Meditation. I’ve studied if for over 15 years. All different types, in all different venues. I’ve taken classes from Buddhist monks. I’ve taught classes to adults and children in guided meditation. I’ve spent a weekend at a Zen Monastery eating in silence and wandering the gardens–no easy task because I LOVE to talk. I’ve sat in the lotus position, on my back, on my head, in my shower–you name it. I’ve read, and listened, and watched documentary after documentary. I find it fascinating that the elder Tibetan monks are able to enter into such a state of meditation that they actually call their peers into a circle and tell them when they are passing. Then they just do it. Right there. In the circle. While in the lotus position. Talk about focusing on the still.
I think the reason I find this so fascinating is that it has taken me 15 years to be able to sit for just 20 minutes while thinking of nothing. This may not sound like much of an accomplishment, but trust me. I have the monkey-ist of the monkey minds. Monkey mind on crack. Always hopping. Getting quiet has been one of my biggest challenges in this life.
“Meditation is painful in the beginning, but it bestows immortal Bliss and supreme joy in the end.” Swami Sivananda
Swami calls it. Painful because we are so used to the noise that the quiet freaks us the hell out. We sit and within 30 seconds we are filling the space (did you see how I moved you into the collective we?) with our long to-do lists. Supreme joy because meditation is the key to living your best life. You are healthier, more grounded, more connected. All you have to focus on is the not-to-do list.
What’s in it for me, you ask?
Chemically, we know cortisol (the stress guy) drops during meditation. We want our cortisol levels low because this helps with weight loss and maintenance. As a culture, we are stressed out, overworked, underpaid, or unemployed which is its own cortisol-generating conundrum. Cortisol up equals bad. Cortisol down equals good.
And focus. A free and natural Gingko Boloba. For me, it’s as if meditation clears the fog that keeps me from seeing what is most important in my life. When I am meditating daily, that fog stays away, and my priorities shift into focus. If I get out of my routine for one reason or another, the fog rolls back in. When you’re in the fog sometimes it’s hard to know that– until it clears.
At this point you’re either on board with me or you think I’m totally out there. Or maybe you’re a fencer. Before you judge, I encourage you to try just sitting for 30 seconds and breathing. It won’t be easy if you’ve never done it, but the rewards are far greater than you can imagine.
Close your eyes and breathe in as deeply as you can. I like to picture inhaling color, and every day is different. I let it come to me. Today was purple. Some times it’s colors I’ve never seen. But shade the air so you can visualize, and breathe that color in through your mouth and all the way down to your toes. Hold it. Then breathe it out and fill the entire room with it–and hold it. Then repeat. And repeat. And repeat. As your mind thinks of what you are going to make for dinner (and it will) picture the thoughts like passing signs on a freeway. Acknowledge them and let them pass. Then return to your breath. I have to say “Breathe in, breathe out” over and over again to keep my mind still–like today when it kept trying to compose this blog entry while we were being still. What a work in progress.
There are many prescriptions for meditation. This is my hybrid. You will find your own. You can’t do it wrong. Just give yourself the gift of a few seconds each day and be patient with yourself. It will come.
It takes many years to build a practice, but the beauty is you will see rewards immediately. Use things to anchor yourself in this stillness and place. I use a candle (which I take with me when I travel) to signal to the rest of me that where I light this candle, that’s where we will meditate. I also dedicate a meditation space in my home, although the meditation space we set up is used only sporadically and my favorite place is the shower. I like the water noise.
I’m not sure who said it, but I think it was Martin Luther King. Something about “I have too much to do today to skip my meditation.”
Taking time to be quiet gives you the focus, energy, and time you are missing back into your life. At least, it has for me.