Meditation and Me

Happiness, Meditation

I’ve heard and read many times how good meditation is for you. I’ve done some in my life, but never enough to amount to much. I haven’t done any since having children, even though it could probably be more beneficial to me now than any other time in my life. I read an article the other day that inspired me to start trying it again, though. There were two things the article said that made me decide that this could be good for me right now. The first thing was the fact that one of the benefits of meditation is it helps a person to get to their creative roots, so to say. In this busy, over multi-tasking world we live in, it’s hard to go from work, kids, bills, house, responsibilities, family, work, kids, bills, and on and on to a creative mindset. Taking the time to meditate helps put you back in that state of mind and will hopefully help keep you there most all the time, as opposed to being a wound up robot, just stressed out and working yourself to death.  Secondly, you can start small. The main reason I hadn’t really even thought about doing any mediation lately is because it seems I have no time. I have always just kind of figured that a real meditation session should last for at least an hour or so. What I read, though, talked about starting with as little as a few minutes twice a day. Even busy me can manage to fit that into my schedule somewhere.

So, I’ve been meditating for about a week now. I did start very small, five minutes twice a day, adding a couple of minutes to my sessions each day, if I had the time.  At first, I just started with some deep breathing exercises and maybe repeating one of my favorite quotes as a mantra, such as “The secret of life is to fall seven times and to get up eight times” by Paulo Coelho or “You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars” by Max Ehrmann.   During my first five minute session, I simply repeated the words “beauty” and “light” over and over again just because they were the first positive, comforting words that came to my mind. For me, repeating a mantra helps to reinforce positive emotions but also just helps to keep my brain from wandering in every which direction. By the third day, I was doing my first fifteen minute session.  After meditating for three days, I had somehow convinced myself that there was some magical process occurring. That taking the time to sit quietly for five minutes twice a day was somehow making me feel better about life.  Imagine my surprise when I realized how hard it can be to sit and meditate for 15 minutes.  There were no feelings of complete connectedness with the world around me.  It seemed impossible to get my brain to shut up.  I tried to focus on a mantra, but my mind kept wandering and random thoughts incessantly crept in. I was reminded of a book I once read that was written by a neuroscientist who had suffered from a stroke. She used something like meditation to help her focus on regenerating and reconnecting the synapses in her brain.  While trying to focus on this task, random thoughts would creep into her mind. Instead of trying to ignore these thoughts, she would face them, greet them, focus on them, and then let them go. In this way, she was giving her brain the respect it deserves for being able to carry on so much thought at once.  At the same time, though, she was training it that now was not the time so that, using the same patient way that you might use with a child, she was teaching herself to control her thoughts. This is what I attempted to do for my 15 minutes of difficulty focusing. I repeated my mantra, which on this day was simply “I am a child of the universe”. I envisioned various scenes in my head of my body being connected with mother nature and the universe. Things like the air in my lungs feeding a river that runs from my spine into my organs, giving life to my organs and making them grow plump and healthy, like fresh fruit on a vine. My favorite vision is of me sitting in a beautiful lush field, with soft green grass underneath me, and a big, open, pastel blue sky dotted with billowy cotton clouds. Behind me standing tall, protective, and majestic is a giant oak tree. Strong and sturdy, its leaves are large and green with yellow on their trim in such a way that it makes the tree glow and shine in the setting sun. While this vision did bring me pleasure, and I do relish the memory and idea of it now, I can’t really say that during my meditation it made it any easier for me to focus on the present moment. I can’t even say that my fifteen minutes of meditation necessarily made me feel any better. I may have actually felt worse in some ways, having inadvertently focused on things that bother me during my quiet time. But to say that I got nothing from it would be a lie.  If I had to pick one word to express how I felt directly after, I would have to say “hope” or rather something like “pre-hope”, like that moment just before everything starts to get better. The future did not necessarily look bright and easy, filled with nothing but love and happiness. But, it did feel manageable, as though somehow I had already considered and faced everything stressful in my life and was no longer bothered by it. Instead of worrying unnecessarily, I felt like I could take my life and make it better. I didn’t quite have a plan to make everything wonderful, but I was pretty sure I could make one. And then it occurred to me that it was the perfect time for me to go out for a walk. I love to be outdoors. I love the air. I love the sky. I love the feeling of the blood rushing through my body as it moves against gravity. Suddenly, I knew what I needed to do, and I did it. I went for walk on a crisp fall day with beautiful trees and a sultry sky. Then I wrote this journal entry, with all the feeling I had felt during my brief fifteen minute meditation; reminiscing of pastel blue skies and golden, shining giant oak trees of sweet, loving protection. And thinking to myself, there really must be something to this.

I am currently up to about thirty minutes daily, sometimes 15 minutes twice a day, sometimes 30 minutes once during the day, depending on what my schedule is like.  I won’t claim to have found any deep inner peace, yet. But I am enjoying it.  It makes a lot of sense to me, that it can be very beneficial, to simply take time to sit and listen to your body and let the world fall away.  The one thing I have discovered is something that I am now considering an essential truth:

Your mind, body, heart, and spirit. They know what’s most important to you and the secrets of your happiness. And they will share these secrets with you, if you will be still long enough and listen.

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