I tried to start meditating a couple of years ago. I know it's supposed to be really good for me, and I had good intentions. I read a couple of books, and learned a lot about the process. Then I sat down and actually tried it. I discovered that my mind never shuts up. I thought about the dumbest stuff, and that led to other dumb stuff, then that led to Lady Gaga songs, and then I couldn't stand it anymore and got up off my zafu. I admit it, I gave up for a couple of years. In the meantime, I continued to do yoga, and we often do short meditations as part of class. Well, in the last several months I started to realize some peace during those times of sitting. When I went to the training session last week, we spent a lot more time meditating and I discovered that I can actually stand to sit now. I'm not sure when it started to happen, but I'm loving it. I have a goal of daily seated meditation for 20 minutes.
I am reading a fabulous book called The Wisdom of Yoga by Stephen Cope, and a great deal of the book discusses meditation. I wish I had read it a couple of years ago (although I don't think I would have been ready to "get" it). The author tells about someone new to meditation, and how they wiggle, get uncomfortable, and say they can't stand all the thoughts when all they are trying to get is quiet. He goes on to say that it is like that for everyone. Everyone! No one can fail at meditation, because the point isn't to have an empty mind, it's to be able to observe the thoughts and let them go, to not get attached to the worries and lists and Taylor Swift songs (can you tell who is in charge of the iPod at my house?). It felt so good to realize that my experience is actually the norm. I'm not a bad meditator, just a total novice.
I recommend meditation and other mindfulness practices to patients every day. I know I live too much in the past and future, thinking about what I've messed up and what I need to practice to do better later rather than enjoying this moment right now. I see this same pattern in many people with anxiety and depression. Meditation brings us to the present, and asks us to cultivate an internal "witness mind" that sees the swirling patterns of thoughts, and lets them go, realizing that those thoughts and worries, memories and fears, they are not our True Self. So, I plan to keep coming to my cushion every morning. Sometimes I practice focusing on my breath in and out of my nose, other times I need a mantra to give my mind something to latch onto. Either way, I feel better the rest of the day. I feel more grounded, focused, and Present. Isn't that the point?
Book referenced: The Wisdom of Yoga: A Seeker's Guide to Extraordinary Living by Stephen Cope