Meditation is delicate, because you have to practice from the place of really remembering why you’re doing it, with some joy and appreciation. If you go into it with, “Oh, I gotta do my practice,” the practice will eventually clear that resistance out of you, but I don’t necessarily feel that’s a good thing. That’s what happens to people when they have to go to church every Sunday. I would rather push you away from spiritual practices until you’re so hungry for them that you really want to do a practice, rather than give you a sense that you ought to do the practice or that you’re a bad person if you don’t do it, because you will end up hating the whole business…
Spiritual practice is wonderful if you want to do it. And if you don’t, don’t. But don’t protect your heart from breaking, because a broken heart is like cracking a shell to let the deeper heart come forth.Ram Das
The below is written by a guy far cooler than this chick. A friend, a relative, and a force in my life. He’s a writer who spent some time on the road covering guru Ram Das, who later married him and his wife. Their family recently went on retreat with him. If my friend is “in kindergarten,” I am still in utero. I’m honored to have him cover my infantile butt on a day when I’ve done “everything but right.” Thanks, peace, and cheers to old friends.
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Amazon sells 80,000 different books about meditation; Elinor has requested a four-sentence recap.
My wife and I have been meditating off and on for 40 years, and daily for the past seven. Yet here we are, still in meditation kindergarten. My sister tried it once and announced she couldn’t do it. Join the club. We’re all beginners here.
But what could be simpler? Sit quietly every day, eyes closed, and for twenty minutes try to remain fully aware of your own breathing… every inhale, every exhale. Nothing to it.
Alas, if only. Attentively monitoring one’s own breath, moment to moment, turns out to be impossible, even for a short period of time. All these years later, no matter how conscientiously we try, within a minute or so of starting our late afternoon meditation, extraneous thoughts not only have invaded our minds but have practically taken over. What breathing? I’ve got better things to think about. Ice on the driveway. Twinge in my knee. Hey, I’m really getting the hang of this now.
It’s a losing endeavor, every single sitting, so why keep coming back for more? Ask anyone who meditates on a daily basis. After some weeks, one realizes there has been a subtle shift in one’s mental and emotional equilibrium. A disturbance in the Force. We are no less neurotic than before, and just as apt to screw up. But now, some of the time at least, we are a little less invested in the edgy melodrama of our own life… less attached to how things turn out.
Only when we started closely observing the workings of our minds did we realize how out of our own control they really are. Uninvited, thoughts swarm in and out of one’s consciousness, every second of every day. It never stops. Nor will meditation make it stop. That old saw that meditation will empty your mind is a joke.
Rather, meditation trains our minds to be more self-aware of this Niagara of thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations, arising in each of us in every instant — and then, almost as quickly, fading away. As it turns out, we are, in some literal sense, being born and dying into each moment. True of our cells, true of our mind states.
Meditation heightens our awareness of this phenomenon, leaving us more conscious of our moment-to-moment existence. Less replaying of the past. Less projection about the future. More intimate acquaintance with one’s life in real time, right now, and now, and now, as it actually is unfolding. Welcome to the present moment. Oops, it’s gone.
One thing that’s nice about meditation is that anybody can try it. Nothing to join. No deposit. No guru required. If you commit to making meditation a daily priority for, say, two months, you probably won’t stop.
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I’m borrowing Thich Nhat Hanh’s instruction to “breathe” as our practice for the day:
“Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in, breathing out I know that I am breathing out. To meditate with mindful breathing is to bring body and mind back to the present moment so that you do not miss your appointment with life.”
Find a regular time to do this. It takes twenty seconds. Try before you eat or before you get up to go to the bathroom. (Whichever is more regular.)