I have spent hundreds of hours meditating over the last year and I won’t stop. This is now an important part of my life. In stillness I find that I already have all the answers to my questions and I find better questions to ask.
My journey to this practice has been a long, slow evolution. One of my first college professors introduced me to meditation. Back then, I was working full-time and attending school full-time. Scared that I wouldn’t make rent or have enough money for a proper haul of groceries. I certainly couldn’t afford health insurance. And I saw college as my ticket out of those circumstances. I made sure my grades were stellar and absorbed everything I could while in class.
Looking back, I understand that the fear and struggle was seeping out of my pores. And my professor could see it.
He invited me to the local Buddhist temple to sit in meditation with a group. A fitting invitation from an anthropology professor. I recall wanting to run out of the room screaming within minutes. Being alone in my head with all that fear was terrifying to say the least. So, I didn’t go back and wouldn’t entertain the idea of meditating for several years after.
Instead of meditating, I found other ways to numb that fear for a while. I tried everything from cigarettes, recreational drugs and alcohol, to intense exercise as salve for my discomfort.
At the time, instead of meditation I chose several years of intense therapy. It paid off in spades. During those same years I also explored other religions and spiritual practices. Eventually finding my way back to meditation once my mind and soul were a little more primed and I felt brave enough to sit alone with my thoughts.
For the last several years, I’ve incorporated meditation and mindfulness practices off and on. Namely when times were super stressful or challenging.
And then my experience evolved yet again! For the past two years, I visited stillness and meditation with a different lens. Instead of viewing mindfulness and meditation as practices that would sooth and save me. I was in a place where I could use it as another faculty. In the same way we have eyes to see and ears to hear, I tuned into meditation as another way to access information and sensate.
What I most love about my practice now is that it continues to evolve and show me different things. For example, several months ago I was talking with someone I consider a spiritual teacher about how I wanted to incorporate another hour of personal development work into my day. But I wasn’t sure how I could possibly afford the time when I was already meditating an hour each day.
Her response was, (and I could hear her smiling through the phone), “Oh, my darling, meditation is what happens off the cushion.”
My perspective has been forever changed because of that one comment. So has my practice. Instead meditating an hour a day, I may meditate for up to 30-minutes. Most importantly, I’m constantly looking for ways to live the meditation and be in my consciousness. (Consciousness simply means being aware of what is going on inside of us and choosing responses rather than reactions.)
If you’re curious, but still unsure about this practice for yourself, just sit for five minutes and focus on your breath. You don’t even have to close your eyes if that is too much for you right now. See how you feel after that five minutes. What do you notice? What thoughts arose? How does your body feel? What do you now know that you didn’t five minutes ago?