transforming our patterns

**originally posted for my other blog/site on March 22, 2014**

Patterns are so easy to fall back on, they are familiar, they are safe, and no matter how unhealthy they may be, they offer us comfort.

I’ve done it. I do it. We all do. I may have potentially pushed away my best friend because of my unhealthy patterns.

Who knew these travels would be so challenging? As a native NYer when I was given all this “free” time to myself, I tried to fill it up with too much “stuff” and ended up caught in my neurosis instead of riding it, as my previous post describes.

One of my favorite Buddhist authors, Pema Chödrön, wrote: “it's a transformative experience to simply pause instead of immediately filling up the space. By waiting, we begin to connect with fundamental restlessness as well as fundamental spaciousness.” I forgot the power that comes by just sitting still. All to often we are so anxious to fill up our time, our days, and our empty spaces with stuff. It does not matter what “stuff” we fill it with, we just need to fill it because we are not accustomed or comfortable with space or spaciousness. So after my deep inhale and exhale, I stumbled across this quote and decided that maybe I should look for a good meditation book to read for some guidance and it was no surprise to me that Pema’s book on how to meditate is the first that popped up in my iBook’s search (and it is such a good book!!). I began to read. Time to put in the work Minerva.

Fear is an emotion that constantly stirs up certain patterns for me. Believe it or not, I am actually afraid to fly! Yes, as much as I love to travel, I am afraid to fly. Over the years it has gotten better (when I first started flying I would begin to get anxious one week before my flight, which included a constant state of nervousness, butterflies and knots in my stomach, binge eating, insomnia, etc). On my recent flight from the Dominican Republic to Ft Lauderdale, even though the captain said it was going to be a smooth flight, it got bumpy. Normally when flights get bumpy, panic sets in and pretty much does not leave my body until the flight is completely smooth again for a while or we land! This time, since I was on the chapter of Breathing with the Emotion (part three of the book is Working With Emotions) instead of giving in to my pattern, I decided to actually WORK through it.

So often we hear “just breathe” or “breathe it away”. But oftentimes we either don’t really know what that means, how to do it or even how to sit still enough to actually breathe! Pema talks about instead of breathing the emotion away (because that in effect isn’t really working with the emotion rather just pushing it away, allowing it to accumulate and become overwhelming) to breathe WITH the emotion. “Emotions are simply energy that we attach our thoughts and stories to.” So in her next chapter Drop the Story and Find the Feeling, she gives a great meditation exercise to try to do the work of dropping the story, finding the feeling and breathing with the emotion.

The fear was beginning to set in, the tremors in my legs, the sweaty palms, the thoughts of why we were experiencing bumpiness on the plane, trying to rationalize it all out in my head, the tight chest. So this time, instead of letting fear and my patterned response to it return, I decided to drop the story and find the feeling. So I sat up tall in my chair, began to breathe, and started scanning my body for the feeling. Where was I feeling this abundance of energy? What did it feel like? What did it look like? Oh, there you are! Around my heart, across my chest, it feels tight it feels warm. Ok, Minerva now send your breath there. Breathe deeper into your heart, into your chest. Sit with this abundance of energy. Not the thoughts, not the story, just the sensations you are feeling right now. Whenever my mind would wander, I just gently reminded myself to pay attention to the feeling and breathe with it. After about 20 minutes of this, when I felt the intense amount of energy around my heart and chest dissipate, I did another body scan to see if there were any lingering feelings. When I was ready I opened my eyes and I felt immensely present, spacious and calm.

I am not saying that will happen every time. Nor am I saying that will happen immediately for everyone. What I am saying is that healing takes work. And you have to be willing to put in the work, to do the work and to stick with the work. It is not always easy but it is always worth it. Commit to what you really want from the heart not the mind, lead with love in the work you put in for yourself. Because as my dear friend Hesel reminded me today “fear is a natural reaction to getting closer to the truth.”  Be You. Sat Nam.

paz & namaste