Challenge #4: Meditate - 1
Monday, October 8
Sharon Salzberg’s book, Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation, is exactly what a beginning meditation student like me needs. The first chapter opens with the declaration that meditation is “straightforward and simple (but not easy).” Isn’t that exactly what I claimed last week? Booyah. The author, a meditation teacher for more than 30 years, literally spoke my language.
She goes on to explain that meditation requires “attention, attention, attention.” Anyone who has reached adulthood is subject to the assumptions, prejudices, and stories that are repeated in our heads, ad nauseum. It’s inspiring to have her assurance that meditation will reduce the background (often subconscious) noise. Then we’re left with something we merely take note of, as we choose to react more calmly and genuinely to the mayhem that gets flung at us every day. Really. It gives me goosebumps.
I muddle through another evening meditation on my pillow in the living room. But I feel like I’ve found a mentor, a guide, a true teacher in this endeavor. My evening meditation has a sense of excitement around it. And really, can’t I set aside 10 minutes a day to focus on feeling more authentic and crafting my reactions to be gentle and calming?
Tuesday, October 9
My morning yoga routine (something I am very good about) has me on my mat at 5 AM while the house slumbers. As I’ve mentioned, meditation is something that’s kind of haunted me for, oh, about a decade because it seems like something that “someone like me” should already be a rockstar at. But I realize something as I get started with Janet Stone’s Radiant Flow yoga practice: The power of an impassioned and heartening teacher can make a dramatic difference in my interest level and in what I think is possible for myself. I suspect I’m not alone in this. My yoga practice was getting pretty stagnant and routine until I discovered Janet Stone and her delicious DVDs; all of a sudden, I’m in poses that I had written off as too difficult or crazy.
Likewise, maybe all I needed was the right meditation guide to show me the way. As the Zen saying goes, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” Okey dokey.
Salzberg recommends meditating at the same time every day in a dedicated place. I’m pleased to find that her suggestions are things that I found helpful last week. I’ve resolved to keep this routine.
Wednesday, October 10
My delight in Salzberg’s book got me interested in other potential tools. Her book includes a CD with guided meditations, and Priscilla Warner’s book, Learning to Breathe, also turned me on to Belleruth Naparstek, who does guided imagery. (There has never been a better name, never ever—and just wait until you hear her voice). Because I sometimes find the quiet encourages my mind to wander, I upload Salzberg’s meditations to my iPhone and download a (free!) app called Sleep Help Lite, which has about 10 minutes of Naparstek’s sleep imagery.
For tonight’s meditation, I get situated on my pillow and turn on my new app. In the introduction, Naparstek explains that guided imagery and music are “gentle but powerful healing tools that have been shown to reduce anxiety, depression, and stress and increase confidence and feelings of wellbeing.” Sign me up! A few seconds later she suggests listening to the imagery in bed, right before falling asleep. Well, what am I doing down here on the floor? So much for last night’s commitment of meditating in the same place; I’ll shoot for the same time, but I may as well get comfortable, right?
Thursday, October 11
In my search for meditation tools, I also came across a project called Headspace. An ex-Buddhist monk and a marketing guru got together and launched this effort to make meditation more accessible, explaining the benefits of it and the science behind it, and offering guided meditations for neophytes like me. Lo and behold, another free app with a 10-day “Headstart” program to get beginners started.
I have the feeling that I may be running the risk of meditation-ADHD, so I cool it with the research and dedicate myself to the resources I’ve found. Having three solid teachers feels like a good place to start.
I’m now at a place in Salzberg’s book where she talks about “core meditation,” which involves focusing on my inhaling and exhaling. If I find myself somewhere without the guided meditations or without my pillow, I can always turn inward and focus on my breathing for even just a few seconds for a meditation quickie. This seems like a loftier way to spend my time in the grocery store checkout line, instead of scanning the tabloids. I tuck this new idea into my meditation tool belt.
Friday, October 12
As the week has passed, I’ve found myself thinking about meditating during the day. My usual hectic work schedule has me running from meeting to meeting, barely taking a breath alone in my office. Perhaps it’s the novelty of my new practice, and perhaps I’m imagining it, but I feel a different sort of space in my mind this week. I’m not quite as harried, and my thinking isn’t as disjointed. I’m bolstered by the idea that something as simple (not easy) as sitting and paying attention to my breath could be the reason for this quieting.
The promise of rain and my lack of weekend plans further buoy my good feelings about my month of meditation. There’s nothing like a chilly fall day with a meditative nightcap to finish out the week.
An Associate Editor at The Daily Muse, Kelly is a book-reading, tea-drinking, vegetarian-eating momma who will be down-dogging until the end of time. She has designed cell phones, reported to the Pentagon and amassed quite a ridiculous amount of wine knowledge, but prefers to focus her energy on writing, her five pets, and dark chocolate. When she’s not standing on her head, you can find this Midwestern girl playing house in her 100-year-old home and trying new recipes that may or may not work out, aspiring to convince one and all that she is a true domestic goddess at heart.More from this Author