This is not then. This is now.

I started reading about meditation and mindfulness when I was about 18. I had pervasive feelings of sadness, as well as anxiety, which had lasted most of my life, and I had an inkling that if I could just learn to dwell in the present moment, without ruminating on the past and future, it would help me to overcome my “difficulties”, and perhaps learn how to be happy, or at least, not miserable.

One of the first things I remember reading on the subject of mindfulness was Wherever You Go, There You Are by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn. I was interested in learning to practice meditation, but I never quite caught on to Buddhist-style meditation. Simply sitting, trying to calm myself and pretend I’m a mountain or something does noooot work for me. My attention span just can’t handle it. Much more recently, I’ve learned to use mantra and have finally opened the door to a meditation practice that I can stick with.

However, I haven’t completely thrown mindfulness out the window. It just took me a really, really long time to get the hang of it. Jon Kabat-Zinn participated in the writing of another book, The Mindful Way Through Depression. I read this one when I was a little older. I distinctly remember, it was back when I started working for the TEA in 2007 and I was going through a bad episode, and I was desperately trying to learn how to concentrate on staying in the present moment as a way to alleviate depression. It simply would not click at the time. Honestly, I think I was too depressed. As Mindful points out, it is difficult to undertake the hard work of reworking your thought patterns when you are caught in the death spiral of depression: you are sad, you are exhausted, you stop taking pleasure in anything, you stop engaging in activities that keep you connected…and thoughts of worthlessness and cynicism take over.

From The Mindful Way Through Depression: “When depression starts to pull us down, we often react, for very understandable reasons, by trying to get rid of our feelings by suppressing them or by trying to think our way out of them. In the process we dredge up past regrets and conjure up future worries. In our heads, we try out this solution and that solution, and it doesn’t take long for us to start feeling bad for failing to come up with a way to alleviate the painful emotions we’re feeling. We get lost in comparisons of where we are versus where we want to be, soon living almost entirely in our heads. We become preoccupied. We lose touch with the world, with the people around us, even with those we most love and those who most love us. We deny ourselves the rich input of the full experience of living.”

This perfectly describes my experience. One example of a typical depressive thought pattern, for me: I get depressed when it is summer, or when it’s endlessly sunny. The only thing I can come up with as a reason for this is that I feel that I am supposed to be happy that it’s sunny, and everyone else is happy about it, and yet I feel as crappy as usual. I’ve felt this way for as long as I can remember. Often such thoughts will come to me when I’m driving, or some other time when I’m alone with my thoughts. When these thoughts strike, what I am feeling is not only the emotion of that moment, but the weight of all the previous moments when I had such awful feelings. Therefore, I am experiencing the misery of not just the present moment, but of all the miserable moments. I then start to feel bad about feeling bad. I try to think my way out of depression, and tell myself reasons why I should not be depressed.

I don’t know when, exactly, I came up with my own little personal mantra to get around this shitty spiral, but here it is: “This is not then. This is now.” When I have a moment of depression, and I feel the weight of the years trying to bear down on my brain, like I have allowed them to do for so long, I just say my little mantra to myself. It helps my brain to understand that I am not required to feel all the ugly feelings of sadness from childhood onward all at once. It also helps me understand that the feeling will not last forever. Even if the feeling you have in the present moment is not good, you can handle it…as long as you are not experiencing ALL of your bad moments, ever.

People who are not depressed must already know the trick of getting around this. I don’t know why some people are capable of learning this so much earlier on. Probably something to do with the personalities we are born with, the environments we grow up in, etc…I don’t know. It doesn’t matter now. The old thought patterns are there. You can’t change the past. But you can change your reaction to them. In the present moment. Let thoughts come up, don’t run from them. Avoidance is repression. But just remind yourself…this is not any other time. This is not then. This is now.


Burning Inner Anger

Friday marked the 40th and final day of the “burning inner anger” practice I’ve been participating in, which most of you have probably heard me talk about.  What does that entail, you ask?  Why, I’d be delighted to tell you!

First, let me throw a few kundalini yoga terms out there.  In yoga, our daily spiritual practice is called “sadhana”.  Right now, I am participating in a global sadhana.  Over a thousand yogis around the world are practicing this sadhana, for the most part, for the same 40 days.

