"Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself and know that everything in this life has its purpose."- Elizabeth Kubler Ross
When I was a little girl, I had no idea what meditation was. When I was finally introduced to the concept in my early teens, it was during a discussion of various religions in history class. We learned the basics of Zen Buddhism and that Buddhist monks practiced meditation for "enlightenment". Before that, the only reasons I was ever taught to sit still and be quiet was either because I was in trouble or because I was being told to pray. Now that I think of it, it's understandable why some people's concept of God is more furious and punishing than others. These days, meditation has become more mainstream, with downloadable apps like Headspace and even Audible, that offer guided meditations. And while these apps have certainly made meditation accessible to a a large portion of the population, there are still plenty of misconceptions about the practice.
Let's talk about what meditation is NOT. First, it is not a religion or spiritual practice in and of itself. There ARE numerous religions and spiritual philosophies that implement the practice of meditation, but learning to meditate does not require you to adopt a religious or spiritual belief. It is NOT required that you be professionally trained before you can begin to practice. While there ARE many methods of meditation, the only thing you truly need to aspire to is being still and intentionally noticing your breath. In fact, these two fundamental aspects of meditation, if practiced consistently, can be instrumental in improving your health by decreasing stress, blood pressure issues, and symptoms of depression, and can increase the likelihood of maintaining healthy weight loss and improving relationships. Why is it so successful at improving your overall health and wellness? Because when you can commit yourself to being still and focused, you realize that most of the things you worry about aren't important, and you remember the people who truly are. With those realizations comes the desire to align yourself with the people who share, or at the very minimum, respect those desires. Meditation, therefore, lays the foundation for you to create strong and healthy connections within yourself and with those you decide to surround yourself with. It is why we had to include the practice as one of the Four Seeds of Self-Care.
"Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless, like water. Pour water into a cup, it becomes the cup. Pour water into a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can flow or it can crash. Be water. my friend."- Bruce Lee
When my four children were little, I was in my twenties, and, in many ways, a totally different person than I am now. I had a very difficult time sitting still. Getting down on the floor and actually playing with my kids was always secondary to making sure the house was clean, to making sure the kids were clean, basically to making sure everything "looked" good. I thrived off the compliments at how well-behaved my children were in public, and how no-one could believe I had four children. But deep down, I knew I was missing out on very real connection not only with my children, but with myself as well. Someone suggested meditation as a means of being more present. The idea sounded great and I set out to develop a "perfect" meditation practice. The plan was that I would sit still, cross-legged, spine erect, not moving a muscle. I would keep my half-closed eyes fixated on the "third eye" point between my eyebrows and would not allow any distractions. I was a very serious practitioner.
I told my children the plan and that I was not to be interrupted for twenty minutes and sat on the floor preparing to assume the proper meditation position. I closed my eyes and settled in, fully expecting a struggle-free session. It wasn't long before meditation gave me my first taste of its unexpected, yet delightful fruits of practice. Three minutes in and I felt a twenty pound weight, in the form of one of my children, plop right down in the center of my lap and start giggling and hugging me. At first, I looked down, annoyed and exasperated, ready to punish him for disobeying me. But then... in the space between thoughts, I was able to grasp the the beauty of the moment. I was able to fully embrace the sweetness of a child wanting nothing more than to connect with and feel the loving touch of his mother. I was able to be still and enjoy the interaction. I certainly didn't expect this to be the outcome of my meditation. Instead, and far greater, the moment exceeded anything I could have envisioned for myself.
If you are tuning in this month for our 30 Day Self-Care Challenge, you know that this week is all about meditation as an essential self-care practice. We are exploring different types of meditation and offering inspirational quotes, helpful tips, and daily journal prompts to get you committed AND excited to implement a regular self-care routine. The experience I shared when I was first beginning to meditate was simply one account of the clarity meditation can bring to your life. Your experience will be different and therein lies the beauty of meditation. It has the power to provide health and wellness in a way unique to the practitioner. You discover and grow through meditation based on the aspects of your character, lifestyle, or relationships that are needing change. If you allow meditation to work for you, it can be your greatest ally along your self-care journey to a more mentally, physically, and, if you choose, spiritually gratifying lifestyle.
With love and gratitude,
Kinda and Rachel