I can’t believe the story I’m about to share took place over ten years ago – so much has happened since then! But this is still a special story for me, because it happened at a pivot point in my spiritual exploration, just as I was becoming a more focused practitioner.
The curtains open to a fairly typical therapist’s office, with lots of books, a comfy sofa with a throw nearby. I’d been going for about a year by this time, because I felt so deeply out of place in my life… unseen, unheard, doing what was expected, but wrestling my way out. My health was bad, our family turbulent, things were just not getting better.
In retrospect I can see that I didn’t go there because I wanted to work on myself necessarily, but because I wanted permission to assert myself, to change the situation. I wanted someone to say that my happiness counted as much as anyone else’s, especially because it wasn’t just my unhappiness at hand.
What I got, were tools to make space in my thinking, to learn to enjoy the wealth inherent in my breath, in listening and being listened to, in simple gestures like being handed a tissue or cup of tea.
Over time I learned that making a specific place to discuss certain things, can be quite powerful: you don’t need to carry them around the rest of the time.
I’d sought a therapist who had some background in hypnosis, because ‘while I was there’ I also thought to overcome the shyness and anxiety that had plagued various public speaking efforts over the years. I imagined he might put me under and I’d emerge with the kind of confidence I had as a young adult after a few drinks. 😉
What he did, along with simply listening and asking good questions, was lead me in a guided meditation he then burned to a CD, so I could play it at home a few times a day. In the meditation, he walked me through a visualization of support, where I imagined there to be layers of firm ground beneath me, from which stance I could imagine finding spacious proportion in the moment, perspective. I thought, for many months, that it wasn’t working at all, but I did start to notice a few things.
I first noticed that I could see farther. While I was driving especially, or out and about, I found that what was familiar to me no longer felt as familiar. The distance was clearer somehow.
Then, standing in lines wasn’t as much of a burden. Rather than feeling boredom or pressure while waiting in the many lines a modern life entails, I now could locate ease, even pleasure, testing the new boundaries.
Once I began to see the visualization was actually helping, at least with my daily sanity, I sought out others. These were more esoteric and elaborate. In them, the guide would walk me, the listener, through meadows and along streams, maybe to encounter others or into libraries which housed all the answers I could possibly wish for.
The guided visualizations were relaxing, sometimes emotionally moving, but didn’t feel quite personal enough. And that is when I encountered Eckhart Tolle.
Looking back now, what is odd is that for many years I’d been reading books about mind-body connection, mostly by Deepak Chopra, and these books led through meditations. I remember going along especially as I listened to books on audio. The same is true for a few others, like Andrew Weil. What I don’t understand, is why it was so different, so potent, to encounter Tolle when I did, and to take his simple guidance to notice breaths at natural openings. Why so much changed then.
That may be why, actually.
The timing may have been right because I was receptive, really seeking, and because his guidance was something I could incorporate secretly all through the day, not bothering anyone (back then the process wasn’t something I talked about with others).
Rather than seeking permission to change everything, I had settled on the idea that things might indeed change on their own if I continued to find happiness in small, independent ways, like counting breaths at stoplights.
I live in South Florida, where a defining characteristic is driving, everywhere, through heavy traffic, in hot cars – so stoplights are incredibly abundant. I started with five breaths, then ten, then I stopped having a number at all, because the response became automatic, shifting into a more spacious gear at every opportunity.
The timing may have also been right because of the collective awakening that began to find traction around that time. People were becoming more receptive to meditation and spirituality, beyond just positive thinking and fitness. It is still hard to pinpoint how long this phase went on before I began noticing more changes, like laughing louder and sleeping less.
The pathway was coming clearer and clearer. I knew that I was on the cusp of something durable.