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.

Becoming a Seeker

I sometimes ask myself why I continue to read books or listen to audios with self-help and spiritual themes. One would think by this point in my life I would have it all figured out. A lot of other people do don’t they?

I can’t speak for everyone, I am quite sure that most folks are also struggling with the issues that life presents us. I don’t think I am much different expect that I claim my ignorance. I know there is a lot I don’t know and I am grateful that I have a sense of curiosity and a desire to seek answers. The more I learn, the more I realize how much more there is to learn. As far as living goes, I think we are just scratching the surface of what it means to be alive.

As I was growing up I was given answers by my family, by education and by religion, all of which were intricately wound into a perfect mechanism. Follow the commandments and the laws of the church and I would reap my reward in heaven. As I grew older and my own curiosity kicked in I found that I could no longer believe in everything I had been taught. Speculation, interpretation and rhetoric where the foundation of many of those ‘truths’. That amazing clockwork mechanisms began to lose a few springs and wheels. And so began my own journey to seek truth.

I sought out answers in religion, later philosophy and psychology and new age mysticism. Each has its own set of truths and while they don’t all agree with each other there is common ground. The Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” is found in most. It’s an ethic of respect of others as well as of one’s self. I can live with this one. As well as the idea of Namaste: “I bow to the divine within you.” There are many generalities that I can live with. It’s when one goes into the specifics like an unbaptized child goes to ‘limbo’ or that there are nine classes of angels that my inquiring mind says, “What the …..?”

Part of my search for meaning in life begins and ends with the idea that today’s truth may not hold up tomorrow and that I had better be ready to let it go. Once we believed that the Earth was the flat centre of the universe, then the sun became the centre and now what? I guess the initiation point of the ‘Big Bang’ could be considered the centre of it all?

So I happily admit I don’t have all the answers. I must continue to Seek, to Ask, to Learn, to Share and to Apply. For me, this is what living is all about: S.A.L.S.A. adding the spice to life! And after this, I do it all over again. I believe that the answers aren’t as important as the questions I ask. The answer I got to what makes my life meaningful when I was 14 years old is a whole lot different to my answer today.  What is success for me yesterday may not be the same answer tomorrow depending upon what I learn today. I can look at life with a true sense of awe.

So yes, even at my age and I hope until I am no longer breathing, I will be a seeker. I will ask the questions. I will try new things. I will boldly go where I have not gone before because, well, it’s there.

Namaste

 

Happiness is My Choice

“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” John Lennon

I just finished reading a book called “Happiness is a Choice You Make,” by John Leland. He’s a journalist who followed six elders for a year. Through interviews he gained a great deal of insight into what keeps these people alive in spite of the many challenges of aging. Leland shares what he learned as a result: that happiness is a choice.

When I look outside myself for happiness I will probably never find it. Happiness that is linked to something outside of myself doesn’t last. If I tell myself that I’ll be happy when I get a new car. If only I get to go on that vacation I can be happy. Or when I finally publish that book I will be happy. What happens when the car gets old, the vacation is over or the book stops selling? Sorry to say, you probably won’t find happiness.

What our elders can teach us is that we find happiness when we choose it. In spite of the pain, the losses, the changes and the uncertainty of the future, the wisdom of old age demonstrates that it is up to us. Despite our problems, we can be happy. They don’t have to prevent us from being content right now, in this moment. Happiness is the choice of those who accept what is happening around them and move along through life with a positive attitude. Add a good dose of ‘selective forgetfulness’ and you’ll find a way of life that is pleasant regardless of storms raging around us.

The lesson was to find happiness not in the absence of pain and loss, but in their acceptance.” John Leland

The mind will always be able to find reasons not to be happy. Is dissatisfaction our ‘go-to’ way of thinking? Perhaps that’s how we were raised. No one will deny that inventions and changes have been the result of this dissatisfaction with the way things are. But perhaps I can be accepting of the way things are and still work to change the things I can.

There will always be things that I can focus upon that will bring me down: politics, violence, poverty, weather. However, I can also acknowledge their existence without letting it send me into a depression. So, in spite of these things, I choose to be happy. I choose to focus on the present, the gift of today. Yesterday may not have been so good, but that doesn’t mean that today can’t bring many gifts.

two men holding red heart balloons

Photo by Marcelo Chagas on Pexels.com

The key to life, as John Lennon said, is happiness. And while the aged many have fewer moments in their future that I do, tomorrow isn’t guaranteed for anyone. It is up to me to use happiness as the key to open the door to a life which is full of happiness, joy and freedom. It’s my choice to make. I choose happiness.