As I assume lotus position and softly let my gaze fall on the calm ocean before me, I drift away to the feeling of hot sand on the sides of my feet and the salty breeze filling my lungs…
For anyone who has asked me about meditation over the past few months, this is SO not my experience. Granted, it sounds like an enjoyable time, but realistically-especially for beginners, it generally isn’t like this. I thought I would share with you how it plays out for me-how I began with the “meditating” thing and where I’m allowing it to bring me. I think we hear a lot about it now-especially in terms of words like “mindfulness” and “awareness”…but, really, what does it mean? What does it look like? I’m enrolled in a teacher training program right now which has encouraged me to examine my own practice a little more closely-what I have learned thus far is the tip of the iceberg. I’m a believer in hearing about other people’s experiences to make your own experiences seem a little more “normal”.
I began my meditation practice when I was very little-only I didn’t know it at the time. I grew up in the Roman Catholic faith, and always remember saying prayers before bedtime. As I got older, my prayers morphed from recitations to conversations with The Big Guy. I would lose track of time. I would tell HIM about my day, what was troubling me, and ask for help when I needed it. As with all organized religions, there really is a “meditation-like” component to them. Rosaries, morning prayers, chanting…whatever you believe or what you call it, essentially you are separating from the here and now and turning your attention to a life energy outside of yourself.
Meditation came up for me again in the form of guided meditations (aka-ITunes). I would download them and use them for sleep, relaxation, healing or whatever my “issue” seemed to be at the time. These are awesome-I still engage in this practice often! The birth of my third daughter was facilitated by a process known as hypnobirthing-a process grounded in guided meditations. My pregnancy was healthy, happy and (mostly) anxiety-free…as was my delivery. This was an amazing accomplishment as I had experienced two high-risk pregnancies prior with one premature delivery. This experience, for me, solidified the idea of how “changing” or interrupting your thoughts could manifest a different outcome.
In true Amanda form, though, I wanted to know more. I wanted to go deeper. Enter my trip to Deepak Chopra’s Center in Carlsbad, CA and participation in the most amazing program called Seduction of Spirit.
It was at the Chopra Center where I was introduced to Primordial Sound meditation. For ease of reading, essentially this is a type of meditation whereby you receive a mantra-a primordial sound. It is based on the date, place and time of your birth and is a combination of the vibrational energy sound the universe was making when you passed from womb to the outer world. It’s personal-not shared with anyone. The mantra is repeated silently in meditation-it acts almost as an anchor. It brings you back when your mind starts racing with thoughts. This is the type of meditation I use now and is what I am learning to teach. Now, there is far more theory behind it than my simple explanation-but this blog is about how I engage in my practice.
This is where we get to the good part…how it works for me. I’m really into lists, so I’m going to break this down into bulleted form because heavy stuff is easier to digest that way.
- I start my meditation by using an app called Insight Timer (ITunes). Very straightforward to use. I set my timer for 35 minutes. Then, I get comfortable (I usually meditate in a chair in front of my fireplace-I’m always cold. It’s essential to be comfortable-you won’t last long if something is bothering you). The goal is to meditate for 30 minutes twice per day…for many people this is a struggle (me included). I use the 5 minutes at the beginning to settle myself down. I do some breathing exercises (breathe in for the count of 4, hold for the count of 4 and release the breath to the count of 4). After a few minutes, I’m generally resting a bit easier than when I started.
- I then use the next couple of minutes to begin my Soul Questions. These are 3 questions that I ask myself to help set an intention for my meditation (you do not have to have an intention…just asking the questions is enough). Now…it’s SO hard not to try to answer them or attach some kind of meaning to them when you’re silently asking them. It WILL get easier. The questions are: who am I, what do I want, how can I help/serve/heal?
- I then breathe in very deeply (which, actually, takes quite an effort for me still as I hold A LOT of tension in my body all the time). I let this breath out with a huge sigh-this is my signal that I am releasing these questions to the world. I am NOT going to try and figure out the answers-the universe is going to handle the details for me (in the beginning, this concept is very, VERY difficult to understand. By nature, we are bred to figure everything out, look it up, seek it out. This is an area where it is acceptable not to know…in fact, we CAN’T know-we can’t control what is going to unfold for us).
- I start repeating my mantra at this point-silently. My meditation teacher, Davidji (Google him please-fantastic!!) explained that it is not so much about repeating it as it is about listening to it be repeated. Just let that sink in for a minute…kind of mind blowing I know. If you don’t have a mantra (as I didn’t at first) you can use “om” or even a phrase such as “I am”. There’s no “right” way to repeat it. There are times when mine gets jumbled and I can’t remember what word I just heard/said. You just come back to the mantra again-gently. When the time is up, you leave mediation easily. No jumping up from the chair to unload the dishwasher.
This is the general process…the details are not important. Here are some things that have happened to me during meditation:
- I get bored. This happens usually if I’m really stressed about something. I’ll be opening an eye to look at the clock or I’ll be unable to stay still. Generally, I try to simply relax and return back to my mantra. Sometimes it doesn’t work. That’s OK.
- I fall asleep.
- I get caught up in my thoughts (what to make for dinner, I need to clean the bathroom, the dog is barking)
- Noise (children, telephone, animals)
The most reassuring news is that this is all supposed to happen! It’s life! I’m not Buddha parked under the tree. Ironically, I have discovered that the more my meditation practice evolves, the more detached I become from these occurrences. You’re there, but these things are flowing through you instead of slamming up against you stopping your progress. I have had physical sensations (my hands…which are ALWAYS cold…are warm if not hot by the end of the 30 minutes). I have also been more aware of happenings in my life-synchroncity if you will. People, events, books, dreams, songs, conversations all happening for reasons that become increasingly clear to me.
The most powerful thing you experience though, is the interruption of the hamster wheel in your head. The thoughts-one thought every second. Because, really, that’s all just your ego. No matter how “intelligent” you think you are thinking…they are just constructions of the ego. To interrupt that process-even for seconds is so beneficial (that’s another blog post entirely). Suffice it to say that, to change your thoughts, is the most powerful ability in the world. Even to be aware that you have the capability to do so is an amazing start. All of the sudden, you look at ALL of your interactions differently. That 60 minutes of silence a day is like a pressure washer to a dirty car. The room you make in your soul is endless.
Fungus…or a work of art?