I have officially been meditating a bit over a year. I have meditated twice a day for this entire period of time. Meditation is an odd thing to talk about, because it does not work in a linear fashion. Meditating is not like reading a book. You do not start here and get there. I have found meditation to be more winding and complex than that. There are certain things I have found no longer seem to occur during meditation, but then there are others that repeat again and again. I am hoping by sharing some of my journey I will be able to slightly demystify meditation and encourage anyone else who is doing it as well to keep going.
When I started meditating, I initially would be filled with panic. I was only meditating for five minutes each time, but I was overwhelmed with the feeling I had left the stove on or the door unlocked and something would happen. After a week, that subsided for the most part, it comes back only rarely. I realized that in my life nothing is so important it cannot wait 1, 5, 10 or 30 minutes. I have found my distraction level comes and goes, sometimes I feel utterly distracted and sometimes my mind seems clearer. I know that is just how it is, but I also know that spending time, focusing on meditation helps me to be present with myself. When I resort to shorter meditations because I “don’t have time” I am the only one who is suffering. I have gained calm and peace from meditating and a greater awareness that our thoughts dramatically influence our lives to a larger degree than I realized before. In a moment I can think one thing and immediately think it’s opposite. In a way meditation helped me to realize that my thoughts are just thoughts, not facts that cannot be questioned. I also learned that my brain loves to get creative in finding ways to distract me, creating stories, planning and thinking about the future usually are the main distractors.
When I look at me now and who I was before I started meditating, I see a dramatic amount of change and awareness. I am not sure they are connected, but I know the calm and awareness I have gained from meditation has been life changing. I approach life from a less overwhelmed and stressed place, but from an understanding that it is okay. Everything is okay.
When I started meditating, I went to a Zen Center and one of the directions was to hold your hands to create the shape of a circle. The idea being that all is accepted, everyone, every thought all of it is allowed and accepted. I love that, the belief that no matter what occurs during meditation, whether I sneeze or am laying down or am sitting upright, whether I am distracted or focused all of it is allowed. I am accepted in meditation and I am practicing accepting myself through meditation exactly as I am.
If you want to get started with meditation here are some resources that might be helpful.
Jon Kabat-Zinn’s audiobook, Mindfulness for Beginners– This book contains guided meditations that can be helpful in garnering awareness when just starting out.
Kabat-Zinn created Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), also known as scientific meditation. These classes are available in many locations. I took a class in Iowa and I was glad I did. It was nice to have support of meditating with others and intentional mindfulness week to week.
Robert Wright’s book, Why Buddhism is True– If you want more of a scientific approach to meditation and the science behind a bit of how it works. This book also discusses Wright’s personal journey with meditation.
Janwillem van de Wetering’s book, The Empty Mirror-This is more of an experiential book on meditation.
William Hart’s The Art of Living– This book discusses the how and why of Vipassana meditation.
In conjunction with above there is a ten day discussion of Vipassana on Youtube here. I found while I was getting used to Goenka’s speech, it was helpful to start with captions. This is ten hour long discussions on the how and why of Vipassana meditation techniques.
The Book of Joy by the 14th Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. I found this book to be an interesting look at meditation and prayer. I also found it to have practical exercises to help.
Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche’s The Joy of Living– Discusses meditation and mindfulness in daily life.
Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche’s work has also been cultivated on a Youtube Channel here. I like to watch some of his videos for meditation practices and inspiration.
One other tool I use daily is my meditation application Insight Timer. This application is free and contains many free guided meditations. I mostly use it for the timer function, where I can set bells at intervals.
Now looking at this list I realize it is a bit daunting. I want to say. All of this took me at least a year if not more. Start slow where you are. I started with 5 minutes in the morning and the evening, then bumped up to 10 then 25 then 30. Now I aim for 30 except if I am sleepy, then I shorten the meditation accordingly. I have fallen asleep meditating and woken up and thought I had to continue meditating because I did not hear the final bell. My feeling on sleeping during meditation is, if you fall asleep you probably needed the sleep more than meditation, so do not be upset about it.
If you meditate, do you have any other resources to share? I am always on the lookout for others that I have not heard of.