Words are such an integral part of our existence. Moving back to America, where I can speak my mother tongue all the time, has given me a new appreciation for verbal communication that I didn't have before I spent four years handicapped by my inability to fully learn Italian. In that experience in Italy, I was really eager to learn the language and had high hopes that after a few months I would be having conversations easily in Italian. Despite taking private lessons, group lessons, online lessons, coordinating numerous language exchanges (a mix of linguistical backgrounds speaking half the time in Italian and the other half in English or another language), and a lot of independent learning with workbooks, Italian books, and CDs, I never got truly comfortable with Italian. I could have a conversation if the other participant was generous enough to speak rather simply, not too fast, and could meet me halfway with what I was trying to get across.
Being fully immersed in an English-speaking setting again is very comforting. Silly things that shouldn't require much thought, like returning something to Target, don't take much thought again; but if something required returning when I lived in Italy, sometimes I decided it just wasn't worth the mental effort. Trying to get things done when you're hindered by language requires not only knowing what you want to achieve (do I want a refund? Exchange? Credit?) and an advanced understanding of whether its even feasible (things that are givens in my culture were not always givens in Italian culture), and then forming the right words with the right verb conjugations to get the point across, and then enough understanding of the spoken word to be able to comprehend the response, which can be extra tricky if I managed to seem confident with what I said so the responder overestimated how quickly they could speak!
So, I'm back in American now so all my language issues are resolved, right? Unfortunately, no! More and more I am realizing what a hinderance my brain's insistence on using language for EVERYTHING gets in the way of me going deeper in my meditation. For instance, during meditation I will be just realizing that light is appearing, for instance, and my mind immediately starts putting words to it. My brain starts describing the light - how bright it is, if it's growing, when it started, what colors are there - and as soon as I start putting language to it I start to remove myself from the situation and the experience starts to dull.
So much of meditation comes from our feeling nature instead of our thinking nature. We obviously need to engage some thinking, particularly when meditating alone so we can transition through various techniques. However, it's our feeling nature that really gets us to go deeper in meditation. We want to immerse ourselves into the experience and feel that we are getting into that divine flow. We are aiming to get beyond language. Language uses the part of the brain which we are not trying to activate through meditation, which is why when I have an experience in meditation such as feeling divine peace and then I start to narrate to myself what is happening, the experience starts to wane. It has even gotten to the point where when I am in a complete feeling mode, the first words that creep into my mind are something like, "Don't try putting words to this." Mamma mia!
For me, this experience of the language interfering with my experience is frustrating. In other words, it is an opportunity for me to practice being patient with myself and also a reminder that we call it a meditation "practice" because that is what we are doing. We are practicing. And with that practice and with our willpower we are training our minds more and more to be more effective at meditating.
I am an Ananda® certified meditation teacher. I am passionate about meditation and embrace a yogic lifestyle for greater wellness physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
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