Under Pressure


Today I meditated with friends new and old at a wonderful City Silence event led by Stacy Sims. We were at Globe Gallery, where the installation Deep Space is closing. When I arrived at the gallery this morning, the door was locked. I looked inside, and immediately saw my friend Suzanne, whom I’m close to but hadn’t seen in a few months. Stacy saw me, smiled and opened the door.

I knew this was going to be good.

Before meditation began, Stacy explained the day’s program, and asked us if there was anything that we were holding on to that we’d like to share. Everyone had something. What was I holding on to? My idea of the perfect family, and the perfect family relationships.

Since this was a guided meditation, Stacy had made us a mix. We started with David Bowie’s “Under Pressure.”

Drop the Pressure
I need to let this go. But in my head I have this idea that if I just try harder, I’ll be able to help my family become closer. If I do something different, we can bridge the communication gaps that seemed to rise out of nowhere when Mom passed away (but have probably been with us forever).

Or, there’s also my equally misguided notion that if I talk about how I’m trying to change, everyone will jump on the change train with me, proudly pledging to change this or that to help us become closer. He/she/they will see how helpful it is to talk about our feelings, how good it feels to be honest.

This is simply not true. Most of us – myself included – are incredibly uncomfortable when we need to have emotionally risky conversations. I used to do everything I could to avoid emotional or even potentially emotional conversations. It took years of therapy to change that.

Now, most of my close relationships are richer than I ever thought they could be.

But when under pressure, it’s still tempting to escape by cranking up iTunes or distracting myself with facebook or the news, instead of dealing with interpersonal problems while they’re small and manageable.

Reality Check
I can only change myself. To expect that others change in response to what I’m doing is unfair to them, and to me.

The perfect family – the family where when conflicts arise someone always has your back; the family where all problems are solved in 30 minutes (22 minutes if you take out commercial time); the family where everyone has his or her say and everyone feels better in the end, or at least agrees to disagree but still love one another, only exists on TV, under the names Brady, Cosby, Adams, Cleaver, Keaton, Bundy.

So what can I work on instead, turning away from changing others and looking to change only myself? I can offer love, instead of resentment. Love, instead of anger. Love, instead of expectations.

Our Original Inclination to Love
After 20 minutes of seated meditation, Stacy asked us to walk, while focusing on the feeling of gravity, the weight in our legs and feet. She asked us to see what walking patterns took hold.

I was making figure 8s. Infinity signs. Infinite love: That’s a goal. I won’t be able to pull this one off every day, but I’ll try. And I’ll start with loving myself, which is where we all start when we’re young, before anyone else has anything to say about it. As children we love ourselves and everyone we meet, until someone tells us otherwise. We hug other kids we’ve just met on the playground, we hug our teachers, we hug our neighbors, we hug complete strangers. We’re born inclined to love.

Over this week’s meditation sessions, I’m going to see if I can get back to that.

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