I live with someone who is a meditator. He sits and sits and sits. He even teaches others how to meditate. He can meditate at home, in a hotel room, out in a park, even in a moving car (he’s not the driver, thank goodness!) and yet, still I struggle.
I began my meditation practice back in the mid-80’s. Rob, our friend Carol and I would gather in my apartment and lie on the floor and use Shakti Gawain’s Creative Visualization tapes for our sessions. The reality was I got to take an afternoon nap! But two to three times a week we would find a comfortable spot, our hands palm up along our sides, our feet and legs relaxed and our eyes closed. We would start the tape. Each time I would say to myself, “I am going to stay awake”, but in the end I would always find myself waking up at the sound of the finishing chimes. Multiple failures brought my practice to a close.
In the late 80’s we moved to Cripple Creek, CO. I told myself I would once again pick up the practice of meditation. This time, however, I chose to sit in a chair. I had much better luck with this format. I found I could stay awake and I would actually be able to sit for 20 minutes of uninterrupted silence. At least silence in the room – my head was very busy sorting, planning and thinking. Even still, by the end of 1989, because I had stuck to it, I proclaimed to myself that I was a meditator! Alas, when we returned back to Cincinnati in 1990, as work and making money became my focus, my practice fell to the way-side. Over the next two decades, I found I would pick up meditation here and there but it never stuck. I was unable to find the groove I had in Colorado.
Around 2010, Rob, my partner, began to focus more of his attention on his personal meditation practice. We were both making a big transition in our lives and Rob found great solace in the quiet time of his meditation practice. Each and every day he progressed in his practices. He would sometimes sit for hours on end while I read or worked in my garden. Through his journey, he learned many different techniques of breath control, mudras, mantras, and focus. All of these, he would tell me helped him in his efforts. He was always willing to share what he was learning and experiencing with me. Still, the call to sit for me did not materialize.
What was this all about? Why was I avoiding the process? These were questions I continued to ask myself. Rob and I would often talk about this ‘block’ of mine. Then one morning over coffee I remember asking; how he could just sit there for 60 or 90 minutes – even with all the different techniques?
He told me that his process began with just a few minutes. Sometimes he would sit for 10 minutes then read some and maybe write, then sit again using a different method.
“So, you’re not just sitting there in total quiet the whole time?” I asked.
“Now maybe, but when I first started, there was no way.” he answered.
With that bit of enlightening information, I told myself I would begin with just five minutes and take it from there! I’m not even sure why I hadn’t thought about doing just that myself. For so long I was under the impression that to meditate properly, one needed to sit in silence and clear the mind of all thought. I had never been able to achieve this state so I kept giving up. It wasn’t until I realized I could set the parameters on what my practice was going to be that I began to sit on a daily bases.
So, through Rob’s practice and teaching, I have since learned many different techniques and tools which I use now to help focus my Mind.
I began my journey with five minutes each day. After 18 months, I have a daily practice of at least 15 minutes and occasionally longer. Each time I come to my seat for meditation, I begin with a silent pray. Then, with my Mind’s Eye, I begin to follow my breath in and out. After a few moments, I may move to one of the many exercises I have learned – I sit with it for a while and if I find my mind wandering, I move to another technique. I use mantra and mudras. I count. I use breath control by breathing in through the crown of my head. Using my focus, I follow the inhale down along my Central Channel (the Spinal Cord) to my root charka. As I exhale I follow the breathe up my Central Channel and out again through the crown of my head. I use visualization. I use small movements in conjunction with counting. I try and try and still my mind wanders. UGH! BUT, I still keep coming back to my seat!
What I have found is that consistency and realistic goals are key to developing a solid meditation practice. If you are looking to begin your own practice, start small. Remember what you are trying to do. Remind yourself to not allow the ego-voice to take control – remind the ego-voice that you are not trying to get rid of it but only quiet it so you can begin to hear the soft heart-voice which can guide you on your journey.
I like it! I even have those mornings when I automatically begin my day with my practice – no real thought about what to do, I just find my seat and close my eyes. The rest just unfolds.
I continue to work on developing more quiet time in my life and mind. That inner ego voice is still strong and sometimes acts like a complete bully but I can notice the subtle changes in myself. I attribute this to my 18 months on the cushion. Rob often quotes our meditation teacher, Sally Kempton who says, “Meditation doesn’t solve your problems but it changes the context in which they exist.” I feel it. I am calmer, less reactive and less judgmental. Even my perceived problem with meditation is changing. It’s not a problem anymore, it’s my own personal journey to a calmer me. I take it one step at a time. I take it at my own pace. There is no need to compare myself to anyone else. I acknowledge now there are two meditators in the house and one of them is me!