A Year of Meditation

I started my meditation journal in April with the intention of blogging regularly. Here it is the middle of July, and I’ve yet to post again.  Status update: the meditation is going well and I’m journaling after each session with pen and paper.  And because I’m retentive and keep track of this sort of thing, I can report I’m meditating, on average, a little more than four days a week.

For comparison, in the past five years I’ve:

  • Meditated 45 days in row, during which time I absorbed the worst news of my life, and yet was amazingly stable.  However, it abruptly stopped.
  • Dabbled many times with the intention to meditate regularly, never lasting more than a week or two.
  • Meditated every day for a year straight.   But at the end I was exhausted.  And done.
  • Meditated daily for a month as part of a workplace challenge, and yep, it dropped off too.

This time appears to be different.  There’s an ease to sitting down that hasn’t been there before.  I have no idea what drew me to meditate for 45 days straight, all I can say is that something propelled me to do it, knowing there was a reason I would need to be grounded.

When I set out to meditate this time, it was with the intention to make it a lifetime habit.  The goal?  To meditate four to five days a week.  As I examine the success, so far… some of the answers to why it’s working now appear to lie in the year of meditation.

A year in review.

February, 2011. I sort of fell into the goal of meditating every day for a year.  At first, I was attempting to hold space for another, when in reality I hoping they would return to me.  And that led to feeling sucker punched, again, by the brevity of relationship.  While the genesis of the intention began from confusion and even self-loathing for making the same mistakes, there were five crucial phases.

The vocalization.

At the beginning of my year of meditation, I saw my acupuncturist for a series of treatments.  Previously, he had recommended Emotional Freedom Technic (EFT), and I had prepared for this series by doing EFT daily for several weeks.  EFT borrows from Chinese medicine and combines tapping certain points along our energy meridians, rapid eye movement and vocal affirmations.  It’s really quite simple.  And ever so effective… if you can get over the hump and believe that it works.

Because I had been doing the vocalizations, at one point early in my year of meditation, when emotions came up, rather than repress them, I spoke aloud a version of the affirmation I had been working with, and began to sob.

Vocalization is an important part of practice and is often overlooked.  It does not have to be the “ohm.”  It can be a mantra, a phrase you repeat over and over.  You can chant a sacred text.  But in this instance, because I have chanted the Sutras and because I was working with vocal affirmations, I was comfortable with my voice, and the end result was an incredible cleansing.

After this initial experience, I simply completed my meditation as I normally would have, and from then on when a similar thought arose, I gave it voice.  The emotions I was working with were released without the drama of resistance.  And that led into a new phase.

I have faith.

At about two and half months, I began to identify as having faith.  This was, at first, an odd sensation.  It didn’t seem to have the same qualities that I associate with religious faith.  There was no doctrine involved, no need to be right and no need to be heard.  For the last five years or so, I have identified as an agnostic leaning towards Buddhism.  This sense of faith wasn’t an unrealistic one, derived from a desperate longing.  It was simply the feeling that things would work out, absent the need for any particular definition or outcome.

There was a true sense of calm and peace.

I forgot.

It was later, in that place of faith, at day 128, I forgot to meditate one day.  Besides work, my daughter and the classes I teach, this had been a largely solitary endeavor.   I had dinner with an old friend, the kind of friend who simply knows you.  I forgot completely about meditating.  When I awoke the next morning and realized I had missed a day, there was an instant flash of disappointment.  But it vanished as quickly as it arose.  I rested that night, I slept well for the first time in weeks.  I was social, so many of the things I had been processing found a receptive listener.

The next day, I simply meditated morning and night.  And I continued on, undefeated.

It lost its effectiveness.

In my solitude, I was reading many sources: Alberto Villoldo’s book on shamanistic traditions and chiropractor-turned-new-age-healer Eric Pearl’s book on the Reconnection.  Rather than strictly doing my usual seated meditation, One Thousand Hands Buddha in the qi gong tradition, I added from other traditions.  And, I also wasn’t rising early enough to meditate in the morning and ended up more and more often meditating in the evening.

Eric Pearl asks, what element are you calling in, when you ask for protection?  He proposes that you are introducing fear.  I am not sure I felt fear, but I did bring in extra elements and became distracted.  I was bored and I was frustrated and I was angry that I was slogging through my meditation, alone.

It became a chore.

It was becoming a chore and at day 300 or so, I didn’t meditate on purpose.  What a relief to give myself that permission.  The next day, I meditated morning and evening, and finished with a recommitment to practicing One Thousand Hands Buddha, unadorned of any excess.  And, I made more of an effort to practice in the morning.

Done.

February, 2012. I completed the year, and that was it.  Gave myself a few days off and tried to resume it with a goal of 3-4 times a week.  At best, it was infrequent.  I didn’t want to do the chore anymore.  And, I met a wonderful woman who became my girlfriend.  Things were good.

The Here and Now.

In April, 2013, my current relationship began to succumb to the stress of prolonged uncertainty.  Why is it always about relationship?  I began to meditate again as I have in the past; attempting to hold space while waiting for someone else.  But then I began doing it for me, not for anyone else.  And that’s when I began to see clearly.

Here it is, the middle of July.  Since April I have, in some manner, revisited each of those phases:

  • The vocalization, allowing the emotion to surface and be spoken out loud.
  • I’ve yet to sustain that feeling of faith, but being content with moments where I’ve been close to it.
  • Remaining true to the form.  Don’t complicate it or become distracted.
  • Not making it chore by giving myself permission to not be perfect.

Practice.

One of my favorite Yoga instructors often says “It’s not Yoga perfect, it’s Yoga practice.”  And I think that’s the final key to sustaining this practice.  I don’t make it a chore, because I don’t have to do it every day.  In this reiteration of meditation, I’ve taken ownership over my behaviors and choices. I’m focusing on being social and well as solitary, and finding a better balance.  It’s leading rather slowly and sometimes painfully to acceptance.  The end result though, is action rather than reaction.  More grace, even in the face of uncertainty.

Advertisements

Write It Down

Things happen for a reason. I’m more convinced of this than ever. A series of events align and it allows you to see from a different perspective. This happens whenever I venture north to Portland for a class with Chase Bossart. I’m there for a series on Asana Sequencing and a review of the Yoga Sutra, and a little nugget on meditation appears. Chase says, “If something comes up in the process of your meditation, write it down.” In other words, don’t stubbornly resist it.

I knew this. But why wasn’t I doing it?

At Kripalu, one of the concepts that was presented during our training was to “give permission.” Maybe I needed permission. So I sit down to my meditation the day after our weekend sessions, and I have no paper, no journal. So I write nothing down. My mind is addled, things come up, but I ignore them and press on.

I finish my meditation, and it was ok. But I realize I did not take advantage of that clarity. Thank the stars, Buddha, whomever… a process like this no longer drags out. The next day I have paper handy.

Wow. So much stuff is in my head.

There’s uncertainty in so many areas of my life right now.  But yet, little epiphanies arose out of meditation.  This time, I wrote them down. I have to say, though I seemed to stop many times, it did not affect my meditation. Time flew by and I was unburdened and more refreshed. And, beautifully so, I had a plan for one area of my life where I could bring some certainty. There was progress immediately.

I have had periods where I have meditated, each with different intentions. For some reason, I had meditated 45 days straight just prior to when the worst news of my life was revealed to me. I was amazingly stable. I meditated every day for a year. And more recently, with a workplace wellness challenge as an incentive, I meditated 31 days straight.  But, it dropped off again.

With all that is up in the air, I need my meditation to be regular.  This time, I will keep a journal nearby.