I believe that stress reduction is different things at different times. John Bly, leader of the meditations for Potomac Zen Sangha, made a great comment when I was feeling guilty about turning down his invitation to sit, in favor of meeting friends at Grape and Bean. He said, “There are all kinds of ways to refresh the soul!” And he is right.
Every week I have the need to de-stress, but what changes stress into Zen can be different. Last week, it was actually writing and catching up on work, related to my diabetes advocacy. The sense of accomplishment is comforting and I felt relaxed and happy. Is that Zen? Why wouldn’t it be? But the true practice of Zen is about the attainment of enlightenment and the practice of dharma.
When I was studying massage and yoga at Kripalu Yoga Center, the hardest part of the day was meditation! To quiet my mind and reach that place where I didn’t have lists going through my mind was excruciating! Toward the end of my 3 month stay, I would get there only to find myself nodding into sleep, or trying too hard and giving myself headaches and a sense of loneliness. But that effort did not go without reward. The reward, was a wonderfully calm mind, my body learned to release deep tension and when my eyes would open after meditation, it was clear and easy to feel motivated.
I learned that silence and inner growth allowed me to put forth more focused energy and I got more done during the hours I needed to study. The first two weeks there, I did a lot of sleeping, but once I started to really practice meditation, I also needed less sleep. I chose to explore the hardest parts of myself: addiction, not to drugs, but to the lifestyle I had been living. I gave up caffeine and most sugar, altho I kept fresh fruit in my diet, and I found I had more energy. That detox was quite an experience and one that is worth doing again!
So this week is my week to renew and refresh some of my practices and see if I can find my way back to sitting, and probably feel a little sleepy while I’m there. For anyone interested, Potomac Zen Sangha has 3 classes a week at the center. To find out more, click here to go to their schedule.