Image Credit: “Meditation” by Moyan Brenn. Used by permission.
Reading David Lynch’s Catching the Big Fish reminded me just how much I miss a daily meditation practice.
The only thing between me and a daily meditation practice is, of course, my commitment to that practice. (If you think about it, the only thing between us and anything we’d like to do is our commitment to that goal.) So this morning I set my meditation timer and, for the first time in years, meditated for just ten minutes.
The title of this post is a bit deceptive because, as I just admitted, this wasn’t my first meditation. I started meditating regularly back in 2000 — about the same year and about the same time I started this blog. That was also the year I wrote several books. It was the year I negotiated the perfect work-from-home arrangement with my employer. I lost weight and took long daily walks.
It was also the year we first stumbled on a wonderful community of people in St. Mark United Methodist Church’s “Couples Class.”
Those first meditations were fragile and hesitant. I was too conscious of technique, too eager to follow the rules set forth in the little book I’d bought on the subject. But over time, the meditations did their work. I became more balanced, more focused. My blood pressure (I’ve been hypertensive since my late twenties) declined. My doctor actually reduced my medication and was a little in awe of the results I’d achieved.
When we moved back to Jackson, Mississippi, in 2001, I allowed distractions to interfere with my daily practice … and, quite suddenly, meditation was no longer a part of my life. (Not coincidentally, the benefits of meditation disappeared as well.)
So: today was not my first meditation, but it was my first meditation in a long, long time.
I started the timer. The little bell sounded. I started repeating my mantra — a very short phrase that helps keep me focused on the act of meditation — in my head. My breathing slowed down. I felt centered and still.
And, of course, almost immediately, the mind began manufacturing distractions. “Hey, you could write about this. You could teach it! You know people who could benefit from this. Wait … don’t you need to cough? Why are you still coughing after being over that cold for weeks? Is it cold outside? What coat will you wear on the walk to work? Ah, work. What’s due today? Haven’t you forgotten something? Shouldn’t you be working now, in fact, instead of just sitting here?”
Each time my mind manufactured a distraction, I greeted and embraced that distraction … and then went right back to repeating my mantra. Meditation isn’t about maintaining a quiet mind by sheer, gritty force of will … it’s about allowing the mind to go where it goes, then gently returning to the mantra as a way of remaining anchored in stillness. You drift, and you return. It’s so easy.
After ten minutes, I felt refreshed and energized — nowhere near as sluggish as I felt beforehand. Today’s short session felt like a visit with an old friend.
Ten minutes at time, twice a day, every day, going forward. I wonder: will this practice induce in me as many changes as that first practice did, so many years ago?