171 Days And Counting

Meditation

Meditation (Photo credit: RelaxingMusic)

Today, I am celebrating 171 consecutive days of meditation. As I wrote in this post, I’ve meditated on and off for years, but never quite committed to it. The thing is that I never needed studies to convince me that a regular meditation practice is beneficial. I’ve been my own test subject. There is no doubt in my mind that sitting on a regular basis has a positive affect on my physical, emotional, mental and spiritual wellbeing. Yet, if you are anything like me, the knowing and doing are very often outweighed by outer influences.

Thinking back, I find it ironic that, based on studies, research and direct evidence, the very things that should have caused me to embrace meditation, for example, stress, anxiety, a lack of focus and concentration, a mind filled with never ending thoughts and other burdens. In addition, fibromyalgia made sitting in one position very painful and it was impossible to focus on the breath while my body was screaming in agony. I found a plethora of ‘reasons’ not to meditate. Sitting in stillness was a dream that eluded me repeatedly.

Near the end of 2013, i was beginning to regain control over pain. In my case, fibromyalgia manifests itself with, among other things, daily pain. On a scale of 1-10, my pain level hovers around a 5–every single day. For the preceding 4-6 months, my pain level had routinely hovered between 8 and 9. This, for months on end.

With my pain level returning to normal levels, and the coming of a new year, I felt it time for me to take action to repair the damage that constant, intractable pain caused both to my body and psyche. Thus, at the end of the year, I set an intention to begin a daily meditation practice both as a declaration of ‘taking care of me’ and as an antidote to the barrage of thoughts in my mind.

In all candor, at the time, I had no reason to believe that it would turn out differently than it had in the past. In hindsight, I now recognize that there was a major difference. In the past, I approached the intent to mediate with my logical mind, with considerable attention to its notable health benefits. I find that the thinking mind, that which separates us from lower life forms, is subject to profound degrees of both brilliance and wisdom. Yet, it is also feeds our fears, insecurities, self-doubts and any number of negative emotions. If allowed to, it can led us astray as had been the case when I bought into the multitude of ‘reasons’ that, in the past, made it easy to quit meditating.

When I choose to resume meditation months ago, I was fed up with following the advice of my head and choose instead to rely on the feelings in my heart. Following my heart, I made the intention to return to meditation, and I felt ready to confront the obstacles and hinderances, including the pain. Unlike all of my past failed attempts, I’ve meditated successfully for 171 days.

Although I am in every way, a meditation novice, after some reflection, I realize that there are factors that are instrumental in helping me to maintain a consistent meditation practice. They are by no means intended to supplant the advice of more experienced or expert meditators, but they are observations that are based on my personal experience.

  • Pick a style of meditation that works for you. There are many types of meditation practices, even “laughing” meditation. It is important that you choose a type that you like. }Just note that It may not come immediately and may require some trial and error.) Just because I prefer focusing on the breath, does not mean it is the practice that is well-suited for you. Do your research. Either obtain a good book describing the various types of meditation or put your research skills to work on the internet. (If you hew to a method that is not your conscious choice or one that is not right for you, you are most likely to give up the practice.) Even after choosing one, if you find that it is not your cup of tea, try another. Ultimately, you want to find a practice that you enjoy and can envision maintaining.
  • Approach your practice with joy, as opposed to a duty. Think about it. What is your mindset about those tasks that you feel obligated to accomplish? At some point, we become resentful and must force ourselves to complete them. On the other hand, think about those activities that we enjoy doing. We look forward to them because they bring us inner peace, calm, satisfaction and other positive feelings. Instead of obligation, we feel pleasure and an air of excitement at the prospect of doing them.
  • Pick a specific meditation schedule and stick to it. Doing so, allows both your body and mind to integrate the practice into your day. As you begin to practice, be mindful of how long you choose to practice. Do not commit to sitting every day, if you don’t sincerely believe it to be feasible. It is better to begin slowly, and over time, to build up to where you which to be. Otherwise, you run the risk of giving up out of frustration because you misjudged your ability to maintain your chosen schedule. Once you are practicing on a consistent basis, your body will begin to crave meditation. There is a point when you realize that you are no longer wrestling yourself to the cushion; it becomes as natural as brushing your teeth.
  • Remember the mantra ‘begin again.’  When I first began meditating, I was advised to think of my mind as an endless blue sky, and my thoughts as clouds passing through that sky. The aim of the type of meditation that I practice is to simply note those “thought” clouds as they pass by, and to resist the urge to attach to them. For example, a thought enters your mind reminding you that you need to go grocery shopping. In the best case scenario, you acknowledge that thought and let it go as it floats on by. If, however, your response to the thought is to begin visualizing your grocery list, you’ve attached to the thought and your attention is no longer focused on the meditation. Once again the mantra ‘begin again’ comes into play. When you realize that you have attached to a thought, simply bring yourself back, for example, to your breath and ‘begin again.’ No judgment, no recrimination, just ‘begin again.’ At the beginning or on particularly stressful days, you may find yourself beginning again numerous times, but like in falling down, it is the getting up and beginning again that matters.
  • No two meditation sessions are alike. Like life in general, some meditation sessions come easier than others.
  • Those days when you feel most like skipping your practice, are in fact, the times when you most need to practice. Over the last three months, pain from fibromyalgia, migraines, a sinus infection, a couple of really bad colds and depression, gave me serious pause to skip practice. At one point, I was too sick to even sit up. It would have been so easy to give in to the temptation to skip practice. I mean, they were valid reasons, right? At least, that is what my ‘thinking’ mind assured me. Fortunately, my heart brought me to the cushion and I never regret it. Nevertheless, on those days, 5-15 minutes may be more realistic and doable than my normal 50 minute practice. The goal is to show up for whatever time that you can manage, even if it is only for 5 minutes.
  • Don’t compare your meditation practice to that of others. Meditation is not a competition, and as I said earlier, your meditation choice and experience are most certainly to be different than that of another meditator.
  • If possible, find a meditation partner. Given that I live outside of Austin and for health reasons, it is impractical for me to join a group meditation in town. So, I had to come up with a creative solution. As it happened, I learned that a Facebook friend meditated as well. She lives in Illinois and I in Texas, but we agreed to come together at a predetermined time to meditate together. It works beautifully. Knowing that Jen is counting on me and is meditation at the same time, provides me additional incentive and motivation to meditate, even though, we are miles apart.

