Affirmations Psychological Services, LLC
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Humanistic Hummings

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Seeking the rhythm within untold stories ... hummings from a psychological Being.

Author, Dwight Tolliver, Ph.D.
tollyphd@gmail.com


 

Meditation: The Importance of Transitioning

For many human beings around the world, 9/11 shifted Life. I witnessed the event from a hospital lounge as Shan and I were making final preparations to take our first child, Julianne Kristi, home for the first time. She was born on 9/10.  (Happy birthday, sweetie!) Life has been different since those two days…

 

“Once upon a time there were two countries, at war with each other. In order to make peace after many years of conflict, they decided to build a bridge across the ocean.

But because they never learned each other’s language properly, they could never agree on the details, so the two halves of the bridge they started to build never met.

To this day the bridge extends far into the ocean from both sides, and simply ends halfway, miles in the wrong direction from the meeting point.

And the two countries are still at war.”  

~Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration

 

Unfortunately, this is an all-too-common human experience. We’re at war with each other. We’re at war with Self. Learning the art and science of transitioning holds the possibility of two different entities (two countries, two people, two parts of Self) learning “each other’s language.” We can learn to build bridges. But to learn “each other's language,” we need to create ladders. If not, we end up “miles” away from Self and each other.

Bridges are transitional structures used to overcome obstacles separating two distinct areas. A bridge overcomes rivers, ravines, and roads as obstacles. In essence, bridges offer human beings the ability to move between two distinct places. For example, using a bridge is less risky than swimming across an alligator infested river.

Ladders are transitional structures used to overcome gravity and human limitations as obstacles. Ladders take human beings into qualitatively different spaces... risky, unexplored, and uncomfortable spaces. To learn “each other’s language,” ladders are vital mediums of connection because they reduce the risk-taking involved while climbing trees with high-hanging fruit.

Bridges and ladders are transitional objects. For the human psyche, transitioning is one of the most important markers of being healthy. And meditation is the daily practice of learning the art and science of transitioning. Just as bridges and ladders are structures built and created in our Environment, a meditation practice becomes a structure built and created within Self, a rewiring of brain circuitry.

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During the initial moments of a meditation experience, daily stressors seem to bombard our conscious thoughts. These thoughts may shorten our breathing as we hold our inhales in our chests, giving rise to a mild panic state. Typically, it’s a challenge to transition away from short-term tasking. To the human mind in this moment, the practice of meditation seems wasteful and maybe even indulgent.

Here are possible thoughts during the initial stages:

  • “this is stupid”
  • “this doesn’t solve anything”
  • “this doesn’t get the laundry done”
  • “of yeah, remember the breathing part to this” (this is the transition back to breathing)
  • “the kids need a bath”
  • “he really said that to me today”
  • “the report needs to be finished by tomorrow”
  • “deep breath, you can do this” (another transition back)
  • “meditation is stupid”

As our human system transitions between tasks, sitting silently with the intention of focusing on deep breathing is challenging. Daily tasking rules and governs our emotional and mental states. We become consumed by these tasks. When the daily task transitions to the practice of meditation, we struggle mightily. We struggle because we should be doing something else, and we struggle because we’re failing at the thing we’re doing right now, which we should be able to do “right.”

Yet, failing is an inevitable outcome during the practice of meditation. To this day (after 12 years of a strong meditation practice), I fail every single time. And failing is highly uncomfortable for human beings.

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Let’s zoom out for a second… isn’t the task of meditation, simply, to focus on deep breathing? Not exactly. There’s a difference between a task and an intention. The intention is to remain focused on deep breathing. Yet, the actual task in front of us during a meditation experience is to feel competent when Self is the authority.

Speaking of tension, here are some thoughts that occur as the focus turns inwardly and tension heightens in the human system:

  • “I suck at this”
  • “I’m failing miserably”
  • “but I’m laughing at myself”
  • “oh shit, I’m supposed to be focused on my breathing” (transition back)
  • “I kind of like this ‘no rules’ thing”
  • “my hip is tight”
  • “breathe, Dwight” (you get the point)
  • “I annoy myself sometimes”     
     

As you can see, the second phase of a meditation experience transitions inwardly in a more pronounced way. Human beings focus and live externally, so it makes sense that the transition into Self is challenging. Potentially, the practice of meditation brings clarity to what’s being stuffed away along with when and how human beings avoid and ignore various aspects of life. With clarity, tension mounts. Tension is uncomfortable. And growth generating. Yep, the purpose of meditation is to be uncomfortable. Ironic, right?

Don’t grumble... it’s not as if this is an absurd phenomenon. Muscles grow and strengthen from resistance training because muscle fibers are disrupted and/or damaged at the cellular level. Exposure to germs at earlier ages, on average, foster physiological benefits across the lifespan. If you’ve performed the yoga exercise of ‘Plank,’ you’ll recognize the idea that tension heightens as you resist gravity. Similarly, the practice of meditation is a type of resistance training exercise for the brain and mind-body connection.

The last phase of a mediation experience is nonlinear. As stress and tension are activated and heightened, human beings feel and and sense internal pains. We enter a different realm. Time and space are distorted. Ego and identity aren’t needed. We feel and sense the meaninglessness of daily tasking. Emotions and truths (mirrors) enter the fore of our consciousness. We create ladders. We learn “each other’s language.”

We see different paths. We envision options. We sense a deeper sense of fear. We feel our own pain. We envision Choice.

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For Matrix Trilogy fans, Neo chose Trinity (the door on the left). In some ways, he chose Love. In more ways, he chose differently than ‘The One’ had chosen the previous five times. Beautiful!

The practice of meditation is a voluntary choice. There’s no way around the pain we feel and sense during meditation. Here are some thoughts you may experience while in the time-space distortion of this realm:

  • “I feel sad and vulnerable”
  • “I’m scared to love the people I love”
  • “I want to love more”
  • “I can stay connected to my breathing while sensing these feelings” (ladder moment)
  • “my stomach feels woozy and irritable”
  • “my head is pounding with pressure… the right side”
  • “I can’t imagine dying”
  • “Breathing is Life”
  • "Julianne is Beautiful"
Dwight Tolliver, Ph.D.