This weekend a shamanic masseuse came to my home with hot stones.
Boy, did I need it.
I'd been traveling a lot, helping my mother transition into widowhood, getting my younger son's language tested... oh, and launching the first meditation app for women.
Not just any kind of meditation. I lead a yoga nidra meditation company for women. Yoga nidra is a sleep-based meditation technique.
I know. I know. How can I run a SLEEP-based meditation company and be exhausted? Well here's a secret: Meditating doesn't exempt you from periods of exhaustion.
As Pema Chodron says so well: Life falls apart, then it comes back together, then it falls apart again.
Relief from exhaustion takes more than a meditation gadget. Meditation helps, but for many women exhaustion often comes from this struggle to be who we're not.
Lately I'm noticing this manifesting in the bad bargains women make in life.
To understand fully what I mean by bad bargain, you have to understand that bad bargains often come from good ones.
Bad bargains start with the best intentions. A woman caretaking her aging parent who fights hard to get her mother services, who visits often, tires to stay positive and loving, sacrifices holidays to be there no matter what because her parent needs her. That's a good bargain. Many times in life we must go beyond our limits to help others.
The bad bargain starts -- and so does exhaustion -- when you discover years later you are living for one purpose only: to care take your parents.
That's a bad bargain.
I know all about bad bargains.
My son Jacob is severely dyslexic. At age 5 I was curious why he thought I said "cat" when I said "hat." And why when I told him a sight word was "the" the next time he saw "the" he had no idea what the letters spelled.
I had his hearing tested four times. His sight tested twice.
They told me not to worry. Kids read late. Boys talk later than girls.
Everyone seemed to be saying, Calm down, Crazy Mother.
So I kept the worry deep inside only sharing it with my husband and my bestie, Melissa.
By third grade Jacob dictated a poem to his teacher as part of a school project. Parents were invited to the poetry party. Each kid proudly read their poem. When it was Jacob's turn the teacher whispered his poem back to him so he could say it aloud.
The first sentence of his poem went like this:
I AM AS DARK AS A BOOKCOVER.
After that, I knew. I made the bargain. I now had one mission only: to get my child the support he needed.
So the years went by and I fought hard for my son. I felt alone. So alone. So not perfect, back in the days when perfect meant everything to me. I didn't know what to do. All I knew was that I had to protect my son no matter what.
And soon I was lost. Exhausted. Done.
The bad bargain had arrived.
The day before we met with the school district to determine funding for a special school for Jacob I drove my minivan to a far corner of our neighborhood and screamed like a lion.
WHYYYYYYYY? I began in pity party mode.
HELPPPPPPP! I prayed.
And then I cursed. Loudly. The "F" and "k" sounds shaking the car at its core.
I wanted to not be needed for one minute. I craved to not feel possessed.
I cried in my minivan for 20 minutes until I fell into silence. A deep bow. Stillness.
Which is when I remembered yoga nidra meditation. How could I forget?
I returned home later that evening and re-committed to yoga nidra meditation. Within weeks I started to feel a shift. My body felt relaxed for the first time in a while. I was in heaven.
But yoga nidra was not going to solve my bad bargain.
Contrary to all the hoopla, meditation isn't the solution to your exhaustion. Instead what meditation does is help you throw up the white flag. It helps you surrender. Meditation gives you an understanding that you've had enough. It gives you clear signs that it's time to stop a bad bargain.
It's so easy for women to make a bargain with ourselves. To focus only on other people's needs. We fall so easily into caregiver mode.
For a while this bargain may be necessary. Others may need us so we've got to step up. And that can be exhausting. But then there comes a time when the good bargain turns bad. There comes a time when focusing so intensely on another's needs and not your own is a bad bargain. That's what meditation helps us recognize.
Meditation is truly the art of surrender.
My son Jacob will always need me. By the end of sixth grade, age 12, he began reading. Not fluently, but good enough. Still today our journey isn't over. Last week he thought I said "test" when I had said "rest."
He's in 10th grade now, and my mind thinks: What about life after high school? That's why yoga nidra meditation Is as essential as my toothbrush. It helps clean up emotional debris. And with yoga nidra all I have to do is lie down, do nothing, and surrender.
Before yoga nidra I never paused for that surrender moment. Life was loud. I was so busy making sure Jacob was okay. I was attached to the bargain I'd made to protect him at all costs. My exhaustion was like a trance. I was addicted to it. And scared of it, too.
At some point as women we must stop being afraid to be in this place that feels like it's going to take us down. Letting go of the bad bargain can be frightening because we feel we must make a choice. It's either the bargain we made or the life we want.
But what if there was room for both? What if a bad bargain could be released when we stop turning on ourselves? When we trust that it's safe to embrace everything as it is.
Meditation is like a pause button so we can relax in this gap, Where we begin to understand that true freedom is not in this constant either/or battle that our culture wants us to believe. True freedom is in the gap.
So if you're looking to meditation for a quick fix to relieve exhaustion forget it. One week "meditation vacations" are like candy bars. They feel good for a minute, maybe you get a meditation high and your exhaustion fades a bit, but eventually you go back to the same patterns, the same bad bargains, and the exhaustion returns.
The true benefits of making a commitment to meditation comes from this deeper invitation to always be coming home to yourself. to stop the bad bargains and begin to feel fully alive.
There is no perfect formula for a happy life. Again, as Pema says, things fall apart, they come back together, then fall apart again.
Meditation is like the red thread keeping us connected to a source higher than ourselves, helping us peel off layers of exhaustion from all part of our lives, not just from the physical marathon of a busy day.
I tell women I coach all the time that if they want to shift out of exhaustion here's three ways to begin:
1. Commit to a meditation practice 3-5 times per week (ideally lying down).
2. Name your bad bargains.
3. Make a vow and commit to something you long for. Dream big.
Are you living with a bad bargain? Please leave a comment below. I'd love to hear from you.
DAY OF REST FOR WOMEN
Starting next week on Feb 2nd join me every 1st Monday of the Month for a Day of Rest for Women. 24 hours of yoga nidra meditation. Call in any time. It's free. Because women need it.
Click here to sign up for
call in details.