Buddha was asked, “What have you gained from meditation? He replied, “Nothing! However, let me tell you what I have lost: anger, anxiety, depression, insecurity, fear of old age and death.”
by Marla Martin
Meditation is a marvelous thing. It’s free, it’s accessible, and you don’t have to leave your home. It can be found in many forms and many spiritual practices. Saying the rosary is a form of meditation. Almost every day, you can read a new study that touts the benefits of meditation. And sorry folks, there’s nothing glamorous about it. There’s no one to see you in your stylin’ new yoga pants, there’s no one to guilt you into doing it, there’s no one to pat you on the back for a good job. For the most part, it’s just you and your butt on a cushion.
There will be days when you don’t feel like meditating. Just do it.
There will be days when you’re tired. Just do it.
There will be days when you think you don’t have time. Just do it.
Doing it is easy. Just sit. Find a comfortable place. I started meditating a million years ago by sitting flat on a bare floor. Let’s just say I can’t do that comfortably anymore. I sat for a time on my daughter’s bean bag. I now am the proud owner of an official meditation cushion. Just find something to sit on. Be comfortable. I had a Buddhist monk tell me once, “It’s not a lesson in pain.” If you can’t do a full lotus or even a half lotus, do what is comfortable. If the cushion doesn’t work for you, sit in a chair. If your feet fall asleep, try raising your butt higher off the floor (a higher cushion). But don’t get too comfortable. You want to have body awareness, good posture and you don’t want to fall asleep.
In the old days, Zen monks would come around and hit slouchers with a bamboo pole. You’re probably safe from that, but I will tell you that good posture is less painful than poor posture. That’s all I want to say on the mechanics of it. There are hundreds of things to meditate on. The one I started using was a meditation of counting breaths. Breathe naturally and follow your breath. Count. Find a method that works for you. You will find your comfort zone.
That’s how I do it. Here’s “why” I do it. It’s like taking a vitamin for your soul. Have a Lifeproof case for your Iphone? Give your spiritual life a “Lifeproof” case. Meditation won’t prevent bad stuff from happening to you, but I tell you it gives you the tools to deal with it in a more healthy way. You don’t have time? I propose you love yourself for 10 minutes a day. If you don’t have 10 minutes, you are over scheduled.
Meditation promotes mindfulness. How many of us have seen our children text, do homework, watch tv, eat, and listen to music, all at the same time? Thich Nhat Hanh says, when you’re washing the dishes, only wash the dishes. When you’re eating a tangerine, be aware you’re eating the tangerine. We’re moving towards a society of people unable to sit still and focus. Start with 10 minutes. Meditation takes discipline. The science is there. There is no gym fee. It’s good for you. I don’t how or why, it just is. (Other people know why, but not me. Google it!)
Just do it.
Let me leave you with this meditation on compassion. Relax. Sit. Get comfortable. Think of someone you love and feel compassion towards them. Think of yourself and feel compassion towards yourself. Follow that with friends…family…move on to people it’s not so easy to feel compassion for, maybe an enemy. End with feeling compassion for strangers and finally the world. You can use the following mantra (filling in the “you” with the names of a loved one, enemy etc.).
May you be held in compassion. May your pain and sorrow be eased. May you be at peace.
And lastly, pray for Thich Nhat Hanh, who is in very poor health.