Resistance to Being Still and Meditation

NMenezes

How often have you thought to meditate or “be still” but put it off for some reason? Perhaps you’ve decided to sit still for a while and tried to be be mindful but something stops you.

For those lucky to have experienced occasional states of peace and calm in this fast paced world, an inner calling to meditate is sometimes heard. Many times, I’ve heard that inner wise voice and have chosen to ignore it. It’s hard to ignore that wisdom, especially as we’re so often overwhelmed by modern life, but it’s even harder to listen to it! What then?

One reason why there is often resistance to meditation is the state of being antsy that comes after long periods of activity or giving way to distraction. In my case, there is a part of me that just cannot tolerate being uncomfortable. Do you have something similar?

When we do eventually allow ourselves the space and time to meditate, it’s because parts of us have allowed it. E.g. a part that might have the impulse to move is actually willing to take a break and let us meditate. However, some time into our meditation we might be confronted with parts of us that don’t want to carry on past the first few minutes or even seconds. These might be:

  • Parts that wants to distract us.
  • Parts that would rather do something fun!
  • Parts that are busy planning or organizing our day and think about the next item on our to-do list.
  • Parts of us that dislike or even hate uncomfortable feelings. Parts that want peace/calm.
  • Parts that want us to meditate properly and by-the-book.

In meditation, we can often be confronted with an inner battle… and being with that inner conflict in itself can be uncomfortable. Previously, I’ve suddenly  interrupted my meditation at this point and decided to do something else. A part of me pipes up “Who needs this discomfort? Perhaps I don’t even need to Be Still!”

Something wise eventually perks up saying “it will be helpful!”. For me this has happened usually during times of overwhelm, and I resolve to meditate again. So the cycle continues. Until, that is, I go beyond it.

The next leg of the journey then is not identifying with the part of us that dislikes that inner battle. Our inner core and Self is not that part of us.  Rather than identifying with that part, we can hold it in our field of awareness. If you’re unsure of this, test it. Are you the noise in your internal system? Are you the discomfort? Are you even the battle? For as long as the answer is “I don’t know” carry on testing.

Maybe there will always be noise and inner parts jostling — perhaps even lots of it — as long as we are human or identified with ‘ego’. At some point, we start directing our attention elsewhere, perhaps even to consider WHO is looking at the noise or inner discomfort.

Eventually, something weird might happen. The stillness and calm at one’s core gets louder.

Movies/Shorts Showing Internal Parts

The most popular movie entertainingly depicting multiplicity of inner psychological systems is, of course, Disney Pixar’s “Inside Out”. Here are some other less well known options if you’re hungry for more!

“It’s Not You, It’s Me” (2013) is a rom-com directed by Nathan Ives — it has very clear depiction of parts in the inner world of an on-off couple.


“Reason and Emotion” (1943) is a Disney wartime anti-propaganda short which has dated somewhat but is still interesting to see in its cultural context.


“Brain Divided” (2013 animated short) also depicts parts in a romantic scenario — a date!


“Only Yesterday” (Japanese, animated, 1991) In this touching and slow moving Ghibli movie, parts aren’t as obviously depicted as in”It’s Not You, It’s Me”. Rather, we see a young part’s impact and story juxtaposed to the present life of the main character.

 

Can you think of any more examples?

Parts in Relationships – Alanis Morissette’s “Everything”

A beautiful song about someone seeing and accepting the different parts of ourselves.

Relationships that have this feel safe and loving. However, in order for us to fully accept and trust another’s love as real, our parts might need to feel love from our own Self. For example, as a small child, a part of me felt unable to accept reassurance from a loving adult that I was indeed loved. This part of me already carried a burden and memory of being ignored/unloved so found it hard to trust what was there.

Alanis has been courageous in her own journey of being an openly vulnerable artist. Her own inner work has involved Margaret Paul’s “Inner Bonding”, which, similar to Internal Family Systems (IFS) Therapy, involves establishing a loving connection between our parts to something bigger than them. In IFS Therapy and ArtIFS, our parts get in touch with the naturally loving and healing Self present in all of us.

If we help our own parts connect to the love that our core Self naturally has for them (and our inner system is harmonious) we are also more able to see what is right for us when it comes to potential/current partners.

The first step, of course, is discovering our parts and this is something artists like Alanis often help us do through sharing of their own creativity.

