You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day. Unless you are too busy, then you should sit for an hour. ~ Buddhist saying.
Do you meditate?
If not, why not?
If you do, has it made your life better?
I have meditated most of my life. I began meditating with my Aiki-jūjutsu Sensei before I was ten. I would arrive an hour before class and sweep the Dojo and dust if needed, then water the plants.
Takeda Sensei would then come out from his office and we would approach the Butsudan (Buddhist altar) and we would kneel before it and I would match my breathing to Sensei’s and for the next twenty minutes, I would wrestle with my thoughts, dragging them, sometimes kicking and screaming toward quiet.
I did not notice it at first, but it changed me. My parents both remarked on it within a couple of months of me beginning the practice. I became slower to anger, I lost much of my childhood anxiety and my happiness levels shot up to a place where I laughed more than anyone I knew.
Takeda-Sensei was not a purist, so we meditated while sitting, standing, walking, even while doing movements around the mat, his belief was that if you could truly focus on being there, in that moment, with minimal distractions, that you could overcome anything from anxiety to the strongest opponent.
I was about nine. And now, as I close in on 50, I am seeking to re-immerse myself into that world.
I have meditated, as I have said most of my life, but since a prolonged illness a few years ago, I have become lax and my practice has become spotty and inconsistent. I will be returning to it on Monday. Gypsy will be joining me and I am hoping we can bring Erych on board, because at 14, he needs the break and space that a quiet mind will give him.
Over my time practicing meditation I have had hundreds of discussions with people who just don’t get it at first and their arguments all reflect a fear of rigidity I think. But I tell them, as I will tell you, that as my Grand-da used to say about a completely different subject, “It isn’t about the kneeling…”
Let me begin with saying that meditation is a secular activity. Your religion or lack thereof has no bearing on your practice of meditation. Meditation appears under different names in almost all of the world’s religions and many of the techniques transcend them all.
Meditation also does not require complicated or painful contortions and in many cases, such things actually impede good practice.
Lastly the benefits of a meditation practice are not purely spiritual ones. In the last decade, modern science and medicine has begun seeing health improvements such as lowered blood pressure, improvements in breathing, lowered stress levels, improved heart rate, elimination of some digestive issues, and in some cases it has eliminated chronic headaches and other conditions that had been lifelong with people.
There is also evidence to suggest that meditation can improve clarity, memory, usable intelligence, cognition and lessen depression, and there are some remarkable results being shown in its effectiveness as a treatment for ADHD.
The latest studies are beginning to discover that consistent prolonged practice can also lessen or eliminate altogether symptoms of some inflammatory disorders and asthma, and lessen the felt effects of premenstrual syndrome and menopause.
Another new development is that meditation has shown to boost the immune system and science is currently not sure of the mechanics of it, but are sure that it is happening.
I will not load you down with links, but the information is out there. Look up MRI scans taken during meditation and you will be amazed by the changing landscape of the mind during practice.
Meditation can and has saved lives.
And while most people view meditation in the traditional idea of a shaved headed monk, sitting in lotus position, his saffron robes lying in perfect folds around him, there are in truth as many types of meditation as there are people seeking them.
Over the next couple of days, and perhaps weeks I will be discussing types of meditation from the simple on into the more complex, and also I will chronicle how my return to practice is going and what noticeable changes occur to myself, Gypsy or Ercyh.
I would like to challenge you, though challenge is a bit confrontational of a word to use, I would like you to join us in this. Try it, if only for a few minutes, once a day.
Find a comfortable place, free from distractions, sit with your feet on the floor and your hands on your lap, palms upward.
Inhale deeply through your nostrils, hold that breath for a count of three or five and then exhale until your lungs are empty. Breathe in again, hold it and release. For five minutes, focus on nothing but your breathing, the sound it makes, the feeling of the oxygen powering your system, the natural rhythm of your breath as it flows in and out of your lungs and each time you feel your thoughts drift elsewhere, gently guide them back to your next breath, and the one after that.
Set your timer for five minutes the first day, but make the timer quiet so as to not jar you out of the state of quiet.
Do this every day for a week, and if it begins to feel good to you, extend it to ten minutes, or five minutes in the morning and five minutes in the evening.
“If you have time to breathe you have time to meditate. You breathe when you walk. You breathe when you stand. You breathe when you lie down.” – Ajahn Amaro
End of Part 1
Take care of yourselves…