snowflake thoughts and being somebody's person
the company of others is so helpful when you meditate. you begin to understand that your experience is normal and your psyche is not crazier than anyone else's. everyone's psyche is crazy. ~Sally Kempton
This afternoon, I wrapped up a two-part meditation and writing workshop at one of my local studios. It was my first time to teach something like this, and as intimidating as both meditation and writing are to most people, I think I was the most nervous in the room. Most of the people in there know me, several of them quite well, but none of them have ever had much insight into the chaos that lives inside my head before. Some, sure, because it just seeps out against my will, but you know… I can chock that up to “being Adi” or “being human” or even better, “being a human Adi.” Whatever. This weekend, though… this weekend I got brave, and that bravery was inspired by one of my loyal yogirunner readers.
You see, I spent many, many hours outlining this workshop, planning everything from material I wanted to cover, to the amount of time – down to the very second – we’d spend on each piece (that, by the way, was a giant step leap out of my typical modus operandi), to the quotes I’d share at the end. I laid all the supplies out neatly, grouped my thoughts into separate notebooks, and organized my teaching space according to the predetermined schedule. I should have known that this was a bit over the top, because even as I’m writing these words, I can recall doing that when I first started teaching yoga, and how quickly I let that go because a) it is so absolutely, unquestionably, most definitively not the way I do things; and 2) I always fucked it up, anyway, because it wasn’t who I am and the energy felt forced because it wasn’t authentic.
Needless to say, it didn’t take long for me to slide the notebook with my outline away and take a more natural approach. Of course, I still followed a skeletal version of the plan because it was necessary. I needed to not just present these meditation and writing tools, but teach these curious students how to use them. But the in-between bit - the bit where they got to lie around on their bellies and talk about this stuff, where they could try to make sense of it all, share experiences, and quietly look for reassurance that what they were doing was “right”… that’s the bit that told me to take part in this dialogue in a very real and vulnerable way. And so I did.
I’d originally planned to share a few passages from my early attempts at meditation, merely to emphasize the point that I, too, once thought it was a miserable and loathsome way to spend twenty minutes. I wanted to show them that there was a time that I truly believed that I was a lost cause in this practice. That’s all, though. I had no intention of giving anymore of myself to this group, but as I sat there listening to them and thinking about how I could make them feel safe and like they were there for a purpose, I began to tiptoe away from my innate fear of vulnerability. I was there to show them that this was a space in which they could give themselves permission to think or write anything without judgment or the inherent need to self-edit. In my gut, I knew that the best way to do that was to truly connect in an authentic and uncensored voice, so each time I sensed unease in a comment, I opened one of my journals and read a few lines from it. I wanted them to see that thoughts can be silly or turbulent or scary or brilliant or a million other things, but that they all have their place. I wanted to show them that the chaos that may swirl about is okay. That’s why the practice of meditation and the practice of writing snuggle up to each other so nicely. Meditation teaches you to create space for your thoughts, and the writing gives you something to do with them.
In all the time that we spent together, though, and as wordy as I was, I feel like I left out a few really important words, and I’d like to share them here.
1) You don’t have to sit on a fancy, silk cushion with your eyes closed and your hands in a jnana mudra for an hour to meditate. You can meditate for fifteen seconds at a red light if that’s where the urge strikes. Unless you’re sitting there trying to meditate with your face scrunched so hard that you can’t see, your shoulders lifted so high they could be earrings, and your body so tense that you vibrate, you’re doing it right. Meditation certainly is nothing to stress out about.
2) You don’t have to be published or paid for your words or have ten-thousand readers to be a writer. If you write things, you’re a writer.
3) There will be days that you don’t want to meditate. There will be days that you don’t want to write. There will be days that you don’t want to brush your teeth. Do it anyway. You’ll just feel better, freer, cleaner if you do. And increase your chances of getting kissed.
4) Be authentic. Don’t be afraid to let people hear your voice. Let go of the self-editing. Let go of the need to not be misinterpreted. Let go of the idea that you can control what someone thinks about your words because you can’t, and because ultimately, it doesn’t matter. The people that need to hear what you have to say will hear it. You will always be somebody’s (or lots of bodies’) person, but you’ll never be everybody’s person, and that’s okay. And if the only person who ever sees what you write is you, the same thing applies because YOU are your person.
5) Lastly (and I shared this in class, but it’s so damn good it needs to be repeated), if you’re having one of those days that your mind feels tornadic and you wonder how the fuck you can have so much chaos going on in there, remember that it’s okay. You’re not crazy. Or perhaps we all are. Either way, it’s normal. *Think of your thoughts as snowflakes. Snowflakes fall both peacefully and haphazardly, but there is space for all of them and they land where they are supposed to.
*It should be noted that I can’t take credit for this brilliant analogy. One of my closest friends, and easily the best listener on the planet, spoke this wisdom as we were talking about the hilarious mess in our heads with snow landing silently around us. "Think of your thoughts like this." Damn, it’s good, right?