"We tend to think of meditation in only one way. But life itself is a meditation." Raul Julia
This quote struck me right at my core the other day as I was scrolling through Instagram. Amazingly well stated. I've had varied experiences with meditation over the years. I would start and get immersed in the practice. There were many attempts to stick to a specific way, time, practice and many times that I gave up. I felt like I intellectually understood the reasons why meditation works. There's no shortage of data out there for all the google freaks like me to get their paws on. What was most challenging wasn't wrapping my head around the concept. Meditation is good for us. We could all benefit from quieting the mind and becoming more aware. Got it. What remained challenging was creating a sustainable routine--the logistics, where, when and for how long? How would I fit this into my existing daily schedule? I had gathered and been advised to take a seat first thing in the morning upon waking and after relieving myself. RPM-- Rest, Pee, Meditate. Did that. It worked for a bit. I liked that upon waking, I had a routine. Hit the bathroom, hit the cushion, get quiet for however long and start the day. Coffee, brush teeth, get dressed and ready for work. Years ago, I would have had to wake up 2 boys to get ready for school. Not being a super, early bird morning person this would kinda suck. Depending on my schedule, some semesters, I had a class to teach by 7:30am and you better believe I was trying to milk every last second of zzzz's. I would hit the snooze pretty aggressively and would be like, are you freaking kidding me? No way I'm getting out of this bed any earlier to meditate. Ugh! Sometimes, I'd do it and feel like, what's the point? When I finally started to feel myself getting into it, the timer would go off. My mind would jump like a little wild monkey from branch to branch. What do I have to do first on my list? Are the kids up? Did they brush their teeth? Oh, crap, I forgot to give one of them money for the school trip? Shit, I forgot to sign the permission slip? I have to get to work early today. Oh no, today's the day of my evaluation. I have to pick up the kid early for a doctor's appointment. I still have to make it back in time to cook dinner then drive them to practice. I want to get some yoga time in. My husband has duty today so he won't be home. Maybe, scratch cooking dinner, we can have In N Out tonight. Ahhhh, that settles that. Ahhhh, I'm feeling so peace.....Ring, Ring, Ring. Meditation time is over. WtH? I was just starting to chill out.
That went on for a bit. I was caught up on the idea of what I perceived meditation should be. My self-imposed limits and expectations made meditation another chore that I had on my never-ending to do list. I was transferring my rigid way of having to have control: planning, organizing, structure. All of the useful tools that I had to apply to my family's busy schedule were misguided when it came to my meditation practice. I thought that I had to structure it just so. It was a fail if I didn't clear my mind or if I didn't have my specific cushion or if one of the kids interrupted or if..... But, once I became more flexible and loosened up, it became something that I could do anytime and anywhere.
So, someone said that in order for meditation to be effective, you have to sit on the floor first thing in the morning and be there for at least 30 minutes. That's not going to work for most of us. When anyone comes to me with their well intentioned advice or unsolicited "right" way to do anything, I smile, send them love and Run in the other direction. Wanna know why? There was a time when even when I questioned something, I would do it silently, and in doing so, second guessed my own wisdom. My inner guru/teacher/intuition is now my compass. Through many, many tries and experiences, I know to trust it. My perception of meditation is now much more simple. Meditation is life. What I practice/struggle with/work on/experience on my cushion is a mirror to my current life. That's all. It helps to shine the light on what I need to be aware of. Have I found myself snapping on my husband and kids lately? The practice will give me the space to take that in and become more self-aware to make the adjustments I need to make next time. If it's an attitude adjustment that I need, then the practice will help me see that.
Being mindful is not something that's done for 10-30 minutes a day on the blue cushion in the corner of the living room. There are 1,440 minutes in a day. What happens the rest of the day? Check yourself. Time for some truths. Are you ready to look in the mirror and make some shifts? Are you willing to grow? Will you take an honest look into your thoughts and take it in? Will you practice non-judgment and non-criticism with yourself?
Meditation and mindfulness are the way that we experience our lives from one moment to the next. We have the ability to come back to the present moment, the only moment that truly exists. I've found that it becomes a smoother process to come back to the present moment. I find that I'm enjoying more and worrying less. I'm not caught up in what happened yesterday or what I need to do tomorrow. That takes up a lot of precious energy and time. I can now stop what I'm doing and pay attention. The blessing that has come from being more flexible about my meditation practice has been that I miss out less. I don't dwell on this, but I acknowledge that I once chose to get caught up stressing the small stuff. I chose that over savoring the moment, appreciating and enjoying the experience. That knowledge has taught me that I want to appreciate the joy of life. I want to be there with my loved ones, give them my full attention rather than a glance up from my phone. When I start getting agitated that something's not turning out to be what I wanted it to be--I can let it go. That is, if I'm awake and aware and that takes practice and patience. I'm doing my best to stay present and practice mindfulness. Sending you love on your meditation journey. xoxo