 

Alanis Morissette – “Everything” Lyrics
Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

I can be an asshole of the grandest kind
I can withhold like it’s going out of style
I can be the moodiest baby and you’ve never met anyone
Who is as negative as I am sometimes
I am the wisest woman you’ve ever met
I am the kindest soul with whom you’ve connected
I have the bravest heart that you’ve ever seen and you’ve never met anyone
Who is as positive as I am sometimes

You see everything you see every part
You see all my light and you love my dark
You dig everything of which I’m ashamed
There’s not anything to which you can’t relate
And you’re still here

I blame everyone else and not my own partaking
My passive aggressive-ness can be devastating
I’m terrified and mistrusting and you’ve never met anyone
Who is as closed down as I am sometimes

You see everything you see every part
You see all my light and you love my dark
You dig everything of which I’m ashamed
There’s not anything to which you can’t relate
And you’re still here

What I resist persists and speaks louder than I know
What I resist you love no matter how low or high I go
I am the funniest woman that you’ve ever known
I am the dullest woman that you’ve ever known
I’m the most gorgeous woman that you’ve ever known and you’ve never met anyone
Who is as everything as I am sometimes

You see everything you see every part
You see all my light and you love my dark
You dig everything of which I’m ashamed
There’s not anything to which you can’t relate
And you’re still here

To Birds: Masters of Creativity

When I try to write something, there’s an intangible “voice” in my head that tells me that:

“You have nothing of worth to contribute.”

Sometimes, it’s so subtle that I don’t even notice it’s there and what I wanted to say turns into self-deflating and comical paragraphs without much content. At other times, there’s another distinct voice who, after looking at the above, turns around to look at me just like Kevin Spacey does in House of Cards and tells me:

“Well, that’s probably true.”

Many times, I stop at that, unconsciously discouraged by these voices in my own head. Sometimes I imagine a bird singing in the forest and wonder if they sometimes feel the same. “Should I sing? Or should I stay quiet? Is my bird song good enough to be expressed?”

And I wonder, if in the middle of a song, a bird ever goes “Ooh… That didn’t sound good…! Better shut up now!” Sort of that part of my brain which looks at what I’m writing and comments on it incessantly without having enough information to really judge it objectively. Do I judge a book by it’s first three paragraphs? No. Then why would I judge something I write by the first three letters?

Sort of what Henry van Dyke said:

“The woods would be quiet if no bird sang but the one that sang best.”

Birds are not perfectionists. They are smarter than humans in the sense that they just go for it and adjust as they go. Sure, many times they die in stupid ways, especially pigeons, but then again so do humans. And, thinking about it, dying in a stupid way is just as bad as dying in a non-stupid way, at least for the creature dying.

I wish I had the same levels of shame and perfectionism as a bird. Then I would write, create, sing, laugh, cry and live to the max and, if fortune was with me, I’d not die in a stupid way. Though I’d prefer to live to the max and die in a stupid way, than keep all my songs inside and then die anyway.

Art We Like and Don’t Like

Cristian Ungureanu - Gallery - Public Domain

What makes you like a certain work of art and not another?

What is it about music, prose or film that captures your attention?

Why are some people drawn to only masterpieces created by famous artists, yet others adore a painted ceramic tile created by an artisan in 5 minutes ?

All forms of art speak to parts of us. Therefore, because we have our own unique parts, we are drawn to different expressions of art.

Personally, I love Art that stops the mind chatter and connects me to a deep sense of calm and clarity. My perception changes, my mind feels clearer and I’m suddenly feeling more like myself and embodied. Being in London and travelling through the ‘tube’ (London’s version of the metro) gets me out of phase a little and I find walking through London’s National Gallery the perfect antidote to this. Tired eyes used to fluorescent lighting and computer screens, when confronted by Monet or other impressionists, somehow reawaken and my ‘mind-sense’ becomes vivid. This is, of course, what the impressionists were trying do! Monet, Renoir and Van Gogh were conveying their vivid, subjective experience or impressions of the world through their art.

Impressionism speaks to the parts of me that love seeing the magic in landscapes, being alive and feeling awed by existence. These parts of me are tired by city living so savour any time I spend in traditional art museums, hungrily lapping up alternate visions shining through the paintings.

Close up of Francesco Beda - A Game of Billiards
A close-up of Francesco Beda’s “A Game of Billiards” – Intriguing or boring?

While parts of us are drawn to some art, other parts might be repulsed by other forms creative expression. Discussing art is not a part of ArtIFS sessions, but I happened to get into a conversation about it with one of my clients. This client had a dislike for renaissance art because it reminded him his upbringing in a European city full of traditional art. Instead, parts of him were excited by more contemporary artists who created art that felt less limited by traditional art training or the judgement of what “art should be”. Modern art excited the parts of him that love innovation and playfulness.

 

Miro
What does this Miro trigger in you, if anything?

Multiplicity of the mind is still a new concept in this world. Imagine a time when we are all used to this way of seeing the mind and how this would affect how we see art around us. We’d love talking and connecting about our differences and why we like some things and not others. With regard to art, contemporary Art Critics or  the ‘snobbish’ parts of ourselves may no longer look down on parts of others that enjoy simplicity or ‘low brow’ art. Deriders of modern art might understand that some parts of others are just excited by new concepts in art.

On the other hand, multiplicity also helps us accept derision and judgement. As artists, our creative process would no longer be held back by fear of our own or others’ judgement. We could hold judgment compassionately or see it as constructive criticism or thoughts coming from parts of others.

Something else to think about – in the ‘Art World’, monetary value has been added to art that is innovative conceptually, aesthetically or by way of manufacture. What if value was added to what art can do for self discovery and our connection to our Self/others?