Staying With The SensationBY LESLIE BARAN
I grew up in San Francisco. My parents divorced when I was young, and I lived with my mom. My dad was in and out of my life. But my mom and I were close--two peas in a pod.
I had a great childhood. We didn't have a lot of money, but Mom was able to materialize all these wonderful things and make stuff out of nothing. She was really resourceful, and we always had a lot of animals and things to do and places to go. In the summer in San Francisco, it's freezing cold, so we'd go into Marin and into Napa, to our friends' places to stay. Every year she would go to Bali to help teach yoga and meditation and would trade out work to get a plane ticket and room and board for me.
When I was born, my mom had my astrology chart done, and the astrologer said, “Oh, this child is going to need boundaries and rules.” And she was right. I do. My mother, on the other hand, was the ultimate hippie fairy Earth goddess, all about flow, flying by the seat of her pants without a plan in sight. That's how she did life. But I flipped to the other side of the pendulum. The way Mom lived didn't feel safe to me because I could never expect anything. Everything was always a possibility. Anything could happen at any time which, for some people, is really exciting. For me, it was just horrifyingly scary.
I remember being into structure at four years old, organizing my little toys on my shelf, asking Mom, “When are we going to have dinner?” wanting to know the schedule. She did create structure and boundaries for me. But I wanted more. So, I created them internally.
Mom trained me on how to listen to my body and pay attention to my body. She also trained me to recognize whether or not the answers that I derived from my internal introspection would work well for her or not. I got really good at reading her and knowing if my true responses would freak her out. I wouldn't ever lie. I just learned to say things to her and others in ways that didn’t ruffle any feathers. I learned to package my thoughts and feelings and deliver them in ways that wouldn’t make any impact on anybody else.
I developed a very layered and complex intellect. My crazy mind could do 20 things at once, and I was a super multitasker. My emotional world was complex as well, and I was always tamping my feelings down. Small things would set me off, like a pleat on a skirt not being cleaned correctly or someone would use my last Q Tip. These things would just enrage me with an intensity of sensation that was way out of proportion with the thing that happened. Obviously there was a lot happening inside me, and early in life I wanted to find tools that would help me start to unpack what was happening internally.
I wanted to find a group of people who knew how to look more deeply into life, who would be willing to question me and help me dig in. When I found OM, I was very excited and came in with a real go-getter attitude. I'm a very sexual creature, and very, very open, and it sounded right up my alley. At that time, I was also very masculine in my persona at work and in my personal life, planning and scheduling things. I was definitely not in touch with my slower, softer side, because growing up with my mom, the archetypal feminine was really confusing and scary for me. Very feminine people and the way they operated didn't feel safe. I liked things very black and white and just shut down other ways of operating.
I went to an intro course to learn about the OM practice. The two facilitators were women. I could feel their intensity of emotion and the life force within them. I could recognize it because I have that too. But as I watched them more closely, I realized they also had a laser beam focus of attention. They could turn it onto people and call out the truth about people—complete strangers. And the people would be like, “Oh, my god, how did you know? You saw into my soul.” And sitting there I realized, “I want to do that.”
I definitely felt awkward at the beginning. But knowing there was a very secure structure, a step-by-step process to follow, I felt safe. My first OM I managed to just lay back and feel. I didn't have to do anything. And the fact that I just got to be present and feel was amazing. I've always struggled with meditation because the whole point is to not think and my monkey mind is always jumping all over the place. In OM I got out of my own head and into my body and experience of the high sensation that was happening. I’ve developed an ability to closely track them. Sometimes I feel heat moving through my neck, up through my cheeks and then spurting out through the top of my head. Sometimes the cells in my body sparkle in a shimmery iridescence as if they are alive and speaking. Sometimes OM feels like firecrackers, explosions of energy and sensation.
Since starting OM I have learned to pause and check in with my body. Previously I would just fly right past any sensation. Now, when something comes up, I stop and examine what's happening.
My first year of OMing I remember being in a conversation with someone I really didn’t want to talk with. I remember pausing and feeling this nauseous energy rising in my chest and thinking, “Oh, wow, my body really doesn't want me to be here anymore!”
Normally I would have kept talking to be polite. But this time I told the guy I had to go and walked away. And the sensation in my chest changed very quickly from nausea to this joyous energy exploding out of my chest—all because I let myself have that small honest moment. I also don’t judge feelings as black or white, good or bad anymore. With OMing I’ve learned that things that I labeled as pain or things that I was used to experiencing in a negative light aren’t necessarily painful or negative at all.
Today I have a much more appreciative relationship with my mother. I understand that she is a human being dealing with her own traumas and patterns and triggers. When she comes at me with an intensity of emotion or a change of plans, I can slow down to feel the sensation in my body and stay with it. I stay with myself and that’s the thing that has me feel safe. I’ve moved my sense of safety from external conditions to internal ones. From that place, it doesn't matter what happens next. As long as I can stay with myself, I can make it through any emotional roller coaster.