Today I had the day off, per making sure to use every last minute of comp time before the year is over. I’ve been back to meditating in the style of Sayadaw U Tejaniya lately—not seeking to stick like glue to the breath or to bore into my experience with great determination, but applying just enough attention to be aware that I’m sitting there, to notice pleasant and unpleasant sense experiences, to notice my attitude toward sense experiences, to study the interplay of thoughts and other experiences.
I still felt kind of upset with Anita, though several more readings of her evaluation had made it look a bit less bad. It was clear that my disgruntled thoughts were harming precisely one person, me. I start every period of sitting with 10 minutes of metta practice. If the whole sitting is 10 minutes, it’s all metta. Today, even after that, when I felt myself starting to get wound up, I did metta for myself and noticed that, all of a sudden, Anita didn’t seem like the ogre she has been in my mind for the past few days. The badness isn’t in her; it’s in my own mind. SUT’s way of meditating is really great for keeping an eye on the mind, as it were, which gets up to terrible mischief with dizzying speed.
During breakfast, I got a call from my therapist at the Truly Wonderful Medical Center, wondering if I was going to schedule another session. I get to see her for free, but only for a certain number of sessions, so she was going to try to refer to me an outside therapist I could see weekly at a bargain rate. (Fifteen dollars a session is what some of my peers pay.) I told her I hadn’t gotten in touch after our last session because I don’t have time to see a therapist outside work even if it’s free. Even if the therapist paid me to visit her, that time would come right out of sleep time, so I can’t do it.
I said that, though I know I could see her two more times, I agree with her thought that seeing her every six or eight weeks isn’t enough to really build a connection. However, I said, she is largely responsible for pushing or nudging me out of the relationship with F., and for that I am grateful.
In the spirit of being honest, I continued, I wanted to tell her that at our last session, when she said, “That sounds kind of heady”—meaning that I was thinking rather than feeling—I felt rather criticized. (She let me get away with that. Anita would have said, “Criticized? Does that mean you felt angry, sad, scared or happy?”) I reminded her that in earlier sessions, she had asked, “Do you want to pause here and get in touch with emotions?” I had agreed to do that every time, and was astonished at how strongly and quickly feelings arose: like magic. I said that, along with feeling criticized, I also felt a little wounded when she said I sounded “heady.” I told her that I was thinking, “I’m sure that’s true! I’m not good at this! I need help!”
She thanked me for the feedback and said she could see me as many as three more times, if I would be willing to do that. She said she would like to discuss what I’d just told her. I readily agreed, and we made an appointment. The email from Chantal felt like a piece of grace, and so did the call from my therapist, as well as a lifeline. I am grateful for the help that shows up unbidden.
I walked off to see my shirt lady contemplating that when I can’t tolerate what’s happening in my body, the mind takes over. It feels so much better when my heart is open, which can’t be forced, but these things are helpful:
—Noticing where my attention is. (Am I aware of being aware of something, or am I lost in thought?)
—Resting my attention on my body just in this moment.
—Observing the content of my thoughts and remembering that they are just thoughts.
—Doing metta for myself. Even one mental repetition of “May I be happy and relaxed” is five seconds when I can’t be deciding horrible things about other people.
So here we are, and I now have decided to share my feelings with Anita about what she wrote, and ask for her help, as with my therapist. By the way, what was it that Anita said that was so gravely offensive? She said that it is not easy for me to be openly vulnerable and that I tend to be judgmental (supported with annoying, inaccurate and totally unfair anecdotes). This is, of course, what Delia meant when she said my opportunity is to learn how to “dive down” rather than to “pop up” and also what my therapist meant when she observed that I sounded “heady.”
I do easily lead with my head, and I’m basically terrified of being fully present in my body and emotions while in the company of others, but the message coming from all around me is clear: these capacities need to be nurtured and brought forth.