Off & Running
a Blog of Life on the Run

June
21,
2014



"Life is pain because we expect it to go differently," says a beautiful zen Buddhist priest sitting in front of a yoga studio full of uncomfortable, worn out people. We sit on cushions on a cloudy Saturday at lil omm yoga contorting our bodies in order to put our butt and both knees comfortably on the floor with our backs erect. Comfortably?! I judge myself because my body doesn't do that. We all want to sit the way she does. We yearn for peace. For zen. And not have our legs fall asleep.

"Sitting is simple, but it's not easy. Don't criticize or discourage youself," says Karen Maezen Miller as she explains her 20+ years of practicing sitting. She tells us how she would annoy her 78-year-old instructor with trying too hard, even in recent years. She tells us her struggles, answers our questions with ease, and gives us a peek into her mind when she's not so zen dealing with her tween.

"I sit to create a better world through shutting up," she says as we laugh. We understand. Until yesterday, I had never heard of meditating as sitting. Maezen practices Zazen meditation, the one you do with open eyes blankly staring at a spot 2.5 feet in front of your nose with your head held high. Your tailbone and both knees are on the floor with your legs crossed. Your hands are held in a harmonious place just above your pelvic bone. Picture yourself sitting like a Buddha statue.

"Whatever you practice, you do. If it seems difficult, practice it." Sitting is a practice. Quieting your mind takes practice. Being silent takes practice. We've all been practicing busy lives for years. It won't change in a 20 minute meditation. It takes practice.

Pain is an indicator to change.

Escape, not change, has been my answer to pain. Escaping with alcohol, escaping with anger, escaping with control, escaping with walking away. Change has not been a focus. Ego has controlled how I run my life, not because I'm egotistical, but because I'm human. I always thought walking away was change, but it was really just running away. I've left numerous things thinking everything would be different, but I was always there. I'm an ever present part of my life. 

Until last Sunday when I decided to change. Last Sunday started 30 days without escape. 30 days of challenging my struggles head on. 30 days without my biggest way to escape - alcohol. 

I announced my 30 days to the world via Facebook & Twitter. Many thought I was crazy, others were amazed, while others were encouraging. By announcing this, I started hearing their stories. My vulnerability allowed them to share theirs. 

I'm not amazing. This is hard. This is struggle. This is life. I have no more resolve than the next person, I just found my weakness and decided to cut it loose. I don't believe I'm an alcoholic... yet. I do believe I am a human who has created a habit of escape. 

I keep hearing the question: "Why have you challenged yourself with 30 days without alcohol? My answer: To seek clarity. To be in my life fully, daily. To stop making bad decisions. To live the life God asked me to live. Fully.

One of my life goals is:
to live a life without limits.

Tomorrow morning, I'm heading to my first AA meeting with a 12-step friend to meet others who have escaped with alcohol. To hear their stories, to know their pain, to find solidarity, to feel like I'm not alone in my struggles. And at the end of 30 days, I may just keep going. I may just find myself happily living without it. Who knows.

It's only today, day 8. And I'm finding peace. I'm finding meditation. I'm finding other useful ways to spend my time. With clarity. With poise. With good decisions.

"Modest ambitions can be the most heroic." Thank you, Karen Maezen Miller. Your workshop was a great step on my journey. I will stop criticizing myself. I will just sit.

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