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Cranky Meditation

By Tamara Milliken

You know those days when you sit down to spend time in quiet, and you find yourself super cranky about it? Well, I do.

I have several ways of personally addressing this issue.

  1. Get up and leave my practice behind me.
  2. Scowl, clench my jaw, breathe shallowly, and cut my meditation time short.
  3. Pretend like I am not grumpy, deny the problem, silently sing a short mantra that I cannot connect to in the moment, and play with my mala beads at random.
  4. …or face it head on, after of course being grumpy with my grumpiness for the fist several minutes.

The first three are coping responses, that do absolutely nothing for me in the long run. Some would tell me that 2 and 3 are strengthening my discipline. I would disagree. My stance is that if I am not willing to do number 4, I should probably just get up. Here’s why:

You can spend months, years, a lifetime cultivating ‘discipline’ by doing nothing more than gritting your teeth and bearing with your practice, or appearing to have an authentic practice by fiddling and singing heartlessly. Until you are willing to shed truth on your time spent in meditation, that is all it is – time.

Now, I will admit that starting a meditation practice is difficult. In the beginning our bodies and minds rebel against the stillness, and this portion of grumpiness, discomfort, unease comes with starting anything new. You find a teacher, learn some asana (poses) that help you hold your seat, some breath practices that teach you focus, perhaps a mantra or mala practice to keep you grounded and give you something to come back to when you get distracted. And you find a style of meditation that rings true to you. It is once you have trudged through this initial work that the next level of cranky that I am referring to comes in.

In my experience when I sit down on my mat and the cranky climbs in to my mind, heart, or body, it is my first clue that something is about to happen. So, I can choose to ‘forget’ the great truth that revelation can come through silence and discomfort and walk away. And I do often enough. Really what I am saying in these times is that I do not believe I am ready for what my practice has to offer me just yet. Yet, here is the kicker: if my practice is ready to reveal something to me, I AM ready for it. Now the ‘discipline’ word. Do I have the discipline along with enough compassion to hear and begin to understand a truth that could change the way I see or approach something? Ah, this is what I walk away from, or distract from or deny access to.

When I acknowledge the cranky, wonder at it, be gentle with it, and continue in my seat – oh the things that await me there! I come away from my mat understanding myself so much better. Not that I always welcome this new found truth originally. Sometimes it takes me weeks of pondering, questioning, journaling, talking about it in my yoga classes to truly embrace it and take it forward with me.

This is the difference between time on your mat, and growth on your mat. Embrace your cranky. Sit with your cranky. Get beneath your cranky. What is waiting on the other side may just change your perception of the life you are living.

Tamara Milliken

About Tamara Milliken

Tamara Millken began practicing yoga in 2003, and teaching in 2007. She trained and is 500 hour certified through the Shambhava School of Yoga. She currently teaches Yoga for Healing, Tibetan Heart Yoga, and meditation at the Mellow Monkey Yoga Studio and the Millwood Community Center.

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