Meditation For Beginners

I’ve started to meditate.

This is shocking.  Ask anyone who knows me.

Meditating regularly had become the spiritual equivalent of climbing Mount Everest for me. No amount of training or preparation or even desire had been enough for me to sustain a consistent practice. No app or book or video worked for me. I started with the best of intentions, but always gave up after a couple of sessions.

My response to such failures was to act somewhat like a child having a tantrum: “Meditation is so dumb (kicks the ground).  I don’t care if I’m supposed to do it.  I don’t wanna!”

I’ve tried different mediation styles and methods. I’ve done walking meditations, but felt unable to walk at a meditative pace; I always felt compelled to put on my iPod and speed up. I’ve listened to binaural meditation music that slowed my breathing and heart rate, but after listening to the music during a turbulent flight from Atlanta to Indianapolis, the first notes now send me into a panic. I’ve listened to guided meditations, which can be helpful, but after a couple of them I just want to tell the speaker, “Hey, I know you’re a meditation genius and everything, but will you please SHUT UP for a minute?”

I had pretty much given up on meditation when a friend of mine, while giving me a tour of her home, showed me her home office. There, on the floor, was a blanket and a small round meditation cushion.

I hadn’t even thought about buying a cushion; maybe that was just the thing to help me get started!

On my birthday, I went out and bought a small, round, beautiful sky blue meditation cushion. I found a shelf where it fit perfectly.

And there it sat. Unused.

A couple of weeks ago, I visited the same friend, who was doing some home improvement and had filled that home office with stuff. She had moved that meditation cushion right into her living room. There it sat, every day, like an gentle invitation to plop down and sit quietly for a few minutes.

I went home, pulled my beautiful sky blue cushion off the shelf, and sat down. I set my phone timer for five minutes, closed my eyes, and breathed in and out.

It wasn’t life changing. But when I was done, I left the cushion out on the floor, directly in front of my path from my bedroom to my bathroom. And the next morning, before I went into the bathroom to get ready for work, I sat down on the cushion again, in my bathrobe. Five minutes. Then again that night, before I got ready for bed. Five minutes.

I’ve done this consistently over quite a few days. My dog was completely confused at first. She couldn’t understand why I was sitting still when I could be petting her, so I received lots of hand nudging and dog kisses as she tried, in vain, to get me to move. She’s the real-life equivalent of my “monkey mind.” On many days, the view from my meditation cushion looks like this:

Maya meditating

Photo by Casey O’Leary

But today, she was waiting for me at my cushion, sitting and looking at me expectantly, as if to say, “Ready, Mom?”  This meditation thing is becoming a habit, for both of us.

I would love to say that it’s changed my life in just a few sessions, but the truth is that my life is still complicated. I’m still divorced with two teenagers. I still lose my temper. I still worry. I still make poor choices sometimes.

The one noticeable change for me is that when I am faced with one of life’s questions or challenges, I have found it somewhat easier to tap into the spiritual realm that surrounds me and ask for help. If I have a question or a concern, I can take time to think about it before making a decision. I can sit down, pull some tarot cards, and really think about something for a while. I can breathe in and out and feel my brain and my heart begin to slow down in tandem. And when things feel overwhelming, I know that for at least ten of the 1,440 minutes in a day I will be able to be silent, and I will know a little bit of peace.

I thought meditation was something I couldn’t do, that it was beyond my reach. If I can sit still twice a day for five minutes, every single day, what else could I achieve if I a) gave it a try and b) let go of the outcome?

I might have to sit down for five minutes and think about that.

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