Transitions and tiredness are both tough for me. During times when I have just finished one task or activity and have not begun the next, or when I’m beginning to feel fatigued, I feel vulnerable. In my vulnerability and vague uncertainty about what’s coming next, I am more apt to experience cravings and act impulsively.
My impulsiveness can take the form of eating or shopping, as well as getting sucked into social media, word games, or email on my phone. Gaining ground on these impulsive/compulsive behaviors has been hard work, but because of the eight points and the help of my fellow meditators, I’ve had many small successes. I never cease to marvel at how effective these tools and allies can be.
It might be helpful to know that I have been living with an auto-immune illness since age twelve. In 2007, at the age of 55, I was very functional by societal standards, but actually struggling inside and out. My compulsions were numerous. The content of what I was eating or drinking, reading or watching, saying or imagining didn’t matter nearly as much to me then as whether it could make me feel better for a little while.
Saint Francis liked this metaphor to depict his relationship with his body. “This body is brother donkey. I feed him, I wash him, but I am going to ride on him.” You might say that when I came to the eight-point program I was the epitome of the person whose donkey could be seen to be riding her on any given day! In that first year I took to meditation I began to accept Easwaran’s wisdom that drinking, smoking, over-eating were all ways in which the donkey was riding me. I became willing to learn how to get that donkey off my back and begin to ride it.
Inspiration: Breaking the Chain of My Thoughts
Early on, our passage meditation group was watching an Easwaran video talk (which is now available to watch online), “The Space Between Thoughts”, and it felt as if he was speaking directly to me when he disclosed that thoughts are not continuous. When we are able to slow thoughts down we can interrupt their flow and then consciously direct our attention elsewhere. I was already familiar with the beautiful concept of redirecting attention because I had worked with so many people suffering from confusion and dementia where that skill is highly prized.
That video talk and the one called “Breaking Chains”, in conjunction with reading the book Conquest of Mind, helped me find the confidence to brave the training of my own mind and senses. Hope once again dawned in me that I might someday be the free and loving person I truly want to be.