a banana, a demon, a practice

I woke up late this morning, but still determined to do a full practice.

I started with pranayama practice, as I do whenever I have time or need to jolt myself awake. As I finished kapalabhati my stomach growled – I was really hungry! I’ve trained myself to avoid letting breakfast divert me from my practice – but hunger brings up all kinds of stuff for me besides the basic distraction. You read you’re supposed to eat within the first 20 minutes of waking up for your metabolism! One voice said. But you usually don’t. Just suck it up and practice! said another. I decided to eat a banana, then practice. I would eat it mindfully!

I got the banana and started to peel. That’s about where the mindfulness ended. My mind was stuck on where I should be – the cushion – not where I actually was – the kitchen eating a banana. Before I knew it the banana was gone…along with my mindfulness practice. I started again.

Back on the cushion I settled in. Well rested and hunger abated, my first few minutes were calm and free from substantive thought. Aaahhhh…..

Then came the thought of what I need to do today – research and prepare questions for someone I’m interviewing. The next thought: how I’d mistaken the interviewee for the husband of a friend with a vaguely similar name but from different a part of the world. The next thought: “God you’re so stupid!”

Now this is a well-worn pathway of thought for my mind. Before I started practicing meditation I would get stuck with that last thought, looping over and over in self-condemnation for the smallest mistake. With practice I’ve learned to see that reactive pattern unfold. Sometimes I’m able to nip it in the bud and actually stop the full thought from forming. When it does come, I acknowledge it and practice letting it go and starting again.

After a few years of practice I’ve realized it my well take a whole lifetime to reprogram my mind and let go of that voice, and learned to be ok with that. One of my teachers says the only way to disempower our demons is to make friends with them. First we have to see and acknowledge them, recognize them as parts of ourselves, then we can start negotiating away their power to cripple us in life. So we practice…


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