Definition of meditate 1: to engage in contemplation or reflection
2: to engage in mental exercise (such as concentration on one's breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness
About three years ago I decided my mind needed a workout and by workout I mean a break! I know that may seem counterintuitive but I knew I needed to train my mind like I trained my body. As a former health teacher, I am very familiar with the three sides of the health triangle. For those of you that aren't as familiar, allow me...
Basically what I taught middle school students for about ten years was how to have a balanced health triangle. How to ensure that they were taking care of their physical health, their mental/emotional health and their social health. I would go into great detail about how health wasn't just eating right and exercising. How they needed to be sure that they had friends that they could be themselves around. How they should make sure that they had a close friend or family member that they could talk to when something was bothering them. How they should learn healthy ways to express their emotions. How mediation was a great way to help train your brain. Yep, I taught them meditation, middle schoolers...teenagers... and their favorite day of the semester was when I turned my classroom into a meditation room and we barely spoke to each other for the entire 45 minutes. Where they sat with their thoughts. You would think that I would be a master meditator by that point, I mean I was teaching it to kids but I wasn't heeding my own advice.
It wasn't until about three years ago that I started my own meditation practice. It took a change in my career and some serious self doubt to get me to there, and yes, I now wonder what took me so long. As a part of my meditation routine I also added in some time to journal. Sometimes I have so much in my brain that I have to journal before the meditation but most of the time I take a few minutes after to express my thoughts on paper. I have been reading back through my journal and have discovered a lot about myself. How much I have grown, how I have let go of some of the self doubt, how I have changed, how I have remained the same but most of all what I see in my journal is, me...pure me.
I wanted to share some of the pure me because it may help some of you that struggle with meditation. For those who have tried and wrongly assumed they have failed because they can't "clear their mind." As I practiced more and more I realized that there were times when I thought of nothing and times when I thought of everything. Here are some of my own thoughts on my meditation practice. They aren't perfect and neither am I, but I am perfectly me and here are my meditation thoughts....
"Today I let myself think. I let the focus of my meditation be my thoughts. Instead of trying to clear my mind, I let the thoughts wash over me."
"Focusing on your breath is harder than I thought. I need to learn to sit waiting for it to be over and truly focus to get the most out of my meditation practice. Five minutes of breath focus today, tomorrow will be better."
"Today I quieted the voices and the noise. I pictured all of the thoughts that came in and out of my mind as people in an auditorium. I was the speaker and all of their eyes were on me. When a thought came through and started to speak, like the teacher that I am, I quieted it. As each thought came in I reminded the group to remain quiet and focus. And then, it was quiet because all of my inner eyes and voices were focused on me."
"Ten minutes is a long time to think about your emotions and only your emotions. There are so many thoughts that come in and out of your mind. One reoccurring emotion for me right now, is pride. I am proud of my kids and my job and on the opposite end of the spectrum worry was also present. Worry that I'm not doing enough as a mom, worry about their future but weirdly not worried about mine. My body seems to react calmly, like there is a light shining from inside when I think or feel positive emotions. I am happy to say when thinking about negative emotions I did not feel as if my mind was in a dark place, it just wasn't as lit up and I didn't feel the inner warmth, it just, was."
"Ten minutes of admiring an abject as if seeing it for the first time. Not as hard as I thought, actually. It made me look at the flame of the candle a little differently, wondering how it was made, whey the scent and color were chosen, why the shape, why the two wicks. My other thoughts were clear, my mind was truly focused on the candle. Maybe that's my focus: having one focus. Multitasking makes your brain work too hard sometimes- just learn to focus."
"Deepening my meditation practice is not easy- focus is not easy. I am being patient with myself and allowing myself to learn and grow."
"I think I struggle with the fact that learning about meditation doesn't end- it won't be over- I just have to learn more and it will never be mastered."
"Control your breathing, concentrate on your breath and your mind will clear. Count the inhale, count the exhale and you will find yourself in full concentration on only one thing-the other thoughts will scatter and there will be only the breath."
I have discovered that sharing my own meditation journey has helped others begin to explore their own practice. I ventured out of my comfort zone and led a guided meditation for a group of my colleagues and was encouraged by many of the comments and questions I got afterwards. It seems the most common misconception about meditation is that you have to sit still and not think about anything. Too many people believe that they can't meditate because the expectations have become unrealistic to them.
I decided to share with you my journey in hopes that, maybe, you can see yourself in my thoughts. That you find comfort in knowing that someone else isn't perfect either. That maybe you will take the next few minutes to sit with your thoughts and if you decide to close your eyes and try...you just took the first step in your own meditation journey.