Do you meditate? Do you want to (in theory) but can’t seem to ever get around to it?
Over the last few years meditation has become more and more essential to my health and well being than anything else.
Every time I forget this fact, something comes into my life to remind me.
The first time I really ever meditated was in a yoga class (around 2001.) Most of you are probably familiar with Savasana (my translation: “lie flat on the floor and do nothing.”) It’s at the end of class when you get to relax. It was a rare experience to be still and quiet. I was always moving, always thinking.
Then, over the next 10 years or so, I would make a half-hearted attempts to meditate. I knew a guy named Dan who was always telling me how great it was. He was the one who told me it was okay to lean against something, with or without my legs crossed, when I meditated. I didn’t have to be uncomfortable. He also gave me a copy of a CD of Pema Chodron and a CD of A New Earth by Eckart Tolle. I tried again to make meditation a regular thing but I didn’t stick with it.
I occasionally went to a meditation group. I found that it’s very different meditating with other people. There you are, sitting in a room, with all these other people and all sorts of sounds and distractions, with your eyes closed. It’s odd at first. Then it’s amazing. I was instructed to focus on my breathing, to watch my thoughts come and go, but keep returning to my breathing. I would always drift off to some story, or a to do list. I couldn’t quiet my mind. I always felt like I was failing.
It helped that a lot of people I knew made regular use of meditation. It wasn’t like some weird 70s commune thing. It was a normal way to manage the stress of life. I’m constantly coming across articles that explain how meditation changes you, mentally, emotionally, physically.
I kept trying.
My (Lutheran) church offered a 6 week class in “Centering” or “Contemplative Prayer.” It was nice. We did some singing and some guided meditation. I’d always thought of meditation as being an Eastern Religion thing, but obviously there are plenty of Christians who meditate.
About a year ago, a friend invited me to try Quaker Meditation. I’d been to a Quaker service, so I had an idea about what it would be like. This was not the same as Quaker Meeting on a Sunday morning. This is called Experiment with Light. There are readings interspersed with silence. The second half of the hour people speak about their experience. I was immediately hooked. It didn’t hurt that it is held in a 300 year old building that feels absolutely steeped in spirituality. Every week is basically the same small group of incredibly kind, welcoming people who don’t seem to mind that I’m not a Quaker. Here are a couple links if you’re interested. The first one is the text written out. The second one is an audio file you can use to try it at home. Or you can seek out a Meeting house near you.
Then, last month I read The Dharma Punx by Noah Levine. I was convinced more than ever how important this was!
Every time I drifted from regular meditation, life got crazy. And every time something would be put in my path to remind me: MEDITATE. I know. I will. I promise. Why is it so hard? It’s actually very easy. But hard. My mind is too loud, too busy. Exactly. Which is why you have to get quiet. I keep trying.
I think we make all these rules about how it has to be. It doesn’t have to be any particular way. As you experiment, you’ll find out what works for you. My advice is: just do it! Do it:
- for just 5 minutes
- eyes closed or open
- siting on the floor or in a chair
- on a cushion, or 3
- on a sofa
- flat on the floor
- listening to a recording
- alone or with a group
- focusing on breathing in and out
- being non-judgemental about your thoughts
- even though your surroundings are not quiet
I hope some of this is helpful. Make a start. You’ll be amazed.