By Ruth Lera
Except, what happened as it turns out is I can be smelly.
So smelly in fact that one of my meditation students complained to the owner of the studio about my “biological odor,” or at least those were the polite words communicated to me.
Maybe the student said outright, “She stinks.”
And you know what?
She wouldn’t have been wrong.
You see the night before my first meditation teaching gig at this new studio I went out dancing, (yes, meditation teachers dance too) and I had a lot of fun, and when I woke up in the morning I decided not to shower and I headed off to teach with the sweat from the night before still firmly attached to me.
Now, in hindsight, especially after being told my smell was on the offensive side, this seems like it was a terrible idea—verging on gross really. But hindsight is 20/20 and now it is obvious that leaving the house sans shower was a pretty bad idea.
But it was an innocent choice—misdirected yes—but not ill-intended.
My intention wasn’t to make my new students plug their nose while trying to practice mindfulness while at the same time noticing their breath. That wasn’t it at all.
The truth is I just felt good.
I was feeling the lovely glow of having had a good night dancing the evening before and it was my son’s birthday that day and we were opening presents before I left for the class and really, I just felt good in my skin and I felt no need to jump into the shower.
So innocent was this choice I made.
Innocent, this is my new favorite word.
Because we all make mistakes, this is absolutely inevitable. Like the first of the four noble truths tells us, life is suffering, or if you prefer, shit happens, and sometimes in the form of being the smelly person in the room.
Can I go back and not smell bad? Not without a time machine.
Will I probably be extra diligent in deodorant application and body scrubbing next time? Probably, because part of meditation practice is compassion and being respectful of others.
But when we screw up and find others offended by our actions we don’t need to throw ourselves down the drain.
This is an ability we start to gain with meditation practice.
We start to become more like the mountain—all the activity of life moving by us and through us and around us. It’s all still there but we’re more steady and solid in ourselves.
But we can’t gain this type of steadiness from reading about meditation, talking about mindfulness or scrolling through YouTube videos of great teachers.
We have to practice for ourselves.
Because we don’t come home to our real selves through striving, pushing and pulling, through saying, “Well, I might smell but I’m a good person in other ways, so there.”
This steadiness of being real only becomes our home-base when we gain the ability to feel inside ourselves and touch our own unconditional realness.
We can find this place of solid homeland territory that isn’t based on how we look, how we smell or what other people think of us at all, a place not at the whim of the direction of the wind or the location of the stars through practice.
We practice finding this place of realness during meditation and then it’s easier to get there when the first noble truth becomes not an idea but a truth in our life, when there’s suffering.
This is why it’s so important not to expect immediate results from our meditation practice because what we’re doing when we practice meditation—even for just five minutes—is finding our route home. We’re finding our route back to this solid place of realness that has always been there but that we just haven’t visited enough.
And the more time we spend in our own realness the easier it becomes to no longer be ugly or stupid or even smelly (although truthfully I probably was).
Instead we’re just real.
Ruth Lera is the friend you turn to when your world has gone all topsy-turvy. Not because she tells you it’s all going to be alright but because she reassures you that not being alright is just part of the whole process of being human. And she might even give you some ideas about how to feel better, too. Find her at her website, her Facebook page or Twitter.
Editor: Daniel Scharpenburg