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Sunday, September 18, 2011

The gift of meditation

Last week I threw my back out. The only way that could have happened is during my sit up exercises, which I just restarted after years of idleness in that regard. Now, that back problem has never occurred before, so, aside from hemming and hawing about old age and all the physical challenges it brings, I wasn't sure what to do about it.

For two days I struggled with shooting pains in my lower back, almost unable to even do my work behind the computer. And then I remembered my visit to India in 2008 and the Vipassana meditation I came to practice ever since. I usually meditate to keep myself composed, to see things in a different light, to distance myself from the defilements of daily life such as holding grudges, feeling victimized, developing a sense of entitlement, getting agitated, wallowing in self-pity, and other dismal emotions. My meditation helps me understand so many things that would disturb me in the past: people who are difficult, demanding, or downright mean, for instance. Before I would wonder why I had to endure these characters on my path. Now I understand their purpose of being teachers in my life, along with the fact that they have a problem which I can choose to make mine or not. So I simply learn my lessons, feel compassion for them, and move on.

But when my backache was really becoming such a nuisance that I started thinking of undergoing a string of chiropractor visits, I decided to apply another dimension of my meditation: one that I don't quite apply enough: the one of self-healing. I thought, "Well, if it doesn't help, it won't hurt to try it anyway." So I sat down in lotus position and started my meditation: concentrating on my breathing at first to calm the mind. Soon enough I started focusing fully at the sore spot in my lower back. I could feel the area tingling as my attention became more intense, and I just mentally observed it for a while. Then, I started sending healing thoughts to the spot, and regulated my thoughts to my breath:
Health in... illness out... wellness in... soreness out... good in...bad out...
Health in... illness out... wellness in... soreness out... good in...bad out...
Health in... illness out... wellness in... soreness out... good in...bad out...

I landed in the most beautiful place, all white and soft, as if I was in a huge soursop with endless pathways, indulging in gentleness. When I got out of my meditation, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the strain in my lower back was gone. Still slightly skeptical, I paid close attention in the following days, but I only felt very faint pressure, which faded immediately when I started focusing on the spot. This morning, I was able to do what I had doubted all week: my 3-mile Sunday morning walk.

So, what can I say? You don't have to try it if you don't believe in it, of course. No one will force you or get upset if you take all of this with a huge grain of salt. But what I realized once again in the past few days is that we, modern day's human beings, have forgotten much of the wealth and capabilities we were born with. Finding answers and healing ourselves are just some of them. We have become externalizers: we count on everyone and everything else for advice, healing, and general well-being. Our internal locus of control is smaller and weaker than ever. And meditation can help to strengthen and expand it. I hope I won’t forget this again the next time I need pain relief.

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