In last week's post The Courage to Change, I mentioned that I would be attending a 10-day meditation course. People I talk to often think this was a restful thing all about learning to quiet the mind. In fact I thought it would be kind of like that myself. Instead I confronted the Three Faces of Ama.
The truth is that while I did learn about quieting my mind that was only a small portion of the 10 days. The training took a lot of hard work. There were days where my entire body ached. All I wanted was a massage or one of Nana Kwaku's manipulations or acupuncture treatments.
We were not allowed to speak to others, read, or write so I had lots of time for self-reflection. Everyday I took a walk on the women's nature trail. Each day as I sat and meditated (for many hours) or as I walked, I confronted some of my dysfunctional or uncomfortable thought processes and demons from the past. On one of those days I was reminded of an exercise I had done some 10 years or so back.
I was at that time going to a chiropractor, a massage therapist and had tried cranial sacral therapy to address the back pain I had been suffering from since my second pregnancy 15 years earlier. I had realized that most of my aches and pains are on one side of my body. I wondered why that was. I getting some treatment or another when a memory came back to me. When I was little I use to play an imaginary game with one hand talking to the other. One hand was "Good Ama" and the other was "Bad Ama" (or Laura as is my birth name) but I can't remember which hand was which.
So I wondered, which Ama was the side that ached? Was it Good Ama or was it Bad Ama? I thought maybe it was Good Ama.
I also remembered something I had seen once about how our faces are different on each side. So I decided to see if I could figure out which side was which. I took a photo of myself and through the magic of computers created one face made up of just the image from the left side, and one just from the image on the right side. The results were startling. I could only look at it for a few seconds the first time. My daughter and I laughed hysterically. (Interestingly when I repeated this exercise today it didn't impact me as much.)
What I saw was one me that seemed more gentle and controlled, and one me that seemed more stern and wild. Interestingly I found that it was the "wild or bad" side that ached not the "gentle or good" side. Maybe I was trying to keep that wild side tame? Who knows. Also interestingly, the "good" side looked more like the whole and real me. So those many years ago I reflected on embracing and celebrating both side of me and integrating them into a complete and whole ME!
Anyway, fast forward to today. During the meditation course I thought about those three Amas again. Once again I was struggling to recognize and acknowledge those aspects of myself that were sometimes uncomfortable or didn't fit in with the image I had of myself or the image I want to portray.
Here is my Three Faces of Ama photo from today.
The 10-day course I took taught Vipassana meditation. According to the International Vipassana training website:
"Vipassana is a way of self-transformation through self-observation. It focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body, which can be experienced directly by disciplined attention to the physical sensations that form the life of the body, and that continuously interconnect and condition the life of the mind. It is this observation-based, self-exploratory journey to the common root of mind and body that dissolves mental impurity, resulting in a balanced mind full of love and compassion."
We were taught to observe the bodily sensations as well as our thoughts with out reaction. No craving for more of what we want. No aversion for what we don't. No judging, no trying to change things. Just observe and "remain equanimous."
So here I was again looking at Good Ama and Bad Ama (who I do realize isn't bad at all), and continuing the work of true self acceptance. By the end of the 10 days the aches and pains I have had for 25 years had for the most part melted away! And I have begun to notice what experiences tend to cause them to return.
All in all it was a life changing experience. I went at the urging of Nana Kwaku. He regularly recommends this experience for his patients as a part of his Rule Book And User Guide For Healthy Living approach to healing. My work is not done. I know that I will need to meditate regularly to maintain this state and to progress through even deeper levels of growth.
As people of Afrikan descent we confront many experiences that can lead us to feelings of craving or aversion. The system of oppression that we live under leads many of us to feelings of aversion–self hatred, anger or hatred towards those that oppress, rejection of Afrikan or Black culture; as well as feelings of craving–Euro standards of beauty, inclusion in "mainstream" society, or to escape the reality we now live in.
These aversions and cravings can lead to high stress levels and negative impact on your health. It leads to addictions, self sabotaging behavior, and to suffering and unhappiness. It can be what sends you in a downward spiral of over eating the unhealthy foods you are trying to avoid. It can be paralyzing, preventing you from realizing your potential and stunting your progress.
Developing an equanimous approach is not about sticking your head in the sand or turning the other cheek. It is about observing what is happening without mindless self-defeating reactions. It's about understanding yourself and your reactions and claiming your power to choose. It is about taking control and unleashing your greatness in the pursuit of fulfilling your life purpose.
We are a great and strong people with great potential and power. When we move away from reaction and unawareness and towards awareness and purposeful movement we open the door to reaching that potential.
If you are interested in finding out more about the Vipassana training visit their website. They have training sites all over the world. I went to the site in Jesup Georgia. The course, lodging, and food are all provided at NO cost! They will provide an opportunity for you to make a donation according to your means at the end if you are so inclined, but it is not required. I highly recommend taking the time to learn this powerful technique.
Now I would love to hear from you.
What are the different faces of you? Where do you meet these faces? What's holding you back from reaching your potential?