Thursday, March 3, 2011

Meditation on my mind

I've been cultivating a meditation practice for about four years now, and as I am confident anyone who has attempted the same would agree, it ain't easy! The concept of sitting quietly on a cozy little cushion, candles lit, maybe some incense burning and meaningful images surrounding you may sound very relaxing and inviting. But once you park yourself in the midst of that setup and actually go about the business of turning inward and trying to silence your mind, it can quickly transform into a very trying and stressful situation. Our minds are in constant motion, full of thoughts, concerns, to-do lists, song lyrics, memories, you name it. All of that beautiful chaos swirls and swirls ceaselessly, so when you actually take the time to observe it all and slow it down hopefully to the point of silence, you immediately come to the realization that it will be no small feat.

Fear not! This isn't a story of doom and gloom. Rather, I've found from my own experience with mediation, and from the teachings and commentary of countless others, that there really is a payoff, even when it doesn't readily feel that way. Just by creating a space and time to develop your meditation practice in, you are taking positive steps forward. After a few months of meditating in the middle of my living room without much pomp or circumstance, I decided it was time to create a space and establish a routine for my practice to really blossom in. When I first created my altar, it literally felt like building a home for myself. My altar is a place where I can just be. No pretense. No judgement. No one but me, my soul, my mind and the Divine. And just like our traditional, physical homes, there are moments when I want to stay away. There are moments when the place that normally is the most safe and inviting scares me because I'm going through something heavy that I'm not quite ready to face. There are moments when I'm caught up in the distraction of "visiting" elsewhere, checking out other places and straying from my regular meditation practice, letting days or even weeks go by without sitting at my altar. But invariably, when I do return, it is the most delicious homecoming.

I had an experience like that this morning. It had been nearly a week since I sat at my altar for my practice of meditation and chanting, a morning routine that I've been doing for years. Thanks to all that experience, I know by now how good it is for me, and how much I end up enjoying it and benefitting from it, even when it feels like a total chore to get myself there. Today REALLY drove that message home. Maybe it is the new moon going into Aquarius or the auspicious day of Mahashivaratri or the fact that I'm PMSing or just the highs and lows of life lately. All I know is that when I sat down, closed my eyes, took a few deep breaths, belted out a fews "oms" from the core of my being and then let the quiet start to come, I experienced an instant transformation. It was palpable. At first I felt a physical heaviness, like the weight of everything I've been carrying around lately collapsed on top of me. My eyelids in particular felt cemented down for a moment, but then a single tear slipped through each one. Those two tears released the pressure of the weight I'd felt just seconds before, and in its place came a lightness and a calm that immediately elevated my consciousness. It took me inward, connected body, breath, soul and mind. My thoughts slowed, my mantra flowed, and I was solely the observer. I was peace. This may have lasted ten seconds or ten minutes or more. I really don't know. It was a sensation beyond time. And that is the beauty of meditation.

Whether you're into yoga or not, whether your life is blissfully stress-free or a hot mess, meditate. Learn to sit with yourself, to slow down your thoughts enough to observe them rather than identify with them, to find the comfort and wisdom in this silent state. It is so essential to your well-being to learn how to really go inward and connect with the deeper, more subtle aspects of yourself. In that place, you find comfort, answers, strength, love and everything else that we spend so much time and energy searching for outside of ourselves. There is nothing wrong with getting the advice of a trusted friend or the warm embrace of the one you love when you need it, but think about how amazing it is to know that you can also give yourself all of that and more any time you choose just by quieting your mind and listening to your true voice.

Wishing you many a marvelous meditation. Namaste.

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