Thursday, June 7, 2012

If you read my most recent post on mindfulness {Tuesday,July 5, 2012} perhaps you decided to give it a try. After all, what could it hurt? If you have a mind anything like mine, a constant, streaming chatterbox, then you probably found it more difficult than you would have thought. Maybe you were surprised at how little time you actually spend in the here and now. I’ve been practicing mindfulness for several years now and still find it a challenge to stay in the present moment. However, most thankfully, it has become easier and easier to recognize when I’ve stepped away, and to bring myself patiently back time and again. Even when I’ve taken the time to firmly plant myself in the here and now, the very next breath or step could send me tumbling into the busy recesses of my mind. I’ve discovered that’s okay though, because it gives me a chance to try again. (Sometimes multiple times in the span of 60 seconds! ;) and coming back to the present moment is always such a joyful reunion.

Living mindfully is the first step to finding my way out of the fog. This is especially hard when my energy is particularly low. I’ve learned that the times when it feels the hardest are the times I need it the most. Regaining my balance is more of a three pronged approach for me though. Besides living presently, meditation is also a key component to my inner joy.

Maybe you read that and heaved a big sigh. Here we go again with that meditation thing. Did images of praying monks, swaying and chanting fill your mind? Or maybe a day so chock full that there is no way, no way, you could manage to squeeze one more task in? Maybe you’ve tried it before and ‘failed’? Does spending time alone with yourself sound dismal or terrifying? Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret ~ except for perhaps eating and sleeping, meditation is often the single most important part of my day. I rarely, rarely ever miss a session, and when I find myself searching for answers as I do now, I commit to twice a day, with great relief.

To me, meditation is the opportunity to sit quietly and receive guidance from something so much bigger than little me. Something that sees the whole picture and knows exactly where and what I want out of this life ~ even when I don’t. It’s an opportunity to communicate and receive answers from the part of myself in constant contact with Sprirt. It’s a time to listen. A time to be still.  Mostly though, it’s a glorious string of moments where I get to rest quietly, cradled with total love and acceptance. And really, who doesn’t need some of thatin their life?

I’m sure that if you were to gather together 100 meditators you would find 100 different approaches to this practice. I have spent some time experimenting with different techniques and I always come back to the one way that works for me. I didn’t find it in any book, it was my own patient exploration that uncovered the approach that suits me best. I’ll share it with you today, but keep in mind that this is my way. A way that may work for you, but then again, may not. That doesn’t mean meditation isn’t meant to be a part of your journey however, it probably means that you too need to uncover your most direct route to visiting home.

Going home. That’s exactly what it meditation feels like to me. A time to rejuvenate and gather strength for whatever the day will throw at me, or recover from what has come my way already. A sanctuary. Much like living mindfully, it is easy to feel like you can’t ‘succeed’ at meditation. I could categorize many of my meditations as ‘failures’ were I to believe in such a thing. If meditation is all about quieting the mind, and keeping it there, then more often than not I am a dismal, royal failure. But of course, I don’t believe that you can fail at anything. I believe you can only fall short of your intention. This in turn means that you’ve been given an opportunity to look closely and decide whether or not you like the outcome. If not, make a vow that next time you’ll do better, and I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll be offered a ‘next time’. ;)  Erase failure from your vocabulary, it really is such an ugly word. 

So, what about those times when I walk away from meditation and I’ve managed to still my mind for a measly 30 seconds out of the 30 minutes that I sat there? The way I look at it, I just added 30 seconds to my day where I was present and in direct contact with Spirit. 30 more seconds than I would have had were I not to meditate. And time is a funny thing when I silently sit, those 30 seconds become more precious than jewels and translate into hours when taken and applied to the 'real' world. They’re like a little magic potion that sustains me as I travel through the rest of my day. An elixir of peace and presence that makes the whole world brighter, more peaceful. How could that be a failure? Releasing energy like that into the world can only be termed the greatest of all successes.

