The Benefits Of Meditation For The ‘Unwoke’
I didn’t think I was capable of meditation. It seemed like something only Buddhist monks could do correctly. Part of me wondered why I would need to sit in silence. Forget my sadness, racing mind and self-imposed stress, I just thought I was better than that. Then meditation started to come mainstream. The thing many business people shunned as hippie stuff was now part of their routine for the last thirty years. I also realized I wasn’t better than anything. And that I needed some honest peace in my life. Some real me time.
“When there are thoughts, it is distraction: when there are no thoughts, it is meditation.” – Ramana Maharshi
The Beginning of My Meditation Journey (And Probably Yours Too)
I was horrendous at meditation when I started. I would be four seconds in, using Stop, Breath & Think, and already thinking about what I had to do that day. But I persisted. Through the boredom. Through the solitude. Through the stillness. After a few failed attempts to develop the daily routine, I got on a roll. I was still absolutely terrible at it. I sat there and made to-do lists in my mind while I was supposed to be “coming back to the breath.” But I was sitting still. It was quiet. My mind was more at ease than I thought.
Every morning I woke up and did it first thing. Even if for only two minutes. I did it. And then somehow, I had meditated for 9 months straight. Every day. I still didn’t think I was very good at it. I wasn’t experiencing next-level perception. I was still thinking about what was on my schedule. But I was consistent. And my mind and body were much more relaxed overall.
“The purpose of meditation is personal transformation.”
– Henepola Gunaratana
When My New Routine Got Broken
I am a very regimented person. The routine of checking it off every morning through the use of an app is part of what kept me going. I don’t know how Zen that is, but wanting to keep the streak up made it more likely than not that I would do it first thing every day. But then I missed a day. And my 270-day streak said 0. I deleted the app because I couldn’t look at it. For those that say, “Hey, no big deal. Just start a new streak tomorrow,” you don’t understand the depths of my connection to a routine. It was a seemingly innocuous miss of a day. I was busy on vacation. But it made me feel like an epic failure inside. I took a couple days off to grieve. Maybe I would never go back. But something very interesting happened.
I missed meditation. I needed it.
When I realized how much meditation meant to my daily routine, I snapped out of my funk and got back to it. I downloaded Headspace and started a new streak. I went back into my head (and breath) to get out of my head. I realized that meditation was about control for me. The ability to control my stillness and silence for ten minutes every day was powerful. If I could do it in the morning as a way to start my day, maybe I could do it in the middle of the day. Or at night. Or when I felt stressed.
Meditation was a part of me. And I was still terrible at it. Or was I? My mind still wandered. I still got bored. But every day I began to experience small times of Zen. Even if only for ten seconds. I was beginning to recognize what a quiet mind felt like. And it was amazing. The destruction of my streak helped me realize that I could expand my practice. I started meditating when I was frustrated. Just for a few minutes. To breathe. I started meditating on airplanes. During takeoff. When there was turbulence, I turned it up and closed my eyes. And breathed.
“Meditation is painful in the beginning but it bestows immortal Bliss and supreme joy in the end.”
– Swami Sivananda
I still miss a day here and there by mistake. My current streak is at 247 days. Busy mornings and busy days happen. And the new 0 streak staring at me still aggravates me when it happens. But I don’t care. Because I meditate because it calms me. Not because of the streak. When I miss a day, I sit back down the next day and breathe.
It Can Help Anyone, Even You
I’m not fully woke. I don’t know who is. Maybe the Dalai Lama. But not everyone who claims they are woke. That’s for sure. Woke isn’t temporary. Or based on one issue you are passionate about today. It’s about a life of awareness. But it’s more than awareness. It’s practice.
Meditation is practice. And it serves the unwoke.
P.S. – that’s pretty much all of us in reality.
When I was younger I probably would have disputed the statement, “Meditation can help everyone.” But now I am positive that it is as true a statement as any can be. All you have to do is try. Use an app. Let someone or something guide you. Don’t just sit down in a corner and think you’ve got it. Just be present. And don’t worry that you can’t stop thinking about your calendar. Or that thing your partner said. Or you cat who keeps sitting in your lap. Just be present.
And in time, your mind will be present too. If only for a minute. Or more.
“Through meditation and by giving full attention to one thing at a time, we can learn to direct attention where we choose.”
– Eknath Easwaran
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