Meditating on a Bully

Shambala March2018

Once a month I come to this Shambala for seated meditation.

I practice sitting in the discomfort of my body and mind.

Yoga is teaching me to sit longer, to remain still, to be more prepared and compassionate for both kinds of discomfort, but I have a long way to go.

I’m learning to notice what comes up for me, without judging myself too harshly. Last night what came up was an 8th-grade bully named Scott who changed my life. I didn’t know how to handle his humiliation so I started skipping school, hanging out with tough kids, trying to fit in however I could–smoking cigarettes, taking risks, nearly running away.

The memory had first arisen earlier in the day, in response to a Facebook posting by a friend. She shared an essay by Marissa Korbel, Volcanoes, about the rage inside young girls and what becomes of it. For my generation, at least, the answer is some form of implosion. We suppress our emotions, blame ourselves for whatever happened, and move on.

Or not.

Maybe we kvetch, we shape our unresolved anger or sense of injustice into something that shows up as pessimism or sarcasm or self-pity. When I was 14, complaining about my crappy relationship with my father at the dinner table, my cousin told me I was inflicting my self-pity on everyone. He sounded so old saying that, so wise. I thought he was right. I was such a pain in the ass.

Looking back I realize my complaining was sort of a trial run at telling my family about other, deeper problems that weren’t directly related to my father at all. But I didn’t know how to talk about those. Or with whom.

Reading Korbel ignited something in me that needed attention.

So tonight I sat with the discomfort of it and noticed what had become comfortable: shame.

Growing up, my body and mind learned that shame was the acceptable substitute for outrage. As natural as converting oxygen to carbon dioxide. We take in the unfairness, we manufacture shame, we express it as awkward laughter or self-deprecation or self-harm.

I turned all this over, watching my breath.