It is nice to see meditation being talked about outside the yoga studio. The more mainstream it gets, I hope, the more comfortable people will feel closing their eyes and breathing.
Seriously, I had my reservations too. I thought I would feel weird. I’d look weird. I’d be weird. That was an early introduction to my EGO. There have been many more run-ins since.
The first time I had formal meditation instruction I was in a yoga class, which took out all that “weirdness,” thankfully. It allowed me to sink into my breath for a few moments and for the first time, really, and I mean really, check-in.
It was as if I had never met myself, oddly. Sure, I knew myself from the outside in. I had seen myself in a mirror for twenty-nine years; I’d talked to myself plenty; I’d come to know my habits, my routines, my quirks.
But inside out. Never.
I almost immediately had deeper compassion for myself. Instantly, I felt more patient, more understanding, less critical. I finally understood the mind/body connection and it wasn’t just me tuning into my incessant mind chatter like I’d always done, this was deeper somehow.
And just like the TIME article states, I started small. Between 5-15 minutes at a time. Sometimes it was euphoric and amazing, other times forced and inauthentic. It took me a few weeks to a couple months to find a real rhythm. I preferred being outside instead of in; the beach was my favorite. I didn’t like music at first; I wanted to hear my breath and the waves. I sat cross legged in the sand, and could build a comfortable cushion for my seat. It was all about developing a routine that was feasible for me at the time.
My depression lifted rather quickly. I felt less alone, more connected to universal energy. My compassion for myself continued to grow and beating myself up for all the typical things happened fewer and fewer.
That was five years ago, and I haven’t stopped. My routine has ebbed and flowed with weather, location, music vs. breathing, guided vs. not, posture, etc. I’ve been known to meditate in bed sometimes, which usually happens on the off-chance that I didn’t make time throughout the day. As you can imagine, I immediately fall asleep, so it’s not my first choice of a mindfulness practice (but if you need a place to start, especially if you have trouble sleeping — start there!).
I’ve also been known to meditate on a park bench, the subway, in a swerving cab, smack dab in the middle of God and everyone. No shame.
I’ll never forget the time I was meditating in a Dubai airport. Nothing crazy, just erect in my chair, eyes closed, smiling with the sun on my face from the tall windows. After about 20-minutes, I bowed to myself as I always do, “Thank you, I love you,” I whispered. I opened my eyes and to my surprise a woman was standing before me in a burqa, just her intense yet endearing made up eyes staring back at me. “I just wanted to let you know,” she said, “that you sitting there meditating so beautifully prompted two others to do the same. It was quite inspiring to witness. Thank you.” I stumbled with my words, a little embarrassed by the compliment, as well as a little shy speaking to only a woman’s stunning eyes for the first time. “No, thank you,” I said. “Thank you for noticing and saying so.” We both walked away smiling, I saw it in her eyes.
15-30 minutes a day is about all I do. Lately I’ve been listening to Pandora, Heart Meditations Radio, to accompany my breathing/body scanning.
I’m no guru, but I’m diligent. A non-believer turned believer.
Not at all my intention, but I honestly can’t remember the last time I took medicine. No lie. Not even a Tylenol.
Even my monthly meltdown has subsided to barely a blink. If it weren’t for my incessant cookie cravings, I might not even know any different.
I’ve been sick about a handful of times in the past few years, but because I feel so much more in-tuned with my body now (from the inside out) I can feel myself getting sick earlier and I amp up my holistic regimen.
Just to reiterate, I’m not perfect. And I think that’s a big misconception about meditation, that it has to be one way or another. The more I learn about it, however, the more I come to find just how personal and varied the practices are.
Think about a yoga class, if you’ve ever been to one, or seen one on TV, for that matter. Some people are flexible and fluid, strong and determined, some people are awkward and off-balance, maybe even weak and distracted.
In meditation, I’ve been all those people. I’ve come to expect and allow that, which frees me from trying to force-feed enlightenment to a whiny brat.
I leave you with this: If you have no meditation practice and are not 100% comfortable with the idea, start in bed. Listen to some nice, soothing music, perhaps a guided meditation, and allow yourself some big belly breaths. If you are a meditation master, challenge yourself. Do a half retreat. Saturday or Sunday morning. 7:30 to 9 and then again at 9:30 to 11 am. Just like fitness, our bodies get really good at a single routine. Stretch the muscle a bit. See what happens.
#onward and inward