As a student of meditation, I realize I find tremendous strength in stillness. In silence, I find the ability to surrender to the present moment, fully. In solitude, I am able to be with myself in a way that is new…deeply present, kind, and loving. I am learning how to meet whatever arises within me and outside of me with curiosity. I discover so much when I simply inquire, rather than judge. With mindfulness, fully steeped in the present moment, I am not in my past or my future, but only in the here and now.
As a psychiatrist, I discover quite the opposite. We spend time sorting through past traumas and losses, or anxieties about the future. I am in full dialogue, speaking feelings out loud. In psychotherapy, we share our human experiences and struggles with another person, and make sense of life together. We often identify fully with our emotions and thoughts and feel our feelings deeply. The letting go happens perhaps after months or years, not like the moment by moment letting go that happens within meditation.
I find that I weave back and forth between these roles in my life… student, client, psychiatrist. I am learning, in fact, I will always be learning, about the beauty of contemplation and quiet and surrender. At the same time, I myself have been in therapy for almost a decade, and have benefited tremendously from the deep examination of my past, and from the healing that occurs in the context of a relationship with another compassionate guide. As a psychiatrist, I am here to help my patients better understand themselves and move closer to the life they desire, which sometimes involves engaging in the past and future, and sometimes involves meditating together on what is true right now.
I cannot say that either meditation or psychotherapy holds the full answer, at least for me right now. I feel like they are like my right and left hands; each has its most critical function, and yet they work together in tandem. Psychotherapy allows one to make sense and meaning of one’s past, and meditation allows one to be with all that arises in that process with equanimity. Meditation fosters equilibrium and compassion, and relating with ourselves and others in a kind manner…often a salve for old wounds, and a possible roadmap forward.
I am learning how to be flexible with both tools, for myself and for my patients. Learning how and when and where each has its role, and how we can integrate both to sustain ourselves through our search for meaning and happiness.
I think there is a part of me that wants to believe that there is indeed “one” right way, one answer that will unlock a secret door to freedom. But I think the reality is that we are all creating a toolbox for ourselves, so that we have a skill set that we can call upon for all of the varied moments that arise within and outside of us. Over time, we develop a sense of self awareness and flexibility that allows us to know when we need to be alone, and when we need each other. When we need quiet and when we need to scream. When we need to look inward, and when we need to look outward. When we need to make sense of our experiences, and when we need to let go.
This is the journey that is unfolding for me, moment by moment. I can’t wait to see where it leads.
So today, and in the week ahead, I invite you to join me in considering how you are building your own toolbox of skills to navigate your life. Where and when do you crave silence, and where and when do you crave dialogue? How do the two intersect for you?
With gratitude, Monisha