While somewhat a newbie when it comes to meditation, I thought I understood the basic principles. Did I still have something to learn? Sure, I would have agreed to that. But the basic principles were locked in. Yep, I got it, thought I. Meditation: sit your tushy down, close your eyes, and empty your head. Maybe a little pranayama. Maybe a mantra. But that’s about it. Simple.
Do this everyday and enlightenment will come…someday…like, sometime before you die…right?
Well, sort of.
Recently, I had the fortunate opportunity to study meditation with Dr. Lorin Roche, a meditation expert and scholar. And as it happens, I have a lot to learn about the subject.
Meditation is the new yoga. It’s the new-agey thing that everyone wants to try. Little by little people are opening up to the idea, maybe even giving it a test run.
It’s a little less of a useless, hippie pastime since Dr. Oz began promoting the practice in his book, on national television, and during health conferences. He declared that transcendental mediation effects and reduces mortality, heart disease, and stroke by 47%. That got some folks to pay attention. (Check out his lecture here.)
For a long time meditation was what I did at the beginning of yoga and then again at the end during savasana. About six months ago I decided, without the guidance of a guru or an expert in the field that I would explore this thing called meditation a bit further. I added it to my morning routine: wake up, go potty, scrape tongue, brush teeth, drink 8 ounces of water with lemon and cayenne pepper, then meditate. I set my trusty iPhone timer for 15 minutes and then off I went.
Where? I liked to imagine the White Cliffs of Dover. I’ve never been there but they sound nice.
While I found it calming, it always seemed very serious. It became part of a daily ritual that I did without much consideration. It was, by no means, fun. Goodness, no! Peaceful, yes…well, only when my mind cooperated. But fun? No. If I wanted to have fun, I’d practice cartwheels at the park.
An evening with Lorin Roche taught me that I’ve been a bit misguided on a few key points. I learned that:
Meditation is informal.
It’s like meeting your best friend for a happy hour cocktail. No pretense. No need to prove anything. Just you and yourself chilling out, connecting, and getting’ groovy on life. As Dr. Roche puts it, “Meditation is being intimate with yourself.” So, sit your tushy down, yes. And then say, “Hello, Old Friend!”
Trying to “empty your head” is a waste of time.
I don’t know where this notion of clearing your mind of all thought came from but I held on to it like it was my rope to safety. Actually, according to Dr. Roche all that chatter is your brain clearing away the clutter. Kinda like organizing the stacks of paper on your desk. Your brain needs to work though all that nonsense in order to get to the good stuff. Dr. Roche guided our small group through meditation and yep, my brain tossed around all kinds of useless thoughts: Would Jeremy be landing at LAX on time? Do we have enough cat food to get through tomorrow? I have to call my mother back… But after a few moments the chatter hushed. It was still there but it was as if someone turned down the volume and my psyche could open up to what was significant at the moment. I saw my brother, clear as day, someone I love dearly and very much look forward to reconnecting with in a month. I was filled with joy, as if he was standing right in front of me with his arms open wide. It was a beautiful moment but my brain had to clear the pathway before I could arrive there. When I was done, all the thoughts that taunted me at the beginning were inconsequential.
No two meditation sessions are alike.
When the meditation newbie stumbles upon the magic stuff that is deeper meditation, the experience can be exhilarating, intoxicating, even addicting. We want more. We want it to happen again the very next time we sit down. But while we may have similar experiences from time to time, each meditation is unique. We can’t duplicate the time before. That’s what makes it so exciting! You never know what you’re going to get. You’ll surprise yourself—perhaps, for the better.
Mediation is fun!
OK, maybe it’s not Space Mountain…but wait a minute, why can’t it be? In a place where you can kick off your shoes, toast an old friend, and allow your subconscious to play a little bit, what else can be had but fun? Sure, sometimes even with the dearest of friends the conversation can take a twisted turn but isn’t that just like life? I’ll say it again—you never know what you’re going to get. But without a doubt, we end up on the other side with more experience and just a tiny bit wiser.
And that makes the journey worth it every time.