to sit through it.

When I talked with my meditation instructor about it, she said that I was practicing “Warrior Meditation”. At first I thought she was patronizing me, but then she explained that maintaining your practice through emotions, sensations and physical symptoms enables us to “ride the waves” and be okay with whatever is going on. Once we can do this in meditation, we can begin doing this in our lives.

In her book The Places That Scare You, Pema Chodron, describes:
“Those who train wholeheartedly in awakening bodhichitta are called bodhisattvas or warriors… These are men and women who are willing to train in the middle of the fire. Training in the middle of the fire can mean that warrior-bodhisattvas enter challenging situations in order to alleviate suffering. It also refers to their willingness to cut through personal reactivity and self-deception, to their dedication to uncovering the basic undistorted energy of bodhichitta.”
When I think about my family, maybe being a Warrior means learning to accept them for who they are, acknowledging what I find difficult to live with, and then just accepting that too. Some of the most painful moments with my family also remind me of how precious they really are to me and that even when I feel separate, alone, or judged, there is a lesson. And I’ll learn that lesson if I’m willing to be open and vulnerable with whatever comes my way.

I’m learning that it’s okay to show them how different I am and to be with whatever reaction they have. Maybe they’ll love me anyway, despite my differences.

7 comments:

  1. I always try to remember, acknowledge, acceptance, and no judgement. Families are difficult...and it is a practice.

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  2. Kristen - this piece hits home for me, estranged from my 'growing up' family in ways far more complicated than geography. In fact, the story of the Ugly Duckling fits me so well it's as if the dark swan's battle-jacket was sewn just for me.

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  3. Thank you Lanita and Cathy for your comments. I am trying to learn to be accepting and non-judgmental - but it's not always easy...

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  4. I love the honesty and humility in how you share your thoughts. I have been there, too. On several occasions, I have felt tied down, provoked, opposed, being told how to act, what to say, where to go in life and so on. But it is not only about folks at home; count in also some people who you meet during your lifespan.

    It definitely is infuriating but quite an experience.

    Just as you, I have practised the "warrior attitude" many a times. I would be burning from the inside but be as quiet as a still water from outside. Still do.

    Perhaps that's just how it is supposed to be. I appreciate your sharing. Keep writing.

    -BrownEyed

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  5. Brown Eyed - Thank you so much for your comments and for sharing your own story. Good luck to you on your own Warrior journey.

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  6. Your blog is lovely, and this post in particular spoke to me. I've been wanting to try meditation for a while. Maybe it's time.

    ps. found you through Shewrites.

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  7. Patricia - nice to meet you, and thank you for your comment! I wish you the best as you begin your meditation practice. It took me years to get mine going, but it seemed to happen exactly when I needed it most.

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