You might find additional helpful information in this blog post in which I wrote about my meditation routine.

In sum, sitting in meditation becomes less about what you should do and more about what you must do for yourself. For a Type A personality like myself, the stillness required for meditation, is a welcome change. The mental to-do list evaporates and I give myself permission to stop to embrace the stillness and the moment. It is a gift that I give myself–one that I treasure.

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Read Great-Grandma’s Advice – Aged 97

Such a great reminder–especially from one who has learned from experience. If we take the time to listen, our elders have much wisdom to share with us.

At one time or another, many of us have a tendency to wait for the “perfect” time to do what we long for. The thing is, the “perfect” time never comes. There is no time like the present.

Blessings, Lydia

Kindness Blog

‘CollectedDog614 ‘ wrote:

“My great grandma just turned 97. She wanted me to print this out for her.”

My great grandma just turned 97. She wanted me to print this out for her.

Timeless, beautiful wisdom! 🙂


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The Whirlwind

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Calm Texas Skies

Okay, I admit it. I am not Super Woman or Zena the Warrior Princess. I am just little old me and this month’s been kicking my butt. First, I was in really bad pain for swathes of the month and after years of fibromyalgia, I still don’t deal with it very well. Once I got that under control, I messed my car up by swerving to avoid a deer and in the process, I murdered a neighbor’s mailbox. It was in pieces all over the front lawn.

Yesterday, I brought my car in to get a repair estimate and the damage is far greater than I’d imagined. As for the mailbox, my exceptionally kind neighbor (As an aside, let me give you a tip. It is not a wise idea to meet a neighbor for the first time, when you’ve destroyed their property. No, not a good idea at all.) Although I intended to pay whatever the cost to repair the mailbox, my neighbor called me, less concerned about her mailbox and more concerned about me and my car. She proceeded to tell me that I was not to worry about the mailbox because her husband was going to fix it. They didn’t want anything from me. I listened in silence and warmed at such a display of kindness in action. News of life’s horrors surround and inure us to the wonder, beauty and kindness of life. I feel blessed as the recipient of such kindness.

I’ve also been planning, and planning some more, for my big trip to California. My beautiful daughter is about to have her second son and of course, Mom must be there. (I can’t imagine being anywhere else.) The thing is, however, that I am, at heart, an introverted, home body, and leaving my cozy little zone of comfort for almost a month was messing with my head. I’ve finally dealt with all the little gremlins and the excitement is building and I can’t wait to see her tomorrow. I enjoy a very close relationship with her, in fact, she is one of my very best friends, so it will be nice to visit her and help out as I can.

One of the challenges is that I am taking a million painting e-courses, and I’ll need to find time to check in on those. Drawing and painting have become a sort of art therapy for me, so they’ve become a need, instead of something that I want to do. Also, traveling with fibromyalgia is hell. It takes two or three days for me to return to my pre-trip health. Overall, I need more down time than most people and I want to help out as much as I can, and not disappoint my daughter. I want to spend as much time as I can doing things with her and my amazing g’son–that little guy is so precious to me. Of course, I will also enjoy spending time with my “couldn’t have hand-picked a better” son-in-law.

The packing is the biggest challenge. I’m trying to keep it within Southwest’s 50 pound limit. Of course, I can pay the overage charge, but why do that when I don’t have to. Unfortunately, I am not a light packer, although even I am taken aback by the amount of “stuff” that I’d like to bring. I justify it by saying, “I’ll be gone for almost a month, so I need all this crap.” I actually whittled the stuff down, but it’s still an iffy proposition. I intended to use one huge suitcase, (which by the way, must weight 10 pounds by itself), but I haven’t even gotten my shoes in there and it is already approaching 35 pounds. Tomorrow is D-Day, so we’ll see.

All in all, there is still lots to do, and those Super Woman skills would come in handy about now. As usual, all of my worrying will be for nothing and I will get it all done. The whirlwind will settle into a light breeze, I will breathe a sigh of relief, and the calm will set in. I will certainly miss my Texas family, but I can’t wait to sit safely ensconced on that inviting couch in California. The leaving is the hard part, but the getting there is oh so exciting.

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