Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Mindfulness

In my twenties, I landed in some difficult existential situations that caused me to 1) drink a lot 2) have a lot of boyfriends 3) get sick a lot 4) drink a lot. At a certain point, I stopped bathing regularly and I could barely get out of bed during the day. Finally, my then-boyfriend, a truly wonderful man, carried me to our car and drove me directly to a therapist's office, an event which marked the beginning of my talk-therapy years with a kind woman whose last name, Fine, reassured me psychically that some day I would be just that: Fine.

During our sessions together, she'd put me into a trance state, and I would "travel" back in time to a period where I was experiencing an anxiety similar to the one I was feeling in the current timeframe. One day when the anxiety I carried into her office was crushing my chest, I found myself, during the trance, standing before a door in a dark hallway. Behind the door, this greenish light radiated so brightly that it threatened to break down the door. The door was in the middle of my chest, and when I came out of the trance and explained the image, the door became a drawer, a drawer in my chest filled with dangerous light.

The light petrified me. I was sure that it was radioactive, emitting some type of psychological poison through my veins. I was sure it was symbolic of a deep dark secret I was keeping from myself because the truth was too horrible to bear consciously.

I saw Ms. Fine intermittently over several years. Towards the end of our work together, she was beginning her practice as a Mindfulness teacher. I took the first eight-week workshop she offered. Two students signed up; one dropped out, leaving just Ms. Fine and me.

We started each 2 1/2 hour session with a body scan, where we lay on the floor in corpse pose, mentally scanning our bodies inch by inch for places where we were holding stress. When we'd find a place, we would bring our awareness to it and then let the stress go. After the body scan, we discussed our findings with one another. Next we did some gentle yoga. Again, we discussed the resistances, the limitations the yoga showed we were carrying. Then came the hard part: 20 to 45 minutes of sitting meditation, sometimes called zazen. We'd close with a reading from a spiritual tradition -- Zen, Native American, Hindu, Christianity, etc. No matter what anxiety I carried into her office, I always left feeling lighter and freer and seriously better. During the week, I tried to rise in the early morning to do yoga and sit for a while before getting ready for work.

In the last session I had with Ms. Fine, I experienced a physical revelation during the body scan. I found myself back at the door with the light behind it. At least two years had passed since I'd been there. I decided it was time for me to face this tragic light; I was strong enough. As I pulled the door open, the light became viscous, like lava, and it rushed through my heart into my body, not burning me, rather lighting me on fire, a divine fire. I felt like I was having the best sex of my life; the feeling was so intense. I let the fire roll in me and around me. It went on and on and on.

Finally, I came back to the room with Ms. Fine. I opened my eyes and sat up.

"What happened?" she said, aware that I was drastically changed by something that had taken place.

I told her about the experience, bawling tears of gratitude and humility. How could I have been so fooled? I wondered. Why did it take me so long to realize that the light in me was not going to kill me, that the light in me would let me live more richly than I had ever imagined?

5 comments:

cake said...

nelson mandela says in speech (written by Marianne Williamson) "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us..."

thanks for sharing this experience with us. i found it very moving.

Robin said...

I appreciate what you wrote too. Even weirder perhaps--I took the same 8 week class and the last session Ms. Fine gave us that Nelson Mandela quote (that cake cites above) writ large on a piece of paper so we could hang on to it.

eflows said...

Souls tend to avoid the bright light of rebirth precisely because it's so overwhelming and frightening.

chuck said...

i know this experience. thank you, christa, for sharing.

bethany said...

my favorite meditation/visualization when coming out of a (black) teenage depression was to start at my toes.. and slowly fill my body part by part with light coming from the top of my head or solar plexus (if i was sitting or laying) do it as slow as you can, it feels pretty good.