meditation

An Englishman in New York

That is how I felt yesterday, traveling to Amsterdam for a training. I had to commute for 45 minutes by train and metro, using the busiest commuting lines during the morning hours, changing trains at the city center's financial hub station, Amsterdam Zuid (South). People were rushing by, on their way to work, dressed in corporate suits and high heels, using laptops and phones on the train. Almost nobody made eye contact or looked out of the window. 

I had to wait on a platform and suddenly I had this strange feeling of being in a movie. People around me were fading into sliding lines. I saw myself, standing like a soft pillar of peace and silence between movement and rushing energy, conscious of my surroundings and looking up close from a distance. 

I suddenly felt like an Englishman in New York. 

I speak the language very well. I have lived a similar life myself, traveling by train for years and years, day after day to the same station, studying, working 80 hours a week in the hospital. Moving to another job, the rat race, driving in busy traffic, rushing to the next meeting, making the next deadline. 

Suddenly, standing still in the midst of it all, on the platform, I saw the emptiness of it all. The unconscious movement, sounds, flow of data, people, information, all rushing towards the same deadline. The end of life (because, you know, that's the only deadline everyone will eventually make). 

Thinking about all these people and being conscious of their lives (they must have family, friends, struggles, challenges, homes, household chores and groceries to do), I realized that it is so important to live the life you love. The possibility that all those people rushing by might not be happy with what they do, caused an overwhelming sadness to take a hold of me. 

How can we be more aware of what we are doing? Why are we running so fast? How can we be more mindful of our day?

The simple answer is: PAUSE.

Take a break from your work and breathe deeply, feel into your body, look out the window every now and then (preferably often). Take the next train. Don't 'grab' a coffee but truly enjoy it. Go outside during your lunch break and find a park. Sit on a bench for 5 minutes and watch your surroundings. Connect with someone.

Don't make pausing another task in your busy schedule. Pause, to be mindful and to feel. It helps you make better decisions. And maybe you'll discover that you too are an Englishman in New York. 

 

Screaming silence

Many positive things can be found about meditation and its effects, in fact so many that it seems to be the solution to everything. But for me, it wasn’t, not naturally, when I ran into a complete burnout. I wanted to meditate and tried many times but I couldn’t do it when I got stuck and it became an impossible task when I was in the depths of the abyss.
The months prior I felt that something needed to happen and I tried to calm myself with meditation attempts. What I didn’t know was that I was already so stressed out that being still in meditation caused the volcanic pressure to rise and overwhelm me. Yoga and relaxation exercises drove me crazy due to the anxiety and stress that came to the surface, causing the opposite to happen. I found myself in a chaotic mind, my thoughts sounded like 6 symphonic orchestras playing in dissonance, a cacophony of noise. I felt like a total failure ‘who couldn’t even meditate’ and I began to skip my weekly yoga classes to prevent myself from going down the vortex of chaos.

When I had to have emergency surgery, the carefully strutted house of cards came down. My body forced me to a stop and for a few weeks, I was only a shadow of myself.

Now, 3 months later, the physical signs of my completely disrupted stress-system are subsiding, and I was able to pick up simple daily activities. I now meditate daily, to tune into myself, feel my body, experience my emotions. This is of great value because I am able to connect to my feelings and act on them. To set boundaries, or allow things to happen, to rest or do something. So much is happening inside of me at this moment that I can’t even begin to describe it all. After 2,5 year in survival mode, it’s so freeing to be connected to my body, my intuition, my emotions. Some things are a recognition of something I once had and lost, other experiences are new and a beautiful discovery. What opened the door to improvement is meditation.

It is not easy for me to explain how my brain went into overdrive every time I put my body in a resting state. What is do know is that it is really important is to be gentle and soft. The system experience disruption, don’t make it worse by overwhelming yourself with something new or strenuous. When you start yoga or meditation or you come back to these practices after a long time or in a state of confusion or overstimulation, be nice to yourself. Don’t practice for too long, 15-20 minutes at most. When you bring awareness to your body it will begin to tell you what is wrong, sometimes it’s traumatic to feel all those things all of a sudden. Remember to be gentle and loving towards yourself and to ease down your practice. Start with 5 minutes of meditation when 15 is too much. Don’t go to a full yoga class but practice just one or two poses for 10 minutes and go from there.

Meditation, yoga and other spiritual practices are possible and provide healing, although sometimes you have to go through the chaos first.