Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Meditation So Far

I resisted mediation for a long time. I was one of those that said, "I can't sit still," "I can't do the breathing" and "My mind won't stop thinking." It's amazing how much we get wrong when we hear a few phrases and think we know what meditation is. 

Now, I am no expert, and I'm not even going to try and talk about its history or what meditation is for anyone else but me. So why bother?  I think maybe this might provide encouragement to others who think they "can't" meditate. 

My company sponsored a few virtual sessions on meditation last summer, and that was when it started to make sense to me. 

To begin with, it reminded me of the relaxation exercises we would sometimes do in acting classes. We'd lie on the floor, eyes closed, and focus on relaxing the top of our head, then the forehead, etc., all the way down. 

Meditation uses different language (that form of focusing your attention on your body top to bottom - or bottom to top - is called "scanning"), but the purpose is to give your mind a singular focus. It's not about "not thinking," but about thinking about one thing at a time. 

In the business world, people talk about "flow" state. Turning off the bells and reminders and focusing solely on the work in front of you. 

That is one of the benefits of meditation: it helps you learn to focus the mind on just one thing at a time. 

Of course, it doesn't always work. That's where "noting" comes in. You don't judge the mind for wandering, you just "note" it. And then bring your focus back on the body, the breath, whatever that one thing is. 

This has been the real revelation for me! I think many of us who consider ourselves type A personalities, those of us who strive for perfect attendance, 100%, straight As...we can be rather hard on ourselves. Sometimes, we're also hard on other people, too. 

I am learning to forgive myself. I am learning that it's okay to not be perfect at this. That's why they call it a practice. And beating myself up only takes time and effort away from doing the thing. 

I do get restless, and I want to change positions or stretch out my back. So I do! I don't get caught up in doing this "perfectly," and not moving a muscle. If I have an itch, I scratch it. Otherwise, I will be spending all my energy and focus trying not to. This way, I move, then I go back to scanning the body or counting my breaths, whatever the exercise is. I'm a beginner, and I'm not going to be perfect at this. 

The whole purpose is to help me, so it doesn't do me any good if I just mad at myself. I just have to begin again. 

This is also helping me in other areas. I've started tap dancing again, and I was getting angry at myself for not getting it quick enough - for what, I don't know! Now, I just do it, practice it, and remember that I'm doing it for fun! So I should probably have fun with it. 

And, bonus, it is helping me feel a little less anger or resentment towards others. Not all the time, of course, but sometimes. Like there was a day when I was driving, and a car totally cut me off. Rather than get angry, I just thought to myself, "that guy's an asshole - noted!" and moved on with my life. Granted, calling him an asshole is indeed a judgment, but it didn't affect my own emotional state. 

Progress: recently merging onto a freeway, I had that experience where someone decided that they needed to be in front of me, even though it was not their turn. That time, I thought, "wow, you really need this, don't you? Okay, I'll give you this win. Clearly, it means more to you." Again - not without judgment, but I didn't call them a name this time - even in my head!

BTW, sorry that both of my examples are regarding driving, but (a) I live in SoCal - we spend a LOT of time in our cars, and (b) I'm still not getting out much yet! 

Of course, I still lose my temper, I still get distracted, and I'm not consistent with my practice yet. Overall, however, I'm really glad I started! 

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