For many, the word meditation conjures up images of Buddha- like figures sitting in lotus position, hands in prayer, dressed in monkish robes or yoga gear & chanting Om in long breaths. Find me in meditation & you would see a disheveled middle-aged woman propped up in bed first thing in the morning, legs stretched out under the covers, hands upturned in her lap, eyes closed & silently breathing. It’s an unglamorous but serene picture. This is how I prefer to start my day.
Meditation has been a part of my life off & on for over 20 years. I turned to it, as many do, during a period of great upheaval in my life. The liberal minded church I was attending at the time offered a free class. It was a simple procedure. Close your eyes, scan your body for tension, & then breathe observing your thoughts without judgement. The teacher suggested picking a 2 syllable word, known to some as a mantra, to focus on while breathing. This could be something like “om-sa”, “breathe in-breathe out”, “I am” or something that holds meaning to you. You can visulaize a peaceful scene. That was it. No need for a guru, a specially assigned mantra, or shelling out lots of money. The deal breaker for me was the suggested 20 minutes twice a day.
I did start on that schedule & then could not stick with it. Rather than throw out the entire practice this is what my practice looks like now- 12 minutes before I start my day. It really helps for me to throw in a late afternoon practice before dinner but that is usually the exception than the rule. Sometimes all I can muster is observing my breath 5 to 10 times during my day. It all helps.
This is what I’ve gained from meditation- focus, grounding, & insight. Previously I had the mistaken notion that meditation was about controlling my thoughts. I was wrong. It’s about observing the mind & body without judgement. If you find your mind wandering, just come back to the breath & note what you were thinking about. This will happen over & over. Eventually you will gain an awareness of your thought patterns throughout your day & a habit of self- correction.
One of my first realizations was that my default body position is with my shoulders scrunched up to my ears. That may not sound like much, but relaxing my shoulders has helped relieved me of back & shoulder pain. Then, being a creative soul, my thoughts tend to be all over the map often wrapping themselves in a tight knot than constructive recognizable paths. Now I am more able to develop ideas in a more constructive way. I can think in a more positive manner. It’s a defragging for the brain, a reboot for the thoughts.
Meditation is the ultimate reality check. Slow down, stop, and go inward. If you think you don’t have the time, all the more reason to start. You will not regret it.