The Perfect Meditation Practice

I’ve been asked a lot recently about my meditation practice.  And although I’m no expert in any meditation practice except my own, I thought I’d share my thoughts with everyone. 🙂

If you read no further than this paragraph, it’s enough for you to know that your meditation should be what you want it to be, and that no matter what style you choose, how it goes, what you do or don’t do, your meditation is perfect…every time.

There are so many different ways to do meditation that there’s really no excuse to not enjoy it.  The purpose, in my opinion, is not to force yourself into enlightenment, but to become more and more present in the moment.  It’s actually something I try to practice in all things from washing the dishes to driving my car, not just when I’m sitting on my cushion.

At the beginning of the year, I decided to create a meditation habit for myself.  I started January 1, and haven’t missed a day since January 30.  I started meditating 30 minutes every morning, and each month since March have increased that by 5 minutes, so now I’m up to 45 minutes.

I sit on a zafu and zabuton, which are a Japanese pillow and pad, that I was introduced to these at the zen center I first went into in Berkeley, CA.  I light a candle and some incense as I say a mantra or set an intention for the day, and then I start my meditation timer (there are all kinds of meditation timer apps you can find for your computer, phone, iPad, etc.).  And then I sit.

I sit cross legged and I generally have my hands on my knees, but sometimes I use the zen cosmic mudra (left hand in the right with thumbs touching, kind of making an “O” with your hands), or with palms up on my knees.

Sometimes my eyes are closed, sometimes they are open with a downward gaze.

Mostly I sit in silence, but sometimes I prefer some meditation music, a guided meditation, or binaural beats (all of which can be found in abundance on YouTube).

Sometimes I focus on my breath.  Sometimes I’m able to just sit without much thought activity at all.  Sometimes my mind is all over the place.  Sometimes I’m an emotional mess.  Sometimes the times passes quickly, and other times it seems to last an eternity.

No matter what happens I end with a bow, straighten my cushion, and then continue with my day.

I keep a smacalll calendar solely for the purpose of having a visual representation of how well I’m sticking to my practice.  I put an “X” over each day I meditate.  The day gets an “X” if I meditate with my eyes open or closed, if I was anxious to get up or not, if my mind was completely distracted or not, if I listened to a guided meditation or not, if I have a big epiphany or not…I think you get the idea.  Every day I take the time to sit, counts.

If you’re just starting out be patient with yourself.  Try some things out and see how they work for you.  My advice it to start small.  Start with 5 or 10 minutes and see how it goes.  If you’re like I was/am “doing” is a big deal, and “not doing” is no good.  At first any more than 5 or 10 minutes may be so challenging to the idea that you’re wasting time and should be doing something rather than “nothing,” that after a few days you’ll think it’s not “working” and you’ll give up.  Stick with 5-10 minutes until it feels like you want to do more.  Maybe that will be after a couple days, maybe not for a couple of months.  It doesn’t matter.  At the start it’s not about the length of your meditation, it’s that you’re establishing a habit.

My other piece of advice if you’re just starting out is to designate a specific time and location for your meditation.  I know if I don’t get it done first thing in the morning, I’m likely to keep putting it off until I don’t do it at all.  Morning is a good time for me.  Maybe an afternoon centering is what will work for you.  Or a pre-bedtime wind down.  Routine is key here.  When you find something that works for you, stick with it.

Congratulations!  You made it to the end!  Your reward is a reminder that whatever you choose to do for your meditation practice it should feel good to you in that moment.  And also, that every time you meditate it is exactly what it should be.  There’s no cause for concern or criticism.  It is always perfect. ❤

Do you have a meditation practice going?  Have you tried and not kept up with it?  What are some things that worked for you?  What didn’t work for you?  What’s your perfect meditation practice?  Let me know your experience in the comments below.

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“Wait Until You Get Older.”

Are there any common phrases in your culture that you went along with most of your life until one day you really thought about what it implied, and then you decided you actually disagreed with it?

I’ve had a few of those in recent years, but I think the best example is “Wait until you get older.”  This is usually said to me after any time I complain about any random physical pain, for example my knees.  I’ll just have run several miles, and say something like, “My knees are a little more sore than normal,” to which someone older than me replies, “Wait until you get older,” implying things are bound to get worse.  I’ve also heard this when people find out I have tattoos.  They’ll say something like, “Those are beautiful, but wait until you get older,” implying my skin is destined to sag so much I won’t be able to recognize what my tattoos were to begin with.

I’m sure you’ve heard things like this too.  There are a lot dealing with aging, but our society has many more.  Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it,” is another one I’ve recently thought about.  To me this means you better drag your past around with you otherwise all the bad stuff will happen to you again.

Sometimes it not phrases, but cultural understandings.  In the Western culture we are supposed to go to college, meet the person of our dreams, graduate and marry that person, find the job we’re going to work for the next 40 years, have our 2.5 kids, retire at 65, and then sit at home and wait to die.  If you don’t follow this plan something’s wrong with you.  Thankfully, I think this idea is fading more and more with each generation, but it’s still around.  I was never pressured by family to follow this path, but because this was the message I got from society, I did think there was something wrong with me because I missed each step after “go to college.” 

There are many more phrases and understandings that we get from family, culture, community, faith, and the media.  We are bombarded by everyday. 

    • The only things certain in life are death and taxes.
    • You must have this kind of car/house/hair style/clothes/friends/partner/job/income to be complete or whole.
    • I have to do X while I am still able.
    • I’m too old to do that.
    • My doctor says there’s nothing that can be done for this, all we can do is manage it.

One limiting belief after another.  What a bummer!  And false!

“Unfortunately, most of our fellow cohorts are still “lost in space,” with virtually everything in our society telling us, reminding us and insisting that we are limited, aging “creatures,” living lives between luck and fate in a hard, unforgiving world.  The truth, however (and this will likely ring bells in your heart of hearts), is that we are infinite and powerful, fun-loving gladiators of the Universe, with eternity before us and the power of our thoughts to help shape it.

We create our own realities, our own fate, and our own luck.  That is how powerful we are, and that is how powerful you are.  And to offset all the contradictory thinking of the media and masses, you need to hear this kind of message as often as you hear all the others.”

Infinite Possibilities: The Art of Living Your Dreams, Mike Dooley

Mike has it right.  We are limitless.  The only way we are not is when we think we are limited,  and unfortunately our society supports us in thinking this.

The good news is you don’t have to play along with society.  You can choose to know your power and limitlessness.  All it takes is to change your thinking.  That is not always as easy as it can be, so set yourself up for success.  Find the places, books, programs, friends, music, blogs, shows, art, etc., that will support and reinforce the kind of thinking that will help you claim your power.  Place sticky notes around your house, in your car, and at the office to remind you of how amazing you are and how amazing it is to be able to experience the Universe as a human being.  And when you hear something that claims we are limited and frail, don’t be afraid to declare your choice to believe differently, if not out loud, at least to yourself. 

So the next time someone tells you to “Wait until you’re older,” you can say, “I don’t need to.  I already know it just gets better from here!”