Today the iPhone rang during my morning breath meditation. I keep it nearby to track time and I opened my eyes and saw the name of a friend I wanted to connect with before she leaves on vacation tomorrow. What to do? I said hello. Not only did I take the call I ended up pausing my session to take the dog for a walk around the block while we chatted and start another photo uploading to my blog. (I did go back then and finish my remaining 9 minutes).
I don’t think this choice was optimal, but it was human. I could have simply waited and called her back after I was done. But she has a 3 year old and well, connections don’t always happen between our busy households when we like them to.
But the experience underscored the most profound lessons generated by this new daily meditation practice: it reminds me that I have a choice. In each moment I have the power to answer a call or not answer it, to push myself to do the dishes when I’m over tired or to just let them hang out in the sink until morning, to get up early to write or to sleep in and trust I’ll have enough time.
Meditation is not about what happens during the half-hour daily session.
It’s value reveals itself in the rest of your life.
For me, meditation diminishes a sense of life as a grind or forced march and instead helps me experience it as juicy and fresh– delightful even. And the best part is that this shift in perspective itself feels easy, like a gift. Rather than feeling like I should be grateful I actually feel grateful in my heart. And I know its real because this feeling comes unbidden in moments when I’m totally not expecting it or trying to engineer a meaningful experience.
Like this morning when I’m not even awake yet and I catch a glimpse of Rosetta through our kitchen window running across the lawn with our doggie Francis and get a clear hit of how very fabulous it is that it is summer and our youngest is growing up out of the chunky toddler phase and into her next incarnation. I breathe it in.
Or a couple of nights ago it was a full moon and I was carrying a box to our storage shed at dusk and was arrested by the moon’s heavy, hazy beauty. I was filled with a deep body memory of summers as a little girl when the world felt more magical than I give it credit for being now.
And on the less warm and fuzzy front, one of the most unexpected benefits of meditation came for me while deleting spam posts from my blog. I have heard the Internet described as an extension of our collective mind– much more a vehicle for trading thoughts and information than a space for really generating any new ideas. If this is true then my spam comments read as a litany of our collective suffering: generic hydrocodone 7.5 325 – hydrocodone generic for vicodin adderall online for sale – buy adderall medication prozac pills description – prozac side effects jaw pain tramadol yellow – buy tramadol 50 mg, Viagra, acai berry diet pills by natrol – acai berry benefits women.
Ads for viagra, narcotic pain killers, diet pills for women– this static fills my moderator’s panel every day. I used to feel super annoyed by it (OK I still do) but this week I was surprised to notice compassion bubble up alongside the annoyance. I felt like for a moment I was gifted a glimpse through a wider lens and saw the whole industry of illegal or alegal drug sales and all its internet chatter as evidence of people hurting and looking for relief. While I moved through the comments and hit the spam button for each I found myself hoping I could absorb a little extra of that pain from the world. This approach drained the tedious quality of the moment and gave it some meaning I really couldn’t have cooked up on my own. I credit meditation for helping me connect to Big Mind Consciousness, if just for a moment…
So What is on the Menu for Week Two of the Close the Gap Meditation Series?
Sitting Meditation. With an appetizer of long, slow deep breathing.
This is a meditation classic. Sitting 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening. It doesn’t have to be on a cushion or even on the floor if that’s uncomfortable. I’ve taken to meditating on a lawn chair on the porch of our tree house. The goal is to sit with your spine upright but not rigid. Yes you can scratch an itch, but don’t distract yourself searching for the “perfect” position.
McLean in her book Soul-Centered Meditation (our guide for this summer) describes the morning session by the “RPM” acronym, as in “Rise, Pee, Meditate.” Doing it first thing before the day unfolds does have real benefits. I was able to do it once this week and came back in the house with way more energy than I normally have for the “get ready and drive to preschool” routine. The other days I have done it when I got home after dropping them off. And I feel really grateful for the quiet.
The second session McLean calls the “happy-hour” meditation. For me it is more the “cartoon-hour” meditation. At about 4PM I let the kids watch a show together while I meditate and then clean up around the house. It helps me get over the late afternoon slump.
And that energy boost is the biggest difference for me of this sitting meditation than the breath/body awareness ones prescribed for last week — which I did mostly lying on my bed. Both weeks I noticed the meditation decrease the number of negative thoughts in my head. But this week I really like how energized I feel — like a bell recently rung with clean vibrations to carry me through the day.
In addition to the daily half-hour, consider incorporating some “Peace-Finder” Activities when you feel trapped in a situation and are under stress. No one even has to know!
- Close your eyes. In many contexts you can do this without being noticed. Even just a half-minute helps the outer world recede and allows you to go within and regain a sense of balance and equilibrium.
- Count your breaths. I find this particularly helpful when my mind is racing and I’m angry or anxious. I also like to do it when I walk the dog. I just count up to ten and then start over. If you lose your place following a thought just gently bring your awareness back to the breath and start counting again.
- Do one thing at a time. Go ahead and keep working, doing what you need to do. Just do an activity a little slower than usual. I tried it out putting the blocks away. My whole house was kind of a wreck after the weekend; but I found it satisfying to slowly place the blocks in a pattern in the box. When the job was done, it was clearly done. And I found joy in one small thing put away in a sea of chaos.
- And lastly, feel your breath. I like to take mini-breaks from the computer and head outside to our porch. I’ll close my eyes for a minute and breath consciously with a very slow exhale, like I’m breathing out through a straw. (Observe what feels good for you– but most folks can slow down to a rate of 3 or 4 exhales in a minute.) Things look different when I open my eyes. For example the squash growing out of my garden box (in the photo at the top of this post) struck me with its aliveness! It was there when I sat down in my rocking chair, but I didn’t notice it. Things can look fresher after a minute of slow breathing–though I know they are not what has changed. How does it work? Even one minute of slow breathing stimulates the production of GABA hormones, an important neurotransmitter found in the central nervous system which inhibit the production of stress-producing hormones. I like to think of little GABAS literally dripping down and coating my trigger-happy stress brain. Woohoo!
Mindfulness practices can seem sort of boring. Breathing, sitting, blah, blah. I can relate to wanting something, well, sexier to help me enhance my quality of life. But what I am finding is that there is a world of difference between being aware of these practices cognitively and giving myself a chance to experience them and just see how they play out.
That’s what is interesting.
Want to experiment with mediation practices? Its not too late! Check out last week’s post, meditation 8 week challenge if you’d like more details or just get started with this week’s activities. There is really no wrong way to go about it.
And let me know what you are observing and experiencing in your own life! Social accountability is one of the most powerful tools we have to promote our growth. So find a friend who wants to meditate with you, tell your partner about it, and/or share your experiences with fellow Bird in Hand readers in the comments section.
What has surprised you about meditating?
Have you noticed any shifts in the rest of your life?
I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.