In the worst moments of divorce, I rotate in bed afflicted by pre-morning doubts. 3:37am awake churning over failure, unhappiness, rupture, separation. Occasionally mortality provides a real ass-kicking - I count and recount the number of years I might have left to find sustained companionable love and wondering if I have time to become a biological grandparent. Hah!
Sometimes during the day my mind is similarly caught up. A sales clerk at a clothing store asked me yesterday "how are you?" and I was stunned, challenged to find a ready polite reply. I wanted to tell her "I feel like I have a fork stuck in my chest." This enormous life story plot change has thrown me too hard, and I can't participate in the present moment. I have huge questions I can't answer. Suddenly a number of big decisions have presented themselves and they seem both undesirable and pressing.
Months before our partnership formally unravelled I sought out some individual counseling. My health insurance, very thankfully, supported mental health care for an inexpensive co-pay. I searched their available provider directory. Then I googled to see what materials existed online for each of the listed practitioners. One woman was located in downtown SF and she was loosely associated with Spirit Rock, a Bay Area meditation center. I found she promotes sitting meditation in her therapy practice.
I didn't feel I need drugs to handle my mood, other than occasional weed, alcohol and Call of Duty. Instead meditation seemed like a fine practice in this tough time. Portable, personal, promoting calm and focus. Quiet, settling introspection seemed appropriate for a raging mind and a wounded heart.
Researching meditation online I found a book "Full Catastrophe Living" and audio recorded guided meditation by Jon Kabat-Zinn. After 40 minutes of his soothing voice I feel like I have taken muscle relaxant drugs: limbs relaxed and happily heavy. I become more anchored in my blissladen body, less in my dancing mind.
I began sitting cross legged for up to 25 minutes at a spell. My eyes closed, legs folded, tongue on the top front of my mouth. I made an effort to observe and release my thoughts. Inevitably I would start working my mind hard on some looming task. Or some recent perceived personal tragedy. Auditing the past or pre-stressing the future. As I practiced sitting meditation I noticed myself breathing shallow during these mind-vexations.
I bring my attention to my breath and I use it to tune my mood - slowing myself down by slow intake slow exhale. Now and then I am able to sit quietly patiently with an occasionally calm mind for 15-25 minutes. Wow! How refreshing. How restorative!
These small meditation successes were so useful when I felt the pointed hooves of divorce devils riverdancing on my neck and shoulders. I became more able to notice when I was unproductively churning my mind on something I couldn't settle. I would observe my shallow breathing and I had a tool to stabilize my mood.
Sometimes I feel sad and I will cry. Smetimes I feel angry and I speak pain & fear out loud to myself. Often I just need a moment to remember that I can't think my way into happiness; I am not going to reason a solution to my personal life. Instead, I am better off conserving my energy to be ready for whatever other crazy business I have unknowingly planned for myself. Pay attention, communicate, read, socialize; eat to raise my blood sugar, exercise to further clear my head, or return to sleep.
Between 2-5am I am grateful for meditation techniques to tame the wild horses in my head. Those are times I prefer to be asleep, and not clenched up fretting and tossing. Sometimes I can lay still and smile at my lively brain; forgiving myself for stress while welcoming the warm confines of unconsciousness. Meditation into sleep.
For years I have been reading and rereading Ikkyū, a 14th century poet monk I encountered traveling in Japan. My favorite poem of his is probably still #291 in Ikkyū and The Crazy Cloud Anthology by Sonja Arntzen, "The Correct Skill for Great Peace":
Natural, reckless, correct skill;
Yesterday's clarity is today's stupidity
The universe has dark and light, entrust oneself to change
One time, shade the eyes and gaze afar at the road of heaven.
Shade the eyes, gaze afar at the road to heaven - if heaven is peace and respite from suffering then meditation has given me a glimpse of heaven in the midst of divorce. Entrust oneself to change, indeed!! :-D