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How ‘Checking Out’ Makes its Way into Holding Your Seat

What does it mean to be able to flow with what is coming at us? To hold our seats in the midst of life’s least desirable challenges? And equally importantly, how do we skillfully engage with all those things (energy, people, circumstances, etc.) and not just check out? These are some of the questions we began today’s class with.

We spoke about ‘dressage’, the practice, or should I say art, of balancing a tea cup while riding a horse. If that isn’t a metaphor for holding one’s seat, I’m not sure what is!

So yes, how do we learn to sway like a tree in the wind of life? How do we become a screen to let that which could be debilitating, through and not in? How do we hold our tea cup and ride the energy of a horse (life)? During our discussion, I started to see how we can easily confuse holding ones seat with checking out or repressing what we feel and/or encounter. And yes, that could be useful from time to time (and even necessary), but today, Theo (one of our facilitators) pointed out towards something great on the horizon: bravery and confidence in the midst of life’s challenges. “Bravery and confidence in what?” the women wondered. Well, to eventually be mindful enough to start facing and engaging with what comes our way.

How many of us, when triggered, don’t “react” per-say by jumping down someones throat, or getting into a fight, but “react” by watching some really bad TV show (me!) or eating a whole bag of popcorn (me again!) or whatever it is that we have a tendency towards. And is this really serving us?

Today in class, we started to look at those places, those habitual patterns, of the way we react — the places we go, whether it be critical or needy, judgmental or adaptive —  we talked about how changing ‘outburst reactivity’ to ‘repression’ or ‘checking-out’ reactivity also impacts our lives. We talked about this phenomena, because most of the women in that class stated that they just don’t react to anything. Yet, when listening more closely, we heard them saying things like: “I just stare out the window” or “I just put the TV on” or “I just put my headphones on and ignore everyone”. Which isn’t really the point we are trying to land here.

Sure, being in prison has got to be one of the most challenging environments around — yet if we are habitually checking out, how is that holding our seat? Are we holding our seat when we simply check out, tune out or ignore? Today we posed the question that if we are working to get grounded in the present, to being an Adult, which is what we are teaching, then we owe it to ourselves, and the folks we are working with, that the present means awareness of what is actually happening. We talked about how it is only from that place of awareness, that we can start to make conscious choices of how we want to respond.

So it’s a challenge, no doubt. How we do skillfully work with our lives and deal with all the fun stuff showing up in our faces? How do we discover the bravery in ourselves to show up? How can we develop the confidence to drive our lives? We talked about how if we don’t run our life, life will run us and we talked about the choices we have, and sometimes ignore — sure, it may be easier to ignore, but how do we use ALL of our time, to become more skillful and engaged.

To me, this is holding your seat. Showing up, being present and doing what is necessary to respond as skillfully as possible in our next step.

On another note, leading the Holding your Seat meditation was the highlight for me, as it seemed to gave the discussion ground. We first thought about something that was slightly irritating to us this morning for a few moments, we connected with the energy and then started to connect with breath deep in our bellies — we did this back and forth, pendulum like dance between frustration and breath for about 8 minutes and then we introduced Metta (May I be safe….). It was interesting what the women reported back about their experiences. For some, the back and forth dissolved their irritation, for others it was calming and for one, the back and forth was more irritating, but she did find peace when we honed in on the metta meditation.

So there you have it, Holding your Seat today at the Women’s unit.

Thanks for reading!

Until next time,


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