Ask Havi
For some reason we’ve been covering meditation-related stuff kind of a lot lately, what with the whole discussion on how to dump some of the meditation-related shoulds as well as my wacky tales of conversations with blocks.

So I bet lots of people have this question. Or a question that’s kinda related to this question.

And even if you don’t, maybe there’s something in this one for you anyway.

Man, I hope so.

The question:

“I’m hopefully not the first one to ask this:

How does one achieve a meditative state while sobbing like mad? I can’t seem to make it work…

Of course I haven’t tried any meditation without one of your helpful MP3s ’cause I’m not yet ready. Help when you have a second?

Thanks so much. Hugs to you, Selma, and your gentleman friend.”

Wow. Hard.

Well … the short answer is: you don’t

Believe me, I’ve tried and it doesn’t work. And it’s not fun.

It’s hard being in the stuck. And sometimes when you have a lot of sadness and pain to process, they demand a lot of your attention and time. Because they really, really want you to notice them.

And it can feel as though you’ll never be able to get a little peace.

Ironically (ow ow ow, it hurts), it’s the giving them attention part that helps them get quieter.

But the best way to give them attention is usually through some sort of meditative state and aaaaaaarrrgh, usually they’re so loud that you can’t get there.

So what ends up happening is that you can’t give them that attention even if you want to, which — if you’re even slightly like me — you probably don’t.

Oh, sweetie. I wish I had a perfect, magic solution for you. But all I can do is tell you what I do in this situation. So …

What I do when I’m sobbing like mad and can’t achieve any sort of meditative anything.

Let’s see. I generally do one (or more) of the following seven things.

You might like to try them in a different order, of course. No need to stick to the way they happened to come out of my brain this particular time.

And there’s definitely no need to limit yourself to my (or anyone else’s) limitations. :)

You’ll see how it goes. Should you find that one of these things tends to work especially well for you, go ahead and bump that one up to the top of your list.

Okay. Here’s what I’ve got.

1. Allowing yourself to be miserable.

I pretty much give myself permission to be sad/furious/miserable or whatever it is I’m feeling. Maybe I even give myself fifteen minutes to run around the house kicking walls and throwing things and wailing, or to just collapse in a puddle on the floor.

And I keep telling myself “I’m allowed to feel __________”. 

Or — if I totally don’t believe that — I’ll say, “Even though I’m still feeling _______ and I don’t want to be, this happens to be where I am right now so what the hell, I’m just going to let myself be there and remind myself that it’s not going to be like this forever.”

Rinse. Repeat.

2. A quick dose of calm.

If #1 doesn’t work, I will absolutely take ten minutes to listen to one of the Emergency Calming Technique audios. Or the Non-Sucky Yoga recording, which I know you also have.

Yes, I listen to my own audio recordings. That seems kind of insane, even to me. But they pretty much always do the trick.

Absolute worst case scenario? They’ll make you feel better equipped to deal with this, and you’ll be able to brainstorm possible solutions of your own and to feel less miserable about your options.

And no, it’s not cheating to listen to a recording. If that’s what helps get you there, go with that. The goal isn’t some idealized Tibetan cave meditation situation. It’s about opening a tiny door into a space that’s yours.

3. Systematic flailing and whirring of neural connections.

If #2 doesn’t work I do some Dance of Shiva.

Usually the frenetic whirling around of limbs and resulting state of chaos and confusion shuts down my brain long enough for me to be able to sit quietly. 

Dance of Shiva is by far the best preparing-oneself-for-meditation technique that I know.

I’ve used it with people in intense grief situations who were absolutely incapable of even closing their eyes without bursting into tears, and they were able to achieve several minutes of sitting quietly, which is a huge relief when you’re under that kind of strain.

Plus it will give you big, crazy insights into whatever patterns are behind this thing to begin with.

4. Permission not to meditate: granted.

If #3 doesn’t work I give myself permission to skip meditation entirely.

I remind myself that this situation is temporary, and that apparently what my body and mind need most right now is comfort and attention that is best received in a way that’s not meditating.

And then I crawl under a huge pile of blankets and put one hand on my heart and one hand on my belly and pay attention to the rhythm of my breathing. 

This is not “Oh fine, I’ll go back to bed.” Because that can end up triggering all sorts of (completely legitimate) fears about getting lost in the depression and the stuck.

It’s a conscious, active “I am intentionally giving myself this time and space to be with myself and my body so I can practice receiving comfort.”

Fifteen minutes or so works well to get you into a softly meditative state. After which you might even find that hey, you actually feel like meditating now.

OR that you’re not judging yourself for the fact that you can’t. Which is also great.

5. Sing! Sing! Sing!

If #4 doesn’t work I sing. Sometimes really softly and sometimes at the top of my lungs.

Generally speaking, it’s helpful to have a mantra or something meaningful to you, but really any song that doesn’t make you sad will work. A short song that you can put on repeat is also good. 

Sometimes I’ll sit with prayer beads and link one word of my song to each bead, which will really focus my attention.

Other times I just make up my own little sad song about everything I’m thinking about and just let it go through me until it’s done.

6. Acupressure magic.

If #5 doesn’t work, I make my gentleman friend do acupressure tapping on various points on my face.

I gave some especially useful and unconventional points in the Emergency Calming Techniques package, so you probably already have some favorites.

Here’s a PDF version of some more standard points. It’s not my favorite acupressure method in the world, but it will totally work for these purposes.

7. Ask yourself what you need.

Thankfully I’ve never experienced a situation where one of the above six things didn’t shift something for me, but if this should ever happen, here’s what I’d recommend for you:

Don’t force the meditation. Or the concept of it. Because it’s sooooo depressing when the thing that’s supposed to help you becomes a should.

Instead, see if you can maybe shift your focus to “what are some of the things I could do to meet myself where I am right now … so that I can achieve a little distance from this pain while still being close to myself?”*

*Or whatever less-cheesy version of that works for you. 

Hope that helps!

As an ex of mind used to say, “patience is a virtue but being virtuous kind of sucks…”

Right? It’s hard when you really want something to be happening now and it’s not. I know it.

Selma and I are wishing you (and everyone else who reads this) support and comfort and lots of everything you need … all the time, but especially when you need it. Keep us posted.