Take What You Need

I’ve been feeling both antsy and lethargic since Sharon Salzberg’s “official” meditation challenge was over in February. I almost hate to admit it, but I went a few days without meditating. I thought about it. But I didn’t do it.

I noticed a few things. First of all, I didn’t feel as good, just in general. I was more tired than usual, and I spent a lot of time lying on the couch. Now this could be for any number of reasons (a lot of people have been getting sick around here). It did cross my mind, though, that I was going through meditation withdrawal—or maybe even Sharon withdrawal 🙂 The second thing I noticed was a bit of a shocker: I wasn’t beating up on myself.  In the past I would’ve condemned myself for being a “fraud”—here I spent a month blogging about meditation and then I quit. Yet, I remembered Sharon’s words from Week One. The “magic” in meditation is learning that we can begin again. Maybe we made a poor choice about something; we can begin again. Maybe we said some unkind words to someone; we can apologize and begin again. Maybe we ate too many Oreos; we don’t have to wait for tomorrow (or Monday morning) to start eating healthier. We can begin again, right now.

Of course, I didn’t have these revelations with out a tiny bit of struggle.

Yesterday I was pacing around the living room, feeling wound up and agitated, and I told Greg, “I just don’t know what I need.” Fortunately, he sometimes knows what I need better than I know myself. He said, “Why don’t you go and meditate?” Hmm. That sounded okay. So I went into the room that I have dedicated to this practice. I have a picture on a little table that says, “Take what you need.” I lit a candle, gazed at the picture, and enjoyed some soothing music for a while. Then I listened to Sharon Salzburg’s breathing meditation, and followed with some more meditating on my own.

I love the saying, “Take What You Need.”* But what if you don’t know what you need? What then? What if I hadn’t had Greg to nudge me in the right direction? I felt so relaxed and peaceful after meditating. Why had it taken me days to figure out that’s what I needed?

Of course, I always like things to be wrapped up in a neat little package. I asked Greg to help me brainstorm “tips” for how to figure out what you need. It seems like all good blog posts need tips. (My niece would add “LOL” at this point.) Without pausing, Greg replied, “When you don’t know what you need, just let yourself be.” Well, that sounds poetic, but it wasn’t very satisfying to me. I still had the urge to “operationalize” it more. Here’s what I came up with:

  • Accept the fact that you don’t know what you need.
  • Give yourself compassion for not knowing what you need. Say things to yourself such as, “It’s hard when you don’t know what you need.”
  • Try some things on for size: Do you need to call a friend? Do you need to take a warm bath? Perhaps make a cup of tea? Do something you’ve been putting off?
  • Realize that you may need more than one thing. Just try one and see how it goes. You can always change. You can always begin again.

I wonder whether, over time, meditation will help me be more in tune with what I need at each moment. I’m betting the answer is yes. But I’ll let you know.

(If you enjoyed this post, click on over to my Facebook page and hit like. I post shorter tidbits about self-compassion, share good links, and let you know when I’ve written something new. Thanks for your support!)

*See Kelly Rae Roberts blog for some of her awe-inspiring artwork and the idea behind this picture.

6 thoughts on “Take What You Need

  1. I had exactly the same reaction after Sharon’s program, back in Sept 2011. I didn’t stop directly afterwards, but it tailed off. I got antsy, depressed, all kinds of things, reacting like a child would if you suddenly left it alone for a few days. I’m now committed to 366 days of it. We’ll see…!
    Also – on the issue of ‘need’… if I may… I think I’ve found it’s not the object of the need that’s important, but just the need itself that requires attention – accepting it, sitting with it, not identifying with it, but still just being fully present. It ebbs, and then it flows…
    Your comment about lying on the couch resonated too! I laughed… A lovely post. Thank you.

    • It’s good to hear I’m not the only one who had a withdrawal reaction! We always think we’re so alone (or at least I do) and then we find out others have experienced the same thing! And I like your point that it’s not specifically what we need, but just being present with the experience of needing. Thanks for that insight!

  2. Beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing. i hope you’re feeling better. We all need couch days.. right.
    It’s when i’m tired that i suffer the most. I cling, mentally and physically, not having a clue what i need. I wrap myself in my baba blanket and just lie down for a bit. I’m recognizing that more and more, the importance of my body being well rested and how it affects the mind & spirit balance. The importance too of letting go, and not doing more ‘stuff when i’m tired. Ram Dass says that “we are caught in the more is better trap.”How true. I have to untangle myself regularly. So taking a nap is a very good thing. Slowing down and meditating. Getting lost in the moments! savouring the delaying magic of eating oreoS (definitely plural 🙂
    Your suggestion to delve deeper , ‘trying some things on for size’ is right on. Our heart needs are simple. This a.m. i thought of you and asked myself ‘the’ question before having the rush out and thought “i need to get the hell out!” (usually meaning for a brisk walk on path with my pooch) Note to self: i should have that on one of those cute heart cookies. 🙂 A walking meditation in the woods for 20 mins. does wonders for me. Sometimes I repeat Ram Dass’s words of wisdom: “I am loving awareness. Yup. ..I am I am Iam!”
    Understanding and feeling compassion for my own suffering is a work in progress. Hmm. ..it’s not completely out there contrived, but it’s effort. It’s the practice: “Iam, Iam and I am.” Healing in it’s simplicity. It brings balance in loving awareness, grounding, yet flowing at the same time. (if that makes any sense!)
    I’m grateful for your loving blog! i love your lists too and your inspiring heart cookies lol and your divine Lightness . Thank you.
    Oops, going at length, but wanted to share RD’s words of wisdom, keeping the sweet balance with I am!!
    “A lot of people try to counteract the ‘I am not good enough’ with ‘I am good enough.’In other words, they take the opposite and they try to invest it. That still keeps the world at the level of polarities. The art is to go behind the polarities. So the act is to go not to the world of ‘I am good’ to counteract ‘I am bad,’ or ‘I am lovable’ as opposed to ‘I am unlovable.’ But go behind it to I am. I am. I am. And I am” Ram Dass

    • Hi Rachel! I am slow in replying, but your comment made my day! I love the phrase you used about me…”divine Lightness.” I will try to see myself through your eyes when I’m feeling not so great about myself. And thank you for sharing Ram Dass’s words or wisdom. I need to read more of his work.

  3. Barbara, I continue to work on connecting with “what I need.” Figuring out how to access that is a challenge I struggle with, and then from there, figuring out how to meet it (do I try to meet it myself? do I ask for it from someone else? both?), and if I need something from someone else, how can I word it in a loving way?

    Thank you for this post!


  4. There are different types of Breathing Techniques used in Breathing Meditation. Breathing can be slow, fast, deep and shallow. It really is a matter of finding a breathing pattern that you are comfortable with and are able to maintain for the period of the meditation. You can simply observe your normal breathing pattern without changing.:

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