“Burning inner anger” is divided into two 11-minute sections.  The first half is a “pranayam”, or breathing exercise.  During this exercise, you put your left hand over your heart center, or heart chakra.  Your right arm is extended into the air at a 60-degree angle.  The pointer and middle finger of that hand are extended, with the thumb over the ring and pinky fingers, which are tucked under.  You breath in, then out, etc, for two seconds each time, with your mouth in an O-shape.  Pranayams have interesting physiological effects.  This breathing and posture does much to detoxify your body.  For this reason, it can make you feel sick.  When I started this practice, I was just getting over bronchitis, and I couldn’t tell whether I felt sick because of that, or some new illness.  I then realized that the mild fever, digestive upset, and general craziness were a result of much toxin-releasing.

Holding your right arm in the air as required for this practice is much more difficult than I could have known.  In the beginning, I ended up dropping my arm often.  This improved over time, and by day 30, I could keep my arm up for most of the time, which was gratifying.  When I did this pranayam, the results varied.  Some days it was a more peaceful experience.  On other days, often on days where I was already angry, I tapped into anger much more and experienced a really intense unloading of anger.  It was not pleasant, and made me feel icky.  Of course, this is how I knew it was working!  I know that I have a lot of repressed anger, and it felt awesome to know that I was ridding my body of old anger and other damaging emotion.

The second part of the practice is 11 minutes of meditating and chanting.  The chant is one that goes: “Guru guru wahe guru, guru ram das guru.”  Here’s some info about the mantra from  “This is a mantra of humility, relaxation and self healing.  It projects the mind to infinity, then allows a finite guiding relationship to come into your life.The first part (Guru Guru Wahe Guru)  projects the mind to the source of knowledge and ecstacy.  The second part (Guru Ram Das Guru) means, the wisdom that comes as a servant of the Infinite.  This chant can carry you through the darkest times, answer the deepest prayers, and bring healing on many levels.  Guru [means] teacher or guide that brings one from the darkness to the light. Wahe [is an] exclamation of ecstacy like ”WOW!”  Ram Das literally translates as “God’s Servant”, but also refers to Guru Ram Das, the Fourth Guru of the Sikhs.”

Much of kundalini yoga is tied up with Sikhism.  I won’t go into detail here about the practices of the Sikhs.  Suffice to say, the Sikh religion has a lot of nice ideas, but it also has the rituals and requirements of any organized religion…and I have no intention of practicing a formal, organized religion…which is also a topic for another blog post!

Regardless, I have found a lot of peace with kundalini yoga.  It has helped me learn to meditate.  It also helps to strengthen the nervous system.  This particular practice, burning inner anger, has been transformative.  I find that I am better able to respond with equanimity and compassion.  In the past my reactions have been, shall we say…hot-headed.  My work has just begun.  I feel I could spend a much longer time “burning inner anger” before the work is complete.  However, yesterday, day 41, I did not do the meditation, because I was too busy.  The thing with these meditations is, that if you miss a day, you must start over!  So I will leave it at 40 days for now.  40 days is, apparently, the amount of time it takes many of your body’s cells to regenerate.  You are making a real change in your body in that time.  40 days is also supposedly the amount of time required to break a bad habit.  It takes 90 days to form a new, healthier habit, and 1000 days to reach mastery.

I do plan to revisit this burning inner anger practice someday.  For now, I think I will move on to a practice for compassion and trust.  I feel that this is most important for me in terms of growth.  The more I have compassion for others, and truly understand them, the more full of light and love I feel.


I’ve been through many emotional ups and downs since I wrote this blog.  Depression has a way of resurfacing when you stop working, daily, to keep yourself healthy.  I really have not been meditating, or practicing some of the other healthy habits that keep me in a good frame of mind.  In particular, I have been experiencing a lot of anger (as well as sadness).  I’ve worked on several blogs that I have not published yet, because I’ve been a little too overwhelmed to deal with it.  At the time I first did this practice, “Burning Inner Anger,” I sensed that 40 days would not be enough.  I was right.  Last Friday, February 16, 2012, I began this practice again.  My intention is to take this practice far beyond 40 days this time around.  As I mentioned above, many spiritual traditions consider 40 to be an important number.  In the kundalini yoga tradition, it’s said that it takes 40 days to change a habit, and 90 days to confirm the habit.  After 120 days, you are the new habit.  If you practice for 1,000 days, you master the new habit.  I do not know if 1,000 days is realistic for me, but wouldn’t it be wonderful to master the habit of not letting yourself get carried away with anger?  I have not yet made the 1,000 day decision, but, at this point, I am committed to 120 days.  As I get farther into this four-month period, I’ll decide if I can (and need to) commit to years of this practice. 

I’ve also, lately, been exploring mindfulness and meditation from a Buddhist perspective.  Hopefully, I’ll write more about that soon.