Meditation…

I have tried meditation various times over the years and just couldn’t seem to get the knack of it. You see, I cannot fold myself into the lotus position, at least not without breaking at least one leg. And sitting cross-legged is also very difficult for me, especially after more that just a couple of minutes. So I figured if my body wasn’t designed to do meditation. I know this was just an excuse but I never really gave it much of a serious thought or any sort of a concerted effort.

There are many methods of meditation. As a teenager, I remember that Transcendental Meditation (TM) was big. Everyone who was anyone was taking the course and learning their mantras. For most North Americans, it was the first time Eastern philosophy was ever discussed and practiced. Later, other practices of meditation were sought out and taught. Some meditate by focusing on their breathing. Others focus on an object, or use prayer beads to quiet their minds. I like Eastern spirituality and I understand the appeal of Buddhism and its teachings. But the Buddhas, the gongs, the incense, its prayer wheels and flags, could not keep me in a practice of meditation. And yet, I knew that I wanted it, and probably needed it!

Why do people meditate? It relaxes the body and mind, thereby reducing the negative stress and anxiety that we experience. As well, scientific research is proving that it has a physiological effect on the body. It can change our body chemistry, releasing dopamine and other ‘feel good’ molecules into our bloodstream. Creativity, attention and memory are positively influenced. You don’t have to meditate for hours on end to enjoy the benefits and they last long after the quiet time we spend. Meditation changes you: body and soul! (Forbes Magazine: 7 Ways Meditation can Actually Change the Brain.)

So even though I knew about all these benefits, it wasn’t until a good friend of mine introduced me to a book by Sam Harris: Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality without Religion, that everything finally clicked into place for me. I still haven’t finished the book but I appreciate his very practical approach to spirituality and to meditation. I downloaded the meditation app and started using its guided meditations. I think it’s about ten free sessions before they ask you to pay up, but for me, it is well worth it. I finished the 50, ten minute beginner sessions and now usually use the daily meditation, between 10 and 20 minutes long.

After more than three months, meditation is part of my morning routine, along with daily writing and, of course, coffee. Do I see and feel the benefits? While I can’t say that I feel my brain cells growing and changing, I can say that I appreciate the calm, the quiet, and the peace. Some days it takes longer than others to calm the thoughts and focus on just breathing. It’s common that I find myself deep in some thought and Sam’s voice will reach out of the silence to tug me back to this moment. There are days where I become mesmerized by the dance of colours that I see behind my eyelids. Fortunately, there’s no graduation from this practice. It is a daily practice that I invite you to enjoy as much as I do.

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Find what type of meditation works best for you. If you want to sit cross-legged and burn incense, that’s great, but it’s not necessary. You need only find a quiet spot where you won’t be disturbed for a few moments. And you can meditate at any time of the day. Hey, if you find that you really do ‘wake up’ at the end of the session, you won’t be the first to have fallen asleep. There is no wrong way. There is only the embrace of the stillness that is within us all.

I first heard this ‘prayer’ in the Waking Up sessions. I have incorporated it into my daily practice. And it is my wish for you:

May you be happy.   
May you be free from suffering.   
May you know peace.

A Very Persistent Illusion

Is it a fact or is it a belief? The more I seek and delve deeper into the world around me, the more I realize that most of what I think I know are not facts but beliefs. Things in this world are not as they seem. I am not what I seem. As Einstein said, “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” What I thought were facts are, I am discovering, nicely packaged theories that work for a time, but which are only an approximations. They are not facts. They are not the truth. All of this reinforces my need to be flexible and not close the door on any subject.

I was taught that North and South America’s native population all came across Beringia, the land bridge between Siberia and Alaska some 13,000 years ago. Recent archaeological study, combined with radiocarbon dating and DNA analysis now proves that homo sapiens were present in the Americas up to 130,000 years ago . I was taught in high school that the number of brain cells that we have as an adult will only decrease as we age. That has also been proven to be false. Neurogenesis is our ability to form new brain cells throughout life. Coupled with neuroplasticity, the ability to form new brain restructure and reorganize nerve pathways means that we can always grow and learn. And I was taught that Antarctica was ‘discovered’ in 1820, yet the the Piri Reis Map of 1513 clearly shows its existence. Theories, it seems, come with an expiration date.

