Somehow I just couldn’t start a post about meditation without some sort of lovely visual, even though this photo has nothing to do with my experience with meditation. Meditative experiences maybe, but not the practice of meditation. I hope you enjoy it anyway.
As I’ve alluded to time and again in this blog, I’ve been engaged in very intentional spiritual explorations for some time now. For me “exploration” of any type usually involves reading, reading and more reading. And that’s surely been the case here.
Years ago I read Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now and it resonated mightily with me. It is not my intention to extensively discuss spiritual principles in this blog (I’ll leave that to teachers and practitioners), however, this was the book that started it all for me, specifically the idea that we are not our thoughts and feelings, but rather the observer of our thoughts and feelings. I initially struggled with this concept until I started engaging with the spaces between my thoughts, moments of “being” without thinking. And when I did, I felt great peace. My spiritual journey has been one of greater engagement with the “me” that is the observer of the rest of it.
The actual practice of meditation is new for me, although I have considered many of my activities meditative in nature. Hiking, knitting, sewing, beading all have repetitive, rhythmic bits that at times help free me from endless spinning thoughts thus creating clearer pathways to a deeper part of myself -the place where intuition and wisdom reside. I think I was afraid to meditate, fearing that I would want to jump out of my skin with the stillness of it. Reading books by spiritual teachers like Elizabeth Loesser, Pema Chodron, Marianne Williamson and Deepak Chopra helped me understand that meditation is simply about “being with whatever is there”.
Armed with the knowledge that there is no right or wrong “way” to meditate (at least I don’t believe there is) I decided to take bits and pieces of all the teachings and jump right in. Or should I say, sit right down. Every day for 21 days. I know that “21 days to a new habit” is a pop-psych thing that’s been scientifically debunked but it was as good a time frame as any. I’m past that time frame now and still going strong. Forget the beautiful nature visual, here’s where I sit:
Pretty spartan, I’ll admit. No candles or statues or sounds of running water. Yes, I do the finger thing:
I make sure my body feels well supported, I tell Siri to let me know when 20 minutes have passed, I close my eyes, take two deep breaths and begin with a simple mantra as I breathe lightly in and out. And then…
Whatever happens, happens. And it varies every time. Thoughts come and go. I label them “thinking” without engaging with them. Feelings come up. I acknowledge them and return to a focus on breath and mantra. I feel my body in new ways, experiencing the energy flowing through me. Sometimes I’m aware of physical discomfort (itchy ears seems to be a problem for me). I acknowledge the discomfort knowing it will pass, and it does. Throughout the 20 minutes I try to remain relaxed and still, being with and observing whatever the experience is.
Meditating has been a revelation. I’m starting to understand that these minutes are a microcosm of life in all of its richness and depth. I can see that at any moment it’s possible to remain connected to my deepest self, the “me” consciousness, as thoughts and feelings flow on through. It’s clear in meditation that my thoughts and feelings are impermanent- they arrive unbidden, are neither good nor bad, and I have a choice to engage or not engage with them. Same with physical sensations and perceptions. This is a powerful knowing that serves me well in all aspects of my life, although maintaining this clarity is way more challenging in the world when I am engaging with others and in more emotionally charged circumstances.
I have no idea where meditation will take me or the eventual impact it will have on my life. What I do know is that I will continue with my daily practice. Whatever I am destined to learn about myself in this process I know that it will serve me and the world around me.
My faith is bigger than my fear.