I talked briefly about easing into meditation last week; this week we’re fully diving into it. In my personal experience, nothing has helped me quite as much as intentionally “doing nothing” and being in the present moment, allowing myself to rest. There are a number of different types of meditation techniques out there, and I highly recommend searching for the one that best suits you. Today I’m walking about the one that has best suited me, and it’s more a form of deep rest than sitting and watching my thoughts. (Though that rocks too – especially when you get the added benefit of catching your thoughts and getting to work them later!)
The technique that has had the greatest impact on me is hypnotherapy. It seems like there is a lot of confusion about hypnotherapy in general, and before I went, I couldn’t help but conjure up the cliché of the guy swinging some kind of pendulum and telling me I was getting very sleepy, only to wake up twenty minutes later doing the chicken dance. Luckily, I was briefly introduced to real hypnotherapy by attending a workshop on a sister practice, Yoga Nidra. It was one of the best and oddest experiences – I felt a level of rest and relaxation I did not think I was personally capable of achieving…right up until the end, when I felt like I would just start screaming. It was odd, and I’ll get into why in a minute, but first I want to explain what my own experience with hypnotherapy was like.
I found someone I liked and trusted with tons of excellent customer reviews, and made an appointment. Despite the seemingly endless healing journey and all of the extremist-feeling things I have done on it (the most recent, at that point, was traveling to Africa), this still scared the living hell out of me. I was terrified to even call, with horrifying visions of ‘recovered memories’ dancing around in my head. I did, and I could not be gladder; this was one of the best decisions I have made in my life. It turns out that hypnotherapy is just a form of deep rest, listening to a guided imagery while lying in the most comfortable chair ever. It was blissful, and one of the most deeply healing practices I have ever found. I worked with my hypnotherapist for six months, and continue the practice by listening to the recordings of the sessions while sprawled in bed.
Why was it so healing? Well, I can’t give you the scientific answer, but I can give you my personal one. Having spent the vast majority of my life running from feelings, running from the present moment, I had an awful lot of stored, unprocessed emotion in my body and my psyche. At the point where I was ready to try hypnotherapy, I had finally realized my lifelong, protective habit of running was actually seriously hurting me. I was no longer running from pain, I was running from joy…and that is just not cool. I had transformed my life to the point where it wasn’t feeding me pain, but I had no idea how to receive or enjoy the life I had created for myself. This level of deep rest helped me to release a lot of stored emotion, and to be fundamentally more peaceful in my daily life than I ever thought possible. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t fun. Just like I was mentioning last week, a lot of time it did (and does) suck in a huge way. It’s unpleasant to feel years of stored rage, grief and fear. It’s deeply unpleasant, in fact. For me, though, it has been worth every moment. I feel more alive, more peaceful, more grounded, and generally happier than I have at any prior point in my life. Now, when I have a joyful moment, I am able to embrace it and be with the joy, instead of shutting it down. That, to me, was worth the whole deal.
So, back to the screaming portion of my original Yoga Nidra experience. You may have experienced something like this while meditating, where you feel like you are simply unable to stand being in your own body for a moment longer. It feels to me like there are needles all over my skin, and I will simply scream if I don’t move. I often found myself actually twitching and jerking in bed during some of these home hypnotherapy sessions, and it felt completely beyond my intentional control. As you might imagine, I found this all pretty disturbing! Luckily my hypnotherapist is very familiar with the work of meditation teacher Shinzen Young, and she directed me to his article on “the Icky Sticky.” Young does a way better job of describing the feeling than I do, so here it is in his words:
“It is an icky, sticky, creepy, crawly, jump-out-of-your-skin quality, a subtle cringing that may affect part or all of the body. The body may even move, shake or twitch as though it were in extreme agony, but there is little actual pain. It seems unbearable, yet it doesn’t actually hurt. The worst part is that the more you relax, the “yuckier” you feel. When this phenomenon arises, it seems that the last thing you would want to do is to keep still for even a moment.” (The Icky-Sticky Creepy-Crawly It-Doesn’t-Really-Hurt-But-I-Can’t-Stand-It Feeling by Shinzen Young)
Yes! He nailed it exactly. Further, he also has the most awesome explanation for why it is happening. He says that human suffering can be considered as pain multiplied by resistance. Again, he does such a beautiful job describing it that I’m going to quote him here, “I defined pain as any uncomfortable sensation and resistance as any push and pull, any craving and aversion that interferes with the natural flow of the pain. Suffering is a kind of internal civil war, a kind of pressure that develops when one part of ones being (the part whose job it is to make pain) clashes with another part of ones being (the mental judgments and body tensions that fight with the pain).” He goes on to say that this horrible icky-sticky feeling is basically resistance in the purest form, and that having this horrific feeling experiencing during meditation is something to celebrate. He believes it means you are releasing pure resistance, which will help you to drastically reduce your suffering!
While I could go on for quite some time about my love affair with meditation and rest, the only way to know how it will work for you is to try it. I have a number of recommendations for resources for you to try, and I highly recommend checking out as many techniques as you need until you find one that clicks with you. Here are some places you might want to start.
Basic Vipassana Meditation Video: YouTube Video (you do not have to sit in this position! Chairs work!)
Loving Kindness Meditation Video: YouTube Video
Dan Howard, Intentional Resting: http://www.intentionalresting.com/ (Excellent Free & Paid Resources)
Lisa Hubler, Hypnotherapist: http://amindmatters.com/ (Excellent Free & Paid Resources)
My basic (free) 10 min body scan: Download MP3
Happy resting, friends. May you be happy. May you be well. May you be free from suffering.