How Meditation Can Restrict Your Freedom and How To Make Sure It Doesn’t
My private inner world is sacred territory. No one and nothing has permission to trespass on the freedom of that private space. I’ve known that since I was very young.
When I was a child, the outside called me. More often than not, I could be found in the garden of our home in England where I grew up, mapping a circular path around the apple trees, in deep communion with my inner life. My inner territory took me everywhere, from the everyday to the more extraordinary, enchanted realms. I loved this time – the freedom, the boundless spaces, the adventure of it. I always emerged refreshed, enlivened and with a deeper sense of connection to the world around me. I didn’t realise until later that – instinctively – I was meditating.
As I grew up, this practice of going into my own world increasingly became a way to release myself from life’s pressures, to stretch myself fully in this unrestricted territory. It became a valuable time to recover those parts of me I’d had to hide or hold back. This was the one time and space where I had the freedom to be completely myself because -–and we forget this – no one watches you on the inside but you.
As I approached and entered adulthood, I lost that habit in that classic “putting away of childish ways” we sometimes have, ignorant of the fact there is an abundance of instinctive wisdom flowing through those ways.
It was only when I became seriously ill in my twenties and started to look more deeply into my inner health that I remembered how my whole nervous system had hummed with pleasure when I gave it the freedom to unwind and renew. Freedom is healing.
And this – this internal space, which is yours and no one else’s nor anyone else’s business, is exactly the place where you get to cultivate that freedom.
People have probably been meditating this way since the beginning of time – indeed there is plenty of evidence to suggest this. Robust science holds that we are wired to do this and every time we have a few moments absorbed in something, enthralled by something or lost in a daydream, our mind-body system flows freely into rest/repair healing mode.
The key is to release effort, to give free reign to your awareness and not to get into a lather about having thoughts. A healthy brain has around 50 thoughts a minute. More blood flows here than in any other organ. The richness of our minds is a manifestation of our vitality. Minds don’t wander, but they love to journey. Offering them that freedom is to honour our aliveness. That drift that so many people are taught to resist with all their might when meditating, is actually a sign of going deeper.
Untethered by the need to focus, concentrate, edit or block, there can be a boundlessness about this space – a wildness – which is extremely liberating and healing if you let it. Science has told us that spending as little as 20 minutes in this space rests and refreshes us more than a whole night’s sleep.
And yet there is still a tyrannical lexicon in meditation which demands we sacrifice the freedom of our inner private world in a way we would never agree to do when it comes to outer life.
Women learning to meditate are being taught they must be still, be quiet, not think their thoughts, not feel their emotions, not dream their dreams; to ignore their instincts to move, vocalise, laugh or cry. Not be themselves. To shut out the sacred hum of life inside them as if were a swarm of irritating insects.
It helps to understand where the classic image of meditation comes from. That person sitting cross-legged in lotus attempting to block their thoughts is taking their instructions from the traditions of monks -celibate men living in monasteries thousands of years ago.
Meditating to block out the world is appropriate if you are a person who has renounced the world, all your possessions and even your own name. It is helpful if you must turn away from thoughts of food and sex and relationship.
The women I know are vibrant and vital. They sparkle and sing and laugh and express their thoughts and feelings with fierce passion. They animate life and make it more vivid for everyone around them. You are probably one of these. Imagine then, how you might feel were you to take some time and space every day to pour all that sparkling energy back into you? To feel all these sacred energies as a dance of vitality? To tune deeply into your own shimmering essence and let it tune you up?
Our lives are richly connected and we have many calls on our energies. We need healthy inner practices to allow us to engage as richly as we do with life. We are sensory, intuitive and connected to deep currents of wisdom. Allowing all the impulses of life inside us to circulate freely is part of our vibrancy – if we deaden or block these – we lose our vitality.
Did you know that meditation, instinctively and beyond the rules, is all about freedom? That it can be about becoming more you? That you are part of a rich lineage going back to your earliest ancestors who knew how to dance with life in their own private inner space, not fight it?
I offer you this invitation. Next time you hear a meditation instruction that asks you to supress your aliveness in some way – to still, to resist, to force, to focus, to anchor, to subdue – claim your freedom to meditate your way. Reclaim that inner world of yours for what it is – a vast and spacious territory, shimmering with vitality and in it, your presence as exactly who you are, no need to edit or filter yourself in any way. You are perfect and perfectly free.
I have been lucky enough to work and study with two of the great experts in instinctive meditation, Lorin Roche PHD and Camille Maurine.For a rich and wise appreciation of female meditation read “Meditation Secrets For Women” by Camille Maurine, HarperCollins.