Sunday, 25 May 2014

Meditation: the Afro Latina's way ;)

I meditate. To me, it's a very simple thing to do, yet people usually get amused whenever I say I try to practice it regularly. I think it's hard to unlink the word 'meditation' and the image of highly disciplined monks living in reclusion somewhere in Asia. Even though the word seems so spread out, it appears to me that people still find it hard to relate to it in more substantial terms.
I am no expert. I nurture deep respect and admiration to people who tackle meditation to the level of expertise. If you are looking for an article that will give an account of all the technicalities involved in the process of meditation, then I must warn you this piece may not be suit to you. I have no ambition other than express my feelings regarding the practice. I believe feelings matter. 

In order to meditate, you must be open to feelings. I think it's a mistake to imagine that meditation will ALWAYS calm your mind. Well, at least to me, that hasn't been the case. It is only when I realized that meditation could be potentially unsettling that I started to feel change taking place in my life. Slowly, transformation began to shape its way into my heart, something very powerful and organic started to fill a place within myself. A space I tended to consider worthless. Filled with love and gratitude, yes (most of the time), but also with questioning, or fear, or anxiety. And now I feel it's fine to sit with those often times conflicting emotions, and let them be. Feeling is perfectly fine. 

Another point I would like to touch has to do with the myth that an effective meditation is one that empties your mind. I don't know what people mean by "empty", but I have indeed experienced some state of mind that made me feel as if I was melding into the universe. There's this place you go you can't describe. I think that's why so many people mark it as "emptiness". I feel light, as if my body is somehow melted into the ground and the only thing left is my head, which appears to be free and floating in the immense realm of the unknown. I think I reached that state of mind quite a few times, and I can totally relate to the video "My stroke of Insight" when Jill Taylor says "(...) I was immediately captivated by the magnificence of the energy around me. And because I could no longer identify the boundaries of my body, I felt enormous and expansive. I felt at one with all the energy that was, and it was beautiful there". 

But here is the deal: when you reach such state, you realize that you don't necessarily need to achieve it every time you meditate. I think we are wrongly accustomed to strive for perfection, ignoring the fact that we are such imperfect beings. In meditation, as with anything else in life, the journey is much more important than the destination. I know it sounds simple, but it took me a while to incorporate the idea of mindfulness into my practice. I learned that if I'm just present, my body and mind will thank me, regardless of the depths I dive into. 

Further to accepting feelings and imperfection in and as my practice, I also had to learn the importance of simplicity in my daily routine. In order for meditation to begin happening in my life, I had to start small. I wasn't able to connect with most of the material on meditation I found online. It became a source of anxiety to me that I couldn't relate to the way I imagined actual meditation should happen. Well, I had to let go of that. Instead of dreaming of becoming a super-disciplined bodhisattva, I decided to shift my gaze to things I knew. As Belchior (one of my favorite Brazilian singers) has put it, "living is better than dreaming", so I decided to actually experience my practice on my own terms. 

When Paulo Freire stated that "without a sense of identity, there can be no real struggle", he was thinking specifically of oppression and education, but I think we can apply it to any context where things are in construction. Thinking of meditation, I learned clinging to things I identified myself with was paramount. The need for familiarity arose, and I fully embraced it. 

(Re)connecting to the familiar has been essential to my practice. It helped both in the process of grounding and learning. The more I delve into my past, the more confident I feel to take further steps in my meditation. It's a never ending process, and you empower yourself in ways beyond measure. You connect to a place which is only yours, and you feel reassured the space will be there for you whenever you need a retreat, only to get back to the "real" world with a fresh mind - recharged with the necessary strength to face challenges. 

Furthermore, I realized some interesting things that only openness could have allowed me to. Although my experience in India hasn't been a spiritual journey in the more traditional sense of the expression, I believe it does have a special role in my practice. In India I realized at some point that meditation wasn't really going to happen to me. I just couldn't connect to their beautiful symbols. Then I stumbled upon a Kate Bush's album entitled A Sky of Honey. I narrate my experience here.  

The funny thing is I regarded my experience with Kate Bush as the beginning of my journey, and only recently I've come to realize that listening to that album was actually about getting back to a process that dates back to my childhood. Well, my dad had a role in teaching me how to meditate, even though he doesn't consider himself a practitioner. To a certain extent I think he is. What he taught me was very simple, yet very rare if we consider how accelerated modern life has become in the past few decades. He simply showed me how to sit/lie down and listen to a full album.

It may sound silly, but I had lost the habit of listening to music without multitasking. Haven't we all? Well, holds true to those of us who were born before the Internet took over, I guess. All the technology has improved our lives in many ways. The downturn is the deterioration of our mental health, though. How to remain grounded and mindful in such a loud world? Well, my answer is meditation, and this article was an attempt to expose my side of the story. Would you mind sharing yours?


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