This past week I had a unique opportunity to experience three different meditation groups. Meditation is a practice that I’ll be the first to admit I could definitely improve. Sitting still is not my strong suit. Neither is “not thinking”. But I believe those two aspects of my personality are exactly the reason why meditation would be so good for me. So, having the chance to quiet my mind and clear my head was what I did.
I know it was completely unintentional, as I attended three different places for each meditation, but I found it incredibly interesting that each place provided a completely different meditation experience. It was nice to be able to compare and see what type of meditation works best for me, which may not be the best fit, and which I could come back to improve or delve deeper into.
Monday night was Water’s Edge Family Practice and Wellness Center’s Monday Meditation Series. This was a free service provided by Transformational Coach Heather, and I was the only participant besides another practitioner of the office. Why people wouldn’t want to attend a free service that could potentially improve your health and well-being, I couldn’t guess, but I kind of liked the semi-private meditation session. The style of meditation was a guided visualization. Heather read a quote from a meditation mentor which was the focus of the night’s meditation: “I do not want what I don’t have; I only want what I have.” The idea that we are happy with everything that IS is pretty profound. Because, I’ll be frank, I am not very satisfied with myself as of late. Work on my books is nearly non-existent. I feel that I am at an unhealthy level with my fitness. I think the issue with my knees is directly related to my weight. And I feel overwhelmed at times with all the different projects that I need to finish, all the tasks I need to accomplish, and all the promises I have to fulfill. I am feeling the increasing weight of pressure to lose weight, get fit, achieve goals. All of these things I want that I don’t feel I have. So, while I was contemplating on “not wanting what I don’t have, only wanting what I have”, I felt myself arguing with myself. “Well, how am I supposed to improve on my health and well-being if I stay happy with how I am?” Breathe. “I do not want what I don’t have, I only want what I have.” Breathe. “But I WAS healthy once, is that the same as wanting what I don’t have, if I had it once before?” “I am enough. I only want what I am.” “Wait. Could this also mean about my eating? I mean, I constantly eat what I shouldn’t. What if eating the right things is eating what I ‘have’ and eating junk food is wanting what I don’t ‘have’?” Breathe. And the light came on, as I continued to listen to Heather’s voice guide me along, but not being able to retain it. “I love myself, all of it. By loving myself, I will do what is right for my body, my mind, and my soul. That includes eating right, exercising, and well, THIS- meditating.”
Granted, the tangent my mind went on probably was not what Heather had in mind, but I’ll be damned if it didn’t do the trick for me. I slept like a baby that night, and visualized myself to a peaceful sleep.
The next night I visited the Whidbey Institute, which was hosting an open house meditation at a place called the Sanctuary, a beautiful log meditation room nestled along a nature trail. This meditation style was Buddhist Zazen, a sitting meditation, in the form of Shikantaza (“just sitting”). This particular form of Zazen style meditation is done with the eyes open, but gazed downward. The practitioner is not focused on their breath, or chant, or word. They sit in silence and stillness, not dwelling on anything. It is an art of “not thinking”. Considered by those who practice it to be a type of “Effortless Presence” meditation, I want to assure you that practicing not focusing on ANYTHING, not even your breath, or sounds around you, or that itch that is tickling the hell out of your nose is anything but effortless. My mind raced in every direction, not seeming to care one way or another whether I tried to reel it back in with breathing or focusing on a spot on the floor. It was one of the hardest and least satisfying meditations I had ever done. Some could definitely argue that I just need to practice the art of sitting in stillness more, but I disagree. What exactly is the point of “not thinking”? My mind wandered the night before and I came out of the meditation with a clearer picture of my wellness and happiness. Why can I not stroll through the woods and SENSE everything around me? Why is not looking, not smelling, not listening better than enveloping yourself with all the peace that you find around you? I did not sleep as well that night. I honestly feel it was because my mind was not at peace with what it felt was supposed to happen in the meditation.
My last experience in meditation was actually at a Catholic church, but this was a Taize Prayer Service, which incorporates chant/singing, contemplative prayer, and short readings. No communion, no homily. It was actually quite nice. Some of the chants were beautifully put: “Open our hearts to the song and the silence, the darkness and the light”. And “Nothing troubles us. Nothing frightens us. Light alone fills us”. And as if to reiterate my lesson from Monday night’s meditation “Take me as I am”. Unfortunately, the meditation I attended was the last one until September, as they take a three month hiatus during the summer. But it is a type of meditation that I could see myself coming back to.
My experience showed me that meditation can be incredibly helpful. I can clearly benefit from certain meditation, especially visual/imagery meditations. I have a meditation audio for Creative Visualizations, which I think would be a good thing for me to incorporate into my routine at least once a week. I can build from there my practice of clearing my mind, sitting in silence and stillness, and bringing peace into my busy and overwhelmingly active life.
Until next time, stay calm and om….