QUESTION: It feels like I am going through something of a change - in the way I want to live my life right now. I am feeling that I have been making some progress on one level, but also going backwards on another, so I am asking if you can help me a little, please.

On the progress level, I have recently been trying to meditate. Years ago, I learned transcendental meditation - chanting an inward mantra. I did it for a while, but gave up a while ago. Having decided to start again, I have been trying your way of grounding myself more in my body. It feels good, although I realize just how much there is going on in my head, so I find it quite difficult. Nevertheless, I like the breathing and posture and try to do it even at work from time to time, and I find it calms me down a little.

However, when I do manage to quieten my mind, I feel a deep sense of unease within myself. I feel fear, anger, and general insecurity. Is this to be expected? 

These feelings of anger and unease have recently been heightened by all of the political turmoil in the US and UK. I am appalled and angry about it. To me, the country has turned inward and unleashed a racism that is ugly and frightening.

I am also realizing that I am probably addicted to working and being busy. Certainly at the moment, I have surpassed myself in busyness and seem to be working virtually every day. In the past, I have worn this as a badge of honor, but I am just beginning to see that this is no way to live... it is all a bit crazy. I am also really tired... almost clinically tired at times. I am thinking that maybe my adrenal glands are so overworked that I have to just shut down at times... I have been feeling a bit unwell. Sometimes when I meditate, all that happens is that I fall asleep.

I have come to realize that some answers are at my disposal if I try to listen a little. I have, for example, understood that alcohol and rich foods don’t work for me at night, so I am trying to change this. I feel like this is still very much a “work in progress”, but I can see that some answers are literally staring me in the face.

ANSWER: True what you say: we are all being called to make a radical shift in our lives. Waking up is traumatic business; anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. The curse of all this feel-good New Age-y bullshit is its disservice to the truth, which is what you are experiencing. The “making some progress on one level, but also going backwards on another” is a natural progression for all of us. Rest assured, you are not messing up or missing something. That is the tempo of our psyches. Do not be disheartened, and keep at it. This is a life-long project you are engaged in.

Meditation is a powerful tool to slow down the noise and get a glimpse of what lies underneath. Your sense of unease and unearthing of all these unpleasant emotions is a case in point. To sit with one’s Self is not easy. We have become so estranged from ourselves and have fully confused the thinking mind with our true nature. This hypnosis takes much effort to undo.

It is absolutely normal to feel discomfort and anxiety when we start a meditation practice. This is to be expected. Actually, to not experience emotional discomfort means that we are bypassing an important step. The revelation of these emotions is the reason it is so difficult to maintain a meditation practice. Most schools of meditative practice espouse their system to be the best. They all have their strengths and weaknesses. The gift of Vedic mantra-based systems (that have become popular again, such as TM that you are practicing) is that through the repetition of a word we can learn to focus the mind and tame it from running amok. This is a powerful exercise. The one issue here is that we are in our heads all day long and, as such, are dissociated from our bodies. From an energetic perspective, where we place our awareness is where the energy flows. So if TM is your chosen practice, it is helpful to spend some time before and after to feel the body to ground your awareness back into your physical structure. The strength of awareness techniques, such as mindfulness, is that it can be practiced all day long and in all circumstances, as you are finding. Identifying with the body instead of the mind is another way to bring awareness into the moment.

To your point about busyness and exhaustion: I rarely treat people in my practice that are not utterly exhausted. Adrenal fatigue and exhaustion is an underlying epidemic. The anxiety that you are feeling when you slow down is the energy that fuels this constant activity. Which, in turn, leads to exhaustion. The advent of constant stimulation via electronic devices and mediums ensures that we never actually slow down, even in our off time. Again, our underlying anxiety is the fuel here. Unless we learn to tolerate that feeling, we are doomed to always be behind the eight ball, so to speak. Our bodies can not distinguish between thought and reality, this needs to be remembered. Constantly keeping our minds engaged, so as not to feel our feelings, will exhaust the body.

I have been receiving a ton of emails about people feeling deep dismay about the nature of present-day politics. One has to remember that the outside is merely a reflection of the inside. All our disowned aspects and shadows will come back to haunt us in grotesque ways. This is what is being mirrored back in our culture. There truly is no “us” and “them”. We take sides, and then think that the opposing side is a bunch of morons. We then spit the same venom back that we perceive is being thrown at us. Many things are not working on this planet and we are all co-creators of that. Especially so if we feel it is not us, it is “them”. We all play for the same team in the grand scheme of things. That has to be remembered. There is work to be done and we all have a piece to contribute. By sitting with ourselves, we will be shown what our roles are at this juncture in history. 

You already know when you say, “I have come to realize that some answers are at my disposal if I try to listen a little”. That is the truth and, as such, nurture that relationship. That is the gift of a relationship with Self: a fail-safe communication line that will always be a true guide. Nurture this relationship to have a true compass, or neglect it at your own peril. 

So all the ugliness that is being revealed is nothing new. It is all the unconscious unowned material coming up to be healed. There can be fleeting momentary relief by projecting it onto another (fill in your favorite political/sexual/race/environmental scapegoat here) and trying to destroy it there. Conversely, we can start the very, very difficult task of taking ownership for our piece in the shit show we have created. Here is an example of our collective unowned shadow: in our country, we are in a state of perpetual war both inside and out with ghastly consequences. Meanwhile, we have over 2.3 million people in jail, many of whom are working for less than five dollars per day for corporations that serve all of us. Even the most “liberal and spiritual” of us share responsibility for that. All of it. To repeat again: we are not helpless, as we are made to feel. Far from it, we all have an important role to play. The internal connection with our Self is the first step to start that ball rolling. The more we wake up, the less we will unconsciously feed into a creation that is killing us, our brethren, and the planet. The barking of the dogs of fascism at our heels is a real thing. How we respond is up to all of us moment to moment. As always, the time is now.