WEEK 3: Simple Meditation

“Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; Who looks inside, awakes.” Carl Jung

The first time I can remember hearing about meditation was when I was about 12 or 13 years old in the early 70’s, when one of my best friends told me about TM, or Transcendental Meditation. I was intrigued, but because it cost a lot of money back then, I wasn’t able to go with him. I was pretty jealous though, especially when he told me about the secret mantra he’d been given…it all seemed so mysterious and, well, cool. Of course, I was just about to enter into what I fondly recall as my hippie teenage years, so it’s not too surprising that I was drawn to something so ‘new age’ as TM was considered back then.

But even though I’ve always been curious about meditation, the practice of it seemed to have alluded me, until just recently. I’m not sure why…maybe it seemed too self-serving, or self-indulgent, or just selfish, period. Maybe it was that old Puritan work ethic telling me that I should always be doing something. Or maybe I was just trying to squash the inner hippie that I thought I had outgrown. In any case, it was definitely not something I talked about with my family or friends -it just seemed way too personal.

And somehow I don’t think I’m alone in this feeling, either. I think there could be a lot of people out there who consider meditation as something only hippies do, or people who live on the fringe. Even now, as I write this, there is a part of me that is worried that I am stepping over a line of some sort, and that people reading this, who know me, will be raising a few eyebrows.

Anyway, as I’ve mentioned in other posts, after my health scare I did a lot of reading and talked to a lot of alternative healing practitioners, and I found that meditation was a common denominator everywhere I turned. So I decided to give it a whirl. I tried all different kinds – from mindfulness meditation to guided meditations on cds. I tried it for different lengths of time – from 30 minutes to one minute. I tried it sitting in my living room and sitting in my bed. I tried it in the morning and then in the evening. I kept thinking that if I just kept trying, I would find the perfect one for me and finally understand what everyone was talking about. The problem was that I kept worrying that I was doing it wrong, because there didn’t seem to be any dramatic result telling me differently.

And if I couldn’t see any result, then what exactly was the point? I guess I believed that I would experience something definite, something that would say to me without question that meditation was working.

So when I found the book Wherever you Go, There You Are, by Jon Kabat-Zinn, I was really excited to discover that there is no right way to meditate! Oh my gosh..I was so happy! Sure, there are more disciplined ways than others, and perhaps by having more discipline you are opening your mind to a more dramatic experience. But, for me, the bottom line seems to be that however I meditate is the right way…it’s really the intention behind it that is the most important thing.

Now, I am sure there are a lot of people out there who may not agree with this and, believe me, I am not claiming to be an expert on the subject.  I found, though, that as soon as I didn’t feel the pressure of doing it ‘right,’ I was able to figure out the way that worked ‘right’ for me. So for the last few months I have been spending anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes every morning (well, most mornings), after I’ve had my first cup of coffee, to just sit in my bed and focus on my breathing. In my head I say ‘in’ when I’m inhaling, and ‘out’ when I’m exhaling, and as soon as I notice one of the thousands of thoughts that float through my mind during this time, I just go back to the breathing…not rocket science, but it seems to work for me.

Has meditating raised my consciousness? Well, one thing I’ve noticed is that when I am doing something that maybe I don’t want to be doing, like emptying the dishwasher or folding the laundry, and I get that yucky, wish-I-was-anywhere-but-here feeling, I have found that if I just take a second to slow myself down and accept the fact that I am where I am, then I feel calmer, and the thing I’m doing doesn’t seem nearly as bad.  That’s something new for me, and I definitely like the idea that I have that kind of control over the way my body thinks and feels. And I’m pretty sure I learned that from meditating.

Anyway, I am going to go out on a bit of a limb right now, in honor of this week’s topic, and try to put into words why I think meditation could be one of the most important things we, as human beings, could do to put us on the right track. I read an article a while back which said that in order for the human race to ‘evolve’ to the next level, that we have to find a way to meld together the two halves of our brains, commonly known as the right and the left, so that we’re using the whole thing at the same time. Long ago, in our more ancient cultures, we were dominated by the right side which is generally thought of as more intuitive, creative and feminine. Then there was a shift to the left, which led us down a more masculine and linear path, leading to the industrial and technological revolutions. And now here we are, clearly in a bit of a mess, but with the potential of participating in another shift that could help turn things around…the blending of the left and the right brains into one, very balanced, human mind.

If we are able to harness the best of both sides, mixing the masculine with the feminine, the intuitive with the practical, the creative with the logical, and we could all do it together, just imagine what could happen! I truly believe that this evolution is possible; in fact, I think it is already happening.  And if we, in our collective humanness, would decide to take just one minute a day to slow down our very chatty left side and allow our quieter, more intuitive right side a chance to be heard, we could, in our togetherness, change the world for good.

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