When I started to meditate, three years ago today, I thought meditation might help me to feel serene and focused. Beyond that was the glitter of spiritual guidance and wisdom. And beyond that some nebulous and wonderful universe of transcendence. All of these vague hopes were, and continue to be, true.
What is also true is meditation has awakened and brought rolling to the surface, with insistent force, my anger, my grief, my frustration and my fear. A younger incarnation of me might have thought meditation was giving me these things. It might have thought, ‘Woah, this whole ‘being present’ inside my own body thing is making me so damn angry. I’d better stop, right now…’
But the truth is, those things came up during meditation because they were already inside me. For whatever reason I hadn’t been able to fully experience and therefore digest and release them when they were happening, so I’d packed them neatly (or not) away for later (or for never). And whichever subconscious caretaker part of me had done the packing thought that everything would stay hidden inside their boxes. But the boxes just piled up and every so often one of them would leak and I’d have a strange and out of proportion reaction to something that really didn’t warrant such grandiosity.
One of the places meditation takes me is a warehouse inside my skin, filled with boxes that are greying with age, dusted with cobwebs, left off the ledger, lonely and unknown. It guides me inside the cavernous space and it gently lifts the lids of the boxes. And as they open their contents sweep through me and I am gripped with rivers of emotion and memory and physical experience. And like rivers, they flow in and then out. Meditation sits inside my skin, holding me present and aware while I experience something I thought I could never experience. And afterwards, feeling like a little facecloth that has been wrung and wrung, the boxes disintegrate in my hands and I am left with empty space.
Sometimes the space feels lonely, because the boxes had been there a long time and I was used to them. They each have their own song, their own colour and taste and feel. They felt like being cut open at twenty-four hours old in an emergency operation, they felt like my Dad dying in an accident when I was four, they felt like realising I had cystic fibrosis when I was six, they felt like bullying and misunderstanding and a little girl struggling to hold herself together and trying to hold everyone around her together too.
I had a recurrent dream when I was a child, one of the only dreams I remembered on waking. I would be inside a dark and enormous space and it would be filled with boxes. I would be moving the boxes and I would feel in control and powerful. While I was moving the boxes, I would realise they had grown enormous, the size of mountains and suddenly I would be carrying many of them at a time. Eventually I would realise that I was holding up all the boxes at the same time. Then that I was holding up the whole universe and I couldn’t put it down and it was growing and growing and I just had to keep holding it. I would wake up sweating and dragging in air and I would usually throw up.
I didn’t understand that dream until I began to write this piece. And I didn’t know I was finished packing boxes until this moment.