Meditation is saving my brain and my heart.
I don’t remember when I first learned to meditate. I remember being required to sit every day for a period of three months back in about 2004. So it was before that. And I used to have a relatively consistent practice. But it waned as life changed.
In 2017, I picked it back up again with a reading of Jon Kabat-Zinn‘s book Full Catastrophe Living. His book is essentially a written version and companion to the 8 week mindfulness classes he developed that are taught around the US.
At the time, I was struggling to be able to focus enough for meditation. Some days I was simply too tired. And for whatever reason, I have a difficult time meditating in positions that aren’t seated, and I was also too tired to sit.
But I persisted, doing a few days at a time, then taking a break.
In January 2018, I decided it was time to recommit to a daily practice, and I did. 2018 is also the year I started to understand how pacing works for my body, which also gave me a bit more stamina. This week, I’m at a three year long streak, and haven’t missed a day.
I will, at some point. And I will start over. But for now, I haven’t.
It feels amazing to be so sick, yet to have stuck with and prioritized something like this. Some days it’s only 3 minutes. That’s OK. That’s what acceptance of my body and reality is. It is still and intentional time of pause, presence and reset.
I learned to meditate without guided practice. So while I do them occasionally, they aren’t a big part of my practice. I usually just sit in silence.
I don’t do timed meditations, because that pressure doesn’t work for my body and reality.
I just pick up my phone, go to the Calm app, turn on my open-ended meditation session, and go. I sit until it’s uncomfortable. Then I take a breath and decide if it’s a good time to push through, or a good time to stop. And I stop when it’s enough. In 2020, That averaged at about 11 minutes a day.
Often, I’m just reminding myself what it is to be present. Sometimes I need to notice how I’m feeling in my body. Sometimes I need to notice how my feelings are. Sometimes I just enjoy the quiet.
I don’t work with a teacher, although I have been profoundly influenced by Tara Brach. Her book Radical Acceptance is was the most helpful book for me in terms of finding acceptance about the state of my body. Her take on the meditation practice RAIN (Recognize, Allow, Investigate, Nurture) has been incredibly helpful for me when I’m having stress or big feelings. I occasionally tune into her live online sessions on Wednesday evenings for a guided meditation and dharma talk.
What I do, is show up. For myself. Every day. And practice.