It was too cold. I couldn’t concentrate. I didn’t expect it to be cold in India, but it was in the early morning. I wrapped my bright green wool scarf tightly around my shoulders. We were in Sarnath. This is the deer park where Buddha first taught just a few weeks after reaching enlightenment. I read the history on a sign at the entrance. I was there to pray. Not meditate. I was there as a Christian missionary. Barely 19 years old. There was so much I didn’t understand at the time. So much I still don’t.
Last week, I began my own practice of mediation. Not because I’m a Buddhist. And not that I want to be. But because mediation brings peace. And this year, as I dig into my own spiritual story, I could use some peace. So I started by focusing on my breath and following a guided meditation while driving. Because you can’t take the multi-tasker out of this meditater! After a few days of that, I tried meditating in my room. Riley was still awake, but in bed talking to herself (and drawing of course). That worked out so well, I even did a guided meditation on the couch with headphones while Roozle watched a show. Because if I can’t do this within my regular (already totally full) life, then I just never will. So here we go!
A few things I’ve learned:
You are not your thoughts. Thoughts come and go. This doesn’t mean you are distracted. You can’t turn off your thoughts. Don’t try. Let them float by.
Focusing on your breath is hard at first, but gets easier quickly. Counting helps. Keep going.
Mediation helps with anxiety. A lot. I made a mistake on Friday that I got super anxious about. By meditating for 9 minutes that night, I was able to see the situation more clearly, calm myself down, and recognize how I needed to proceed. If this same situation had happened two weeks ago, I would’ve shut down and missed out on an opportunity to grow and challenge myself.
This week’s challenge is to explore meditation. Have you tried to meditate? What happened? If you’ve stopped, why? What didn’t work for you? If you do meditate, what works for you? Try to sit quietly a few times this week. I like headphones with music or guided meditation (there are free apps for the iPhone that have guided meditations to try). Don’t get discouraged if it’s hard. It’s a practice. Let your thoughts come and go. Just focus on your breath. I am breathing in. I am breathing out. Let the other thoughts float in and out like background noise. If you’re anxious, keep going until your heart rate settles. It works. Really.
Will you join me?