By Marcia Miller

“Your restlessness is important!”
This was the entire content of the cryptic email I received this week from my meditation teacher, Lorin Roche. To my mind, this one line had nothing to do with any of the previous conversations we had been having, and it hit me like electricity. I felt like the Zen student who had just been whacked with a stick by his teacher and been enlightened in that moment. How could he have known that I was in bed the night before, wide awake and more restless than I had been in months? And how could he know that unlike other nights when I might have led myself into deep relaxation, spoken kindly to myself, or simply watched my breath, I was lying there physically uncomfortable and psychically beating myself up?
One of my main practices and goals these days is to welcome and honor all parts of myself, especially the parts that seem difficult to enjoy. Lorin calls these challenging parts “packets of prana,” meaning that every single thing is filled with the creative life force energy. This acceptance practice is not only deeply affirming for me, but it brings me into the deepest alignment with my students so I can see the precious life force energy enlivening them as well. On this restless night, however, I was caught in the mire of my mind and could not remember any of my practices or intentions. I was tossing and turning and just wanted comfort and ease—not an unreasonable request. But that wasn’t happening that night.
Finally, I had a flash of inspiration and began thanking my body for all its good work on my behalf. While I had 3 specific areas of pain, when I looked closely most of me felt fine. I actually had to look part by part to see where exactly the pain was. To each part that I named I offered my thanks. Thank you toes for helping me walk and stand each day. Thanks to you, eyes, for helping me to see the beauty of this world, etc. Even though I was not feeling all that hospitable to the parts in pain I could thank them for at least trying their best. It was not an easy practice that night and I fell back into my internal grousing several times, but as I persisted a deep sense of relaxation began to come over me. It was true that I was grateful for the overall health and well being I experience much of the time and focusing there brought a palpable sense of relief. I finally fell asleep.
When I awoke I felt somewhat rested, but I was disturbed by the intensely critical nature of my thoughts about myself during the night. The judgments seemed so harsh and unnecessary. When I got to my computer and read Lorin’s message, a thread of ancient tension inside me suddenly and deeply relaxed. Maybe being restless isn’t something to be rejected after all; maybe my restlessness is an important packet of prana to be unwrapped. I started feeling buoyant. I didn’t need to get rid of the restlessness; I just needed to listen to the longings that the restlessness could reveal. I could use self-criticism as clues to what was under the surface trying to be heard and seen. My job is not to be the bouncer who eliminates all dissenters; my job is as a translator and a mediator. And my job is to tenderly and gratefully unwrap each package that arrives from my unconscious. I am still unwrapping that present from the other day. It’s as if there are many layers of tissue paper hiding the treasure inside. But now I’m confident that I will find a message or a longing sent from my soul that didn’t know any other way to ask for what it needed.
I am grateful for Lorin’s words, which came at just the right time for me. It’s been a long time since I have had a teacher who is so involved in my day to day awakenings. But today, I had the wonderful thought that if Lorin hadn’t reminded me that all my thoughts and feelings are acceptable, workable and even IMPORTANT, someone else in our community would have. That gives me even more relief! There is so much wisdom in the people around me—some of whom are YOU!