February 26, 2013

Kick Start a Meditation Practice

I’ve almost always been a worry wart.  Mostly, I worry about my kids and if they are safe, happy and healthy.  I also worry about money, work, aging, calories, laundry, world peace and what’s for dinner.  Ideas and thoughts swirl around in my mind and it’s pretty easy to get overwhelmed.   Everyone knows stress is unhealthy mentally and physically--it can bury you and lock up your capacity to experience joy and fun. It interferes with sleep, mood, energy and productivity.   When I get anxious about too many things, I shut down and want to hibernate and my creativity suffers.  When I let myself get into a twisted stressed out funk, I’m definitely not the best version of myself.
For the heck of it, about 6 months ago, I decided to give meditation a whirl.  I set my alarm every morning for an hour earlier than usual and created  a sort of nest in the corner of our living room so I could sit on a floor pillow with a folded up warm blanket and I put a single white candle on the coffee table to set the stage.   I researched online and read a few books about all the different ways to meditate. There are so many styles and names of different practices that at first I was pretty confused about which one to pick.   I wanted something simple and practical, so I gleaned a few different ideas and just jumped in. 

Here are some easy steps to start your own routine:

1.      Choose a time of day with the least amount of distraction.  (When everyone is still asleep at 6:00 AM, I have the house to myself) Set up an area that is comfortable and soothing to you. Let your family or roommates know this is going to be an ongoing thing, and to please not disturb you unless there’s an emergency.

2.      I uploaded a cool little app on my phone that helps keep track of time so I don’t worry about falling asleep or going over my self-imposed 20 minute time limit.  Or you can put a couple of songs onto a playlist that are equal to the amount of time you want to meditate.  Headphones make the music a more intense part of the meditation and can help by blocking out distracting noises.

3.      Close your eyes and focus only on your breathing.  Don’t worry if random thoughts bubble to the surface.  Just try to imagine them as soft slow bubbles rising and popping on the surface of a warm, slowly simmering pot of soup.   If too many things rise to the surface, I tell myself, “Let go.”

4.      Sometimes I wear headphones and play soothing music, but most of the time I don’t.  There is something pure and rare about silence. 

I’ve read before that the main difference between praying and meditation is that praying is talking to God and meditating is listening to God.  No matter what a persons religious background is, being still and silent is about the best way to connect to something not only bigger than ourselves, but to go within to find a deep place of calm.   I love it because it quiets my mind and helps me figure things out… sometimes during meditation, and sometimes hours or days later, solutions just occur from seemingly out of the blue.   A great analogy is to imagine a jar filled with one cup of sand and 3 cups of water that has been shaken up.  Muddied and greyish brown liquid swirls around in the container and is impossible to see through.  After setting the jar down and letting the sand settle to the bottom of the jar, the water is clear.
One of my favorite quotes about meditation I found while researching was this:
“Think of your ordinary emotional, thought-ridden self as a block of ice or a slab of butter left out in the sun. If you are feeling hard and cold, let this aggression melt away in the sunlight of your meditation.” ~Sogyal Rinpoche

My kids tease me and think I’m being a bit “out there” I suppose.  They asked me when they first found out I was meditating if I was going to start collecting crystals and wear embroidered smocks.   But kidding aside, they reap the benefits of a mellower mom.          

I’ll always worry about my kids since I don’t have eyes in the back of my head to check up on them every minute. But that hour I spend in silence every morning gives me a foundation for a less stressed out day and a calm feeling of inner peace.   



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