Back in 2002, I permanently changed my brain.
I went to the California Vippassana Center and completed the 10-days of silence. Several people laughed when I said I was doing it (I was a talker). I was determined.
The first four days, I was straight up miserable. My determination quickly turned to doubt and I felt a claustrophobic. I was uncomfortable in my body, my mind was agitated, and I was resentful of this ridiculous idea of staying still and silent. I started to discount the whole damn thing. One day I was so uncomfortable that I dug marks into my hands with my nails, clenching my fists with frustration! I didn’t know how I felt about myself, my relationships, the world, etc. I was not in a good place.
At the same time, I continued to do the Vippassana method, which is essentially to focus on breathing into each part of the body over and over again. To notice physical pain in my body, or mental/emotional pain in my brain and to just keep breathing. The intention was to focus on “Anicca” or impermanence, from the first morning bell (4am) to the final meditation (8pm), with delicious, silent, meals in between.
And I was to stay completely internal. No external conversation but for potentially asking a question to a teacher. I couldn’t help but smile at a few people along the way – but even that was stepping outside the intention. Every moment was meant to be inside of myself – awareness of my thoughts, feelings, behaviors…and not just from the present but from ALL parts of my life. It was like my brain watched my entire movie from my first memory to the very moment I was in – and I was emotionally and physically reacting to those moments. Some moments were very painful…childhood trauma, heartbreak, dark times where I questioned my self-worth to the point of wanting to disappear. And I stayed internal. Tears, shame, angst, terror, tension, stress. And I stayed internal.
I couldn’t go work out, or ask for advice, or vent to a friend, or get drunk, or party, or go get validated through sex, or go shopping, or eat a pint of chocolate ice cream, project my crap onto someone else, shoot I couldn’t even journal – the goal was to stay within my own self and use my breath to process, self-regulate, and keep moving. Anicca…impermanence. Feel it. It’s okay. Everything shifts, everything moves, like waves in the ocean…
On the fifth day, something shifted. I started to really feel and connect to my inner body. My cellular self…maybe even my soul? After many excruciating minutes of being uncomfortable, reliving my pains, having mind agitations of who I am, what I want, who I will be…of staying internal with just my body, mind, heart, and soul – I became EMPOWERED. I was capable of being within my own brain and taking care of myself without needing any external things! I fell in love with myself. Sounds corny but I DID. I felt a deep sense of TRUST within myself that I was okay – no, PERFECT – just as I am. Even in my mistakes, my “failures”, my moments I had identified as embarrassing or disappointing – I am acceptable as I am. I was filled with compassion – not just for myself but for everyone.
Did I still have discomfort in my body? I had full reconstruction on my knee and a missing lumbar, so, yes! Did I still have mind agitation? Yes! But it was different. I had tools to help me process and self-regulate myself back into a more profound and productive experience: of TRUST that I am capable, and I am okay just as I am. My mind began to flow through the agitation – the discomfort – like a rhythm: awareness of what I’m thinking and feeling, breathing it in, breathing it out. Back to TRUST. Back to SELF-ACCEPTANCE. COMPASSION.
That is my “internal” story.
Now let’s focus on YOU: This is YOUR time to go internal. It is YOUR time to find the tools, your rhythm, your internal sense of trust, capability, empowerment, self-acceptance, joy, compassion, whatever you’re looking for.
There’s been a lot of talk about connecting with family, but how about connection with YOURSELF? This is an opportunity to show yourself that you are capable of going completely internal, inside of your own vessel and brain, to regulate and center yourself when you feel triggered. To find your inner peace. Your inner power.
This is a time for you to just be with you. To court yourself…accept yourself…fall in love with yourself. To find the things you see as “annoying” as “cute” or be your own cheerleader for the things you want to change. And it can all start with going internal. Here are a few totally doable ways to start:
• A morning and meditation. Close your eyes and just sit with yourself for five minutes with no sound, no distractions. See if you can do this a little longer each day. Pick a mantra to breathe in and out, so your mind is not filled with distraction. You can choose something simple: “I am aware that I’m breathing in” and “I’m aware that I’m breathing out”. Or you can bring in an intention, something you want: “I am breathing in Trust” and “I am breathing out Doubt”.
Write a list of internal goals you’d like to accomplish and speak in what you want, not what you don’t want. Examples:
– If you tend to be judgmental: I want to be more compassionate.
– If you tend to feel anxious: I want to trust more. I want to have more peace.
– If you tend to feel depression: I want to create more happiness.
– If you tend to have negative thoughts: I want to practice productive thinking.
– If you have an anger issue: I want to be able to self-regulate in my moments of anger.
• Journal everyday about your thoughts and feelings. If you are challenged with free flow journaling, get a guided journal. There’s like a thousand on Amazon.
• Set an intention and breathe it in throughout the day. If breathing is new to you, then set an alarm every hour with the words “breathe in TRUST” or whatever you choose as an intention.
• Talk to your inner self. Out loud, in your head, it doesn’t matter. Open a vulnerable dialogue with yourself. Comfort yourself. Have a temper tantrum. Vent. Create a relationship with your inner self.
Overall, make it a point to go internal. Not external. When you are:
– irritated with something: slow down – go internal.
– blocked in your creativity: slow down – go internal.
– feeling insecure: slow down – go internal.
– filled with doubt: slow down – go internal.
– worried about money: slow down – go internal.
– frustrated at work: slow down – go internal.
– in a conflict with your partner: slow down – go internal.
– feeling guilty about your parenting: slow down – go internal.
– about to yell at your kids: slow down – go internal.
– reaching for that drug: slow down – go internal.
– reaching for the cookies: slow down – go internal.
– triggered and reaching for that drink: slow down – go internal.
– triggered in general (say it with me): slow down – go internal.
Slow down. Go Internal. Pump them breaks! Just sit quietly and be with yourself. And when you want to jump out of your skin and run, sit a little longer, a little deeper.
Remember – this is a practice…it will take time to start to sink into your internal self. It’s all about REPETITION and PRACTICE. REPETITION and PRACTICE (see what I did there). The mind is easily distracted or agitated and can fool you that you can’t do it. YOU CAN. Stay with it.
Back in 2002, I permanently changed my brain.