Morning, guys! Hope its a little less dreary outside wherever you are…
So, as my post title indicates, I am embarking on a kind of marathon training this month… a different kind of “marathon” training, though. I know a lot of bloggers out are running marathons, half marathons, etc., and, while I wish my knees could carry me on that kind of journey, I don’t think I will be embarking on one anytime soon!
Rather, I want to start “training” myself in meditation. Meditation is a practice that I have dabbled in ever since I went to India in 2006 on a Tibetan Studies program, where I studied Tibetan Buddhism and culture. Meditation has numerous benefits, too many to count here; it helps the practitioner to create more inner-awareness, to watch the way that he/she thinks and reacts to every moment, every thought that passes through his/her mind. But just like anything- running a marathon or learning to play the piano- it takes daily practice and commitment. I guess, going along with the “marathon” metaphor, meditation is the training- life is the marathon. Meditation will help me prepare for the ups and downs I face every day, and in the future. And while I sit and meditate every once in a while when I feel stressed, I have never followed through on a commitment to “practice” every day. Until now…
I am going to commit to making meditation a daily practice- even if that is only 10-15 minutes a day- whenever I can fit it in. And talking about it here will help me to stick to that promise. I hope to discuss on the blog the “results” I am seeing in my daily “training”- if I notice anything different in my ability to react differently to stress, anger, frustration, etc.
I invite any of you who are interested to try this out with me. Meditation may sound complicated, kooky, or weird, but it really is just a practice of calming the mind by focusing on the breath. And it is actually quite simple to do:
- Find a comfortable, quiet place to sit for 10- 15 minutes. Set a timer if you like, so you don’t have to worry about checking a clock.
- Sit with your legs crossed (or in a comfortable position for you) with a pillow or something propped behind your back.
- Close your eyes, close your mouth, and breath naturally through your nose.
- Begin to focus on your breathing. Don’t change it. You don’t have to breathe more deeply, or make any calming noises. Just focus on the shallow “in” and “out” of your natural breath.
- Focus on the nostril area of your nose and your upper lip. As you label or count your breaths, focus on the sensation in this are. (Some people prefer to focus on the diaphragm/ belly area and the sensations there. I prefer my nose. Do what works for you!)
- As you sit, you will, of course, start to think… your mind will wander to your plans for the day, to what you want to make for dinner, to the fight you just got into with your best friend… anything and everything. When you realize you have been lost in a thought, just come back to the breath and label “in”, “out”, “in”, “out”…
- If labeling breaths as “in” and “out” does not work for you, try just counting each breath (breath in, breath out-1, breath in, breath out-2). If you lose focus and go off in thought, when you realize it, come back to your breath and start again with 1. I often use this trick and I usually don’t get up to 10 before getting lost in thought!
- As thoughts arise, it may help to label them; that is, as a “fearful thought”, “thought about the past”, “thought about the future”, etc. That will help you to stay grounded in the present moment- in you just sitting and breathing with your eyes closed.
- Continue to do this and do not give up- return to the breath each time you notice a thought. Soon the alarm you have set will go off and you will open your eyes to a clearer looking world!
- If you give this a try, it will be hard, frustrating, annoying, angering, etc.- all of that, especially at first. You will think you are not getting anywhere, that you can’t stop yourself from thinking, and you will feel that you are getting nowhere at all. But just by noticing your thoughts and bringing yourself back to your breath, even just a few times in a 10-15 minute period, you will be building inner-awareness and an understanding about how your mind works, where your thought patterns go. As the days go on, I know you will begin to see and feel a difference
- You will have “good” meditation sessions, when you are able to focus, and “bad” ones. Don’t feel dejected if you have a “bad” day when you can’t focus.
- I guarantee you that when you open your eyes, you will feel that you are seeing things more clearly. This is always true for me, because, after clearing my head, it’s as if I am seeing the world more objectively.
- In weeks, in months, in years, you will see different results. You will be able to catch yourself more quickly before getting angry, or freaking out, or getting anxious. You will be able to walk down the street and just focus on the trees, or the leaves, or the sidewalk- and get out of your head.
- As I said above, this is a practice. If you play the piano for 2 weeks, you will get better; if you play for 20 years, you might be more of an expert. That’s why I am committing to taking a small portion of every day to meditate. I want to be a calmer, more aware, and less stressed person 3 months, 1 year, 20 years from now.
I hope some of you will join me in giving this a try. If you feel you can’t do this every day, try starting with 2-3 times a week. It’s a start! I am by no means an expert- there are people who meditate for 12 hours a day in caves in India for 5 years. Really! I’ve met some… they are amazing. I just couldn’t do it.
If you do decide to give this a try, please let me know. Send me an email, leave a comment, whatever. If you have done mediation in the past, I would love to hear from you about what works for you.
Now, just for some “meditation inspiration” for me and for you, I wanted to leave you with some of my favorite pictures from India.
Prayer flags and the Himalayas…
Very young monks (and they meditate for hours everyday!).
Me with my Tibetan Philosophy professor.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Normal food blogging will resume this afternoon!
(If you would like to use any of these pictures, please contact me to let me know at email@example.com. I don’t mind sharing them, but I do mind not being asked. Thanks!)