by Donna Quesada: I sat myself down and simmered for a few minutes. Despite the fact that I was fuming
because of something a family member said, I had to laugh as I remembered the old expression “simmer down.”
Sitting Down in the Midst of a Storm—
One of the meanings of simmer is to “reduce” by way of slow cooking. As I continued to sit on my meditation cushion, angry as hell, I felt that I was indeed… reducing.
I was becoming smaller, in terms of my righteousness… in terms of my need to prove myself… in terms of my need to defend myself… and in terms of my vexation.
Then I thought to myself… So, that’s why one of my teachers always used to say… “I never listen to myself until after I’ve meditated.” (Gurudhan Khalsa)
Something transformative happens as you sit in silence. Somethings softens. Something in you comes to see in a deeper way. Something relaxes. Something lets go. Something rises above, while something else sinks down. There’s a subtle boost in confidence and inner power that goes inexplicably hand-in-hand with a kind of humbling…and humor. Like a big balloon filled with hot air getting deflated, the outrage imperceptibly dissipates. It’s a relief. It feels lighter. What felt so urgent and so overwhelming and so big a minute ago, suddenly doesn’t seem to matter as much. And it feels liberating. It feels like inner peace.
So much of the transformative power of meditation is about what doesn’t happen. Perhaps this is why it’s challenging to describe the mechanism by which it works. By way of simply sitting, you’ve given yourself space. But this isn’t nothing. It’s everything. It means you’ve taken yourself out of the whirlwind energy of reactivity. You had the awareness and the courage to sit yourself down when you felt triggered.
As you sit, you separate yourself from the story running through your head… you begin to relate to a deeper part of who you are. Suddenly, you can see the rumination for what it is… just noise, driven by fear. But, there’s no noise in this deeper part of you. It’s more tranquil here. And this simple process of relocating yourself sets you free.
Meditation in the simplest sense, is to bring space within and around yourself. Space yields perspective and understanding. And understanding is really the true meaning of compassion. Understanding is all anybody really wants from anybody else.
Your partner says something that rubs you the wrong way. You’re spinning it around in your head… What was that about? Where did that come from? Why would he/she say that? You either snap back, right then and there, or bring it up later, after hours of brooding.
And mostly the reaction isn’t coming from a conscious place and when we’re not conscious, we say what we don’t mean to say. So now there are layers of distress forming between you.
But let’s say you excuse yourself, and take a time out to meditate. Not unconscious brooding. And not for the purpose of “mulling it over.” Just sitting… with the intention to disappear for a few minutes, into the stillness within. Any kind of meditation will do. But, I’ve included a breath meditation below… which is ideal to do for 11 minutes…exactly the time needed for the nervous system to relax.
New Perspectives Emerge—
You emerge feeling lighter. You try to articulate the shift that occurred, but all you can do is try to intellectualize it somehow, so as to put it into words. But the feeling is more delicate than all of that. Nonetheless, I find that new perspectives, such as these, tend to open up after just 11 minutes:
> I see that I was reacting out of my own trigger point… He/she was probably joking and I didn’t take the joke so well, because it touched an old scar in me. He/she couldn’t have known about my trigger. So, he/she probably didn’t mean what I thought it to mean. Maybe it didn’t mean anything at all. People don’t often say what they really mean because they haven’t thought it through… they say things without thinking, and I do too.
> Interesting… Maybe “I” contributed in various subtle ways that I hadn’t considered before. And he/she picked up my vibe, as others always do… perhaps through my body language, my lack of affection, or some sarcastic remark of my own (because I was triggered and already feeling defensive and guarded).
> Maybe I also hold the key, the power to re-create the reality between us. In other words, maybe I have the “fix” in my pocket. It just takes some creativity… What is the fix? Maybe it’s nothing complicated. Maybe it’s simply letting it go and letting reality reshape itself. Maybe it’s a conversation. Maybe it’s a shared activity…
Maybe it really was a snide remark… In which case it’s a good thing I meditated because it helped to diffuse the charge within me so that I can initiate a levelheaded conversation about it – rather than respond at the same level.
A Meditation for Compassion—
Sit in a comfortable meditative posture with a straight spine. Hold your hands, palms up, in front of your chest. Press the Saturn (middle), Sun (ring) and Mercury (pinkie) fingers back to back. Those three fingers are pointing up. The index fingers are pointing away from the body and are crossed (see pic).
Extend the thumbs away from the hands to each side. Hold this mudra in front of your heart. Begin by inhaling in four sniffs of equal length. Suspend the breath in for four counts. Exhale similarly, in four parts. Suspend the breath out for four counts.
The pattern is like this: Segmented inhale, Suspend, Segmented exhale, Suspend.