There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance — that principle is contempt prior to investigation.” Herbert Spencer

I came across this quote a number of years ago. It’s a reminder to me that if I believe I have the ‘truth’, then I close my mind to any future discoveries. It’s a reminder of what institutions like the Catholic Church did when it persecuted Copernicus and Galileo because their new discoveries did not fit with their view biblical of the ‘facts’. It’s a reminder that I don’t have all of the answers and that I may never have them. And it’s a reminder to stay away from any dogmatic ‘fact’. The ‘facts’, as illustrated above, can change.

So maybe some of the new theories about life and humanity, past and future, are the new truths for today. Perhaps our world really is a simulation or a type of holographic projection. Perhaps light-speed travel is possible. Are there parallel universes? Who knows. As long as I am open to the possibility, then I have a chance of finding the new ‘facts’ of tomorrow. With a closed mind, I’ll never have a chance.

I have been using this extra ‘time’ I have on my hands to investigate many things, past, present and future. One video on YouTube leads me to a book which, in turn leads me to another discovery, a podcast or series. There is so much out there that I didn’t know about the world around us, our reality. Some of these things have lead me to try new things. I learned how to make my own yogurt (easy) and sour dough starter (relatively easy) and to work out again (I ache all over right now). I’ve taken a one week, self-guided retreat. I subscribed to a 50 day introduction to meditation (on day 48 today).

The world we live in is as wide or as narrow as I decide to make it. More than ever, I have found that the further I dig into something, even something I think I know a lot about, I discover how little I really know. This reality, illusion or otherwise, contains of lifetime of awe and wonder. I am grateful that I have the time to discover it.

Suggested Links:

Piri Reis Map A 16th century map based upon earlier, now lost maps.

America Before, by Graham Hancock. Hancock’s book about pre Clovis civilization in the Americas. There’s also a link to an entertaining lecture he gave on this topic.

Becoming Supernatural, By Joe Dispenza. Brain-heart link with consciousness.

Matt D’Avella, on YouTube. He’s the latest guy I’ve been following.

Recovering the River

It’s been over a year since I posted anything on this site.  It just wasn’t in me. And I did very little writing at all. I could enumerate any number of excuses and reasons why, but they matter little. What does matter is that I have been using the past two months of lock-down to do some soul searching and realized that I need to write. I’m writing primarily for my own benefit. Blog writing helps me define thoughts and refine ideas in a way that journal writing alone does not.

I will be changing, only slightly, the focus of my writing. My main interest in this blog has been the sharing of information for those of us in recovery from addiction. I plan on broadening the field, still including thoughts on recovery from drugs and alcohol addictions. In addition, I plan to look at other facets of human existence and seek out alternate approaches to living that may be beneficial to a wider range of people and interests.

These past two months of isolation and restrictions have not been that difficult for me. I haven’t had to keep children entertained while working via the internet. I have’t lost all of my income due to shut down. I have food in the refrigerator and access to plenty of toilet paper. I am quite content to be here in my apartment, watching Netflix, and YouTube, and reading books on my Kindle, or sitting outside and watching everything green up again. I am grateful for all that I have received in this ‘interesting’ time. I know that I am one of the fortunate ones.

About six weeks ago I saw that I needed to do some ‘stuff’  or ‘different stuff’ from vegging out. I could make better use of all of this time I had on my hands since I didn’t have guests to tend to or laundry to do or rooms to clean. I started out by picking up my journal which I hadn’t done in quite a few months. Then I started doing some meditation, not a lot, just 10 minutes or so every morning, which gradually let me to download a meditation app on my phone. And I happened upon a one week program on-line that allowed me to do a sort of self-study retreat.

One of the results of this program is that I knew that I needed to return to writing. It is something that has given me a great deal of pleasure. The process allows me to better understand my thoughts and ideas. I thought about writing a novel, or get back to it, and I did some work on it, but that didn’t seem to be it. I looked at perhaps writing a book about personal growth, or spiritual growth or something like that. I also registered with an online freelance writing website.  Slowly it dawned on me, that I didn’t have to seek to do anything new. I had been doing the type of writing that I needed to do right here in this blog. I needed to get back to it. So, here I am, back at Recovery River.

I am not sure how this will all materialize. I won’t be a rigorous in my publishing schedule as I was before; an article a week, perhaps two? I do know that I prefer to give myself some structure so we shall see how that works itself out. Meanwhile, I thank you for reading along. I invite you to share your thoughts about this blog with me.

We’re all recovering from something and we navigate this river together.