While many times meditation is one long constant moment of bringing myself back to stillness, there are those other times. Those other times are so powerful that they have the ability to bring me back time and time again, in the hopes that today is one of the days that I get to sit with God, nestled most lovingly. I tap into a joy so overwhelming that shivers spread through me and tears often fill my eyes. I float there, awestruck, hovered between this Earth and my true home, wishing never to return, yet knowing I must. It’s hard to take a breath and quite frankly I’m afraid to for fear of shattering the connection. I know that this moment is only the tiniest taste of true and ultimate joy. I’m not sure my human form could handle or survive joy in its entirety. These moments simply serve as a reminder of what I came from and where I will return to once I’m done with this journey. After tasting this you can never fear death again. Going home to that? I’m surprised I haven’t chosen to return yet…

My meditation begins with finding a peaceful place, one of two work best for me. My bedroom is my sanctuary and the perfect place to rest. My little summer home (a.k.a my pop-up camper) is where you’ll most often find me in warm weather though. I don’t wear anything constricting or confining. I prefer to meditate in the evening after my shower when I’m soft and warm and relaxed. I settle into the half lotus position, sitting on a pillow for support. I chose this position because it is the most comfortable for me. Meditation shouldn’t be about pain and torture. My hands settle in my lap, one cradled in the other, palms up and relaxed. If I am in my bedroom and there is noise in the house I plug in my fountain to muffle the din of living. If I am outside the birdsong does a much better job. My glasses come off, I close my eyes… and I begin.

First I take note of any areas of tension in my body. After years of practice they are hard to miss. I stay here as long as I need to, until I feel as soft as pudding. Often my eyes are tense, often a spot in my belly. All I need to do at this point is direct my attention there and whisper ‘relax’ and the muscles release with relief. From the top of my head to the tip of my toes, in and out, a big, soft, delightfully mushy mess. :)

From there I use the noises around me to stop the chatter in my mind. Definitely most effective for me is birdsong. The birds that surround my home in the morning are unbelievable. If I close my eyes I am in the rainforest, they are so abundant and their song is so plentiful. Initially I must come back to the birds over and over (especially this morn with this blog post trying to write itself before I was ready!) With enough time and patience I start to become the songs. I can feel them resonate through my body, which has the tendency to melt away. I can feel it (my body) there, but it no longer tethers me quite so firmly to this Earth. The songs flow through me and around me and I am one with the world I inhabit. I am the birds. I am their song. I am the bark of the dog or the drone of an airplane. I am the wind through the trees or the raindrops overhead. If I can  manage to stay here for long enough (a challenge to be sure) a ‘doorway’ will open. It’s the feeling that something more is possible and accessible. If I follow it mentally I can feel great release and freedom. (I apologize for being somewhat vague, I’m finding it a challenge to describe the indescribable.) If I can follow this path far enough, deep enough, this is where I find those precious drops of joy. It doesn’t happen as often as I’d like, sometimes months will go by before I find them again. I am comforted to know that they are always there and it is only the walls I’ve constructed that prevent me from feeling their peace. I will find them again, I always do.

My meditations usually last for about half an hour. I’ve tried longer and I’ve tried shorter. 30 or 40 minutes is perfect for me. As I mentioned, right now I’m making time to sit twice a day. They are like a rope, snaking out of that misty fog, a lifeline to my peace. They are the guidance that I seek and the answers that seem to elude me. Those sessions of sittings often elicit great clarity and provide answers that seem as though they should have been obvious all along. It is hard to convey the feelings that meditation affords me, they tend to defy any human description. Which isn’t all that surprising, after all, they aren’t from this world.

I would encourage anyone, everyone, to give meditation a try. There are tons of books and guided meditation cd’s out there. Wayne Dyer’s Getting Into the Gap is one I found helpful in the beginning. Meditation has been proven to improve your state of health, if you do a bit of research and you may be surprised at what you find. Better yet, just give it a go. It’s hard to argue with the peace of mind and inner happiness that you'll find when you quiet the chatterbox mind. Of course, my means and methods are actually frowned upon in some books. I'm not meant to swim in joy say others. Well, to that I say pooh, pooh. What I find nourishes me completely, and that my friends, is good enough for me.

And so I continue on my journey, my search for answers. I've discovered some things in the last couple of days, and my present (still unsettled) state assures me that there are more to discover. The fact that I do feel better and more balanced quiets me with the reassurance that I am heading in the right direction. Once I managed to separate ego feelings from true feelings they have become my most reliable guide. And so I'll leave you with that today, my sadly inadequate post, meant to convey and share my daily dance with joy as no words truly can. 

Have an inspired day friends. :)

Peace & Blessings ~ Melinda

P.S. Jordan, I'm sure you haven't managed to make it to the end of another long post, but if so, thank you  once again for more breathtaking photos. :)