The number one thing people ask me about meditation when they are inquiring about learning is, what benefit I think it gives me? Clarity is always my answer. I was lucky. I learned how to meditate when I was 19. Over the last 15 years I’ve had varying degrees of practice from only doing it when I was in crisis, to nothing at all, to twice a day for many successive months in a row.
I am my own experiment. I can tell you first hand that when I meditate twice a day, every day two things happen. I’m less emotionally reactive and I’m more present in every experience life throws at me and not just the “bad” situations. Time seems to slow around the “good” ones too, allowing me to drink it in with more appreciation and gratitude. The sense of being present, or in the moment if you will, allows me to have clarity as to what exactly is happening rather than a projection of what I think happened after the fact. Often times that presence allows me to be more decisive, ultimately accomplishing more in my day with less effort, less deliberation, or second guessing myself. The reduced emotional reactivity allows me to have grace and clarity in what others might call pressure cooker situations. And because I have worked the muscle of meditation over and over, I can effectively activate my inner stillness with a gentle thought no matter how much chaos is swirling around me, most of the time. Sure, I could choose to meditate only after the chaos to gain clarity and relaxation, and I have, but that’s much more difficult. It takes longer to quiet the chatter of the mind and stop processing what just happened, before I touch the stillness and calm down. It’s the equivalent of working out really hard every day two weeks before an event to fit into a dress instead of just leading a life of moderation for months leading up to that same event. The life of moderation has staying power, where the crisis fitness will no doubt return to where it was prior to the event sooner than later. When my meditation practice is daily it is essentially preventative in nature. I’m present with clarity and stillness as the events are happening freeing up my time after to enjoy other events in my life.
I do go on meditation retreats and make a pilgrimage across the country twice a year to study with my meditation teacher. If I am going to teach others how to meditate I have to stay true, not only to my own practice, but to my teacher so I can keep learning and raising the bar. For me, it becomes an issue of integrity if I don’t. While I’m there it’s amazing to say the least. The community of people there are extraordinary. The lessons we learn take a new face each time they are given to us. And my teacher davidji, well, he is nothing short of authentically bold and inspiring. It’s a gorgeous setting in the sweet spot of Universe, Carlsbad, Ca. You get a “time-out” from the responsibilities of your life, and a real chance to recharge your battery by diving inward.
Anyone can have an amazing experience in an environment like this. The biggest gift a regular meditation practice will give anyone is how one will perceive what happens in life between his or her meditations. This is the same concept as “taking your yoga off the mat.” It’s easy to be blissed out or calm during the class, but how do you apply it to your life? Meditation is no different. The real magic happens when you come home to “real” life, the laundry, the bills, etc.
Each time I come home from one of these events I get to immediately see how I will apply what I’ve just learned. For instance, here is a synopsis of what I call, re-integration day from my most recent trip.
After flying all night from southern California to Atlanta to Tampa on a red eye to get home to the Burg the following morning, I went to start my car in the garage at the airport and it was dead. My significant other and a friend had dropped off my car the day before so I wouldn’t have to take a shuttle or pay for 10 days of parking. The lights had been left on. The hot shower, kisses from my dog, and the long awaited re-acquaintance with my beloved bed would be delayed. The sleep-deprived version of myself had a few choices. I could get pissed off and annoyed, I could blame my friends and ruin their day, or I could take a deep breath and just act on the quickest solution to get home and realize the magnificence of the people that took time out of their day to help me by even bringing my car there in the first place.
Fast forward three hours later. After a battery jump, a drive across the bay, an hour of dog love, and a super hot shower I was happy to take my dog on a long walk. After a leisurely jaunt around the neighborhood she reminded me about her undying need to say hello to every dog she meets, with vigor and excitement. I had almost forgotten about this particular personality quirk of hers until she pulled me through the pile of poop I was picking up sliding my newly cleaned self right into it. Again, I had some choices. I could scold my dog for being present and cheerfully wanting to greet her fellow canine. I could get pissed off and think the day was out to get me. Or I could laugh promptly after swearing as it was happening. I’m not perfect and for those of you who know me, you know I have a colorful vocabulary at times. It was funny. I would laugh if I saw someone get dragged through poop swearing. Why wouldn’t I laugh at myself? The swearing was a reaction, but the recognition of the reality of the situation was rather instant. It’s not a big deal. And in that instance, something deeper happened. I heard my meditation teacher’s words in my head say, “evidence of presence,” and I changed my reaction from swearing to laughter to gratitude in a few seconds. Evidence of presence are the trails we leave behind that often times annoy the living shit out of those that love us most, like leaving shoes at the door, towels on the floor, nuclear farts at inappropriate times, or dried toothpaste in the sink. There would be a day when my dog was no longer with me and that she moved beyond to doggy heaven. There would be a day that I would miss picking up her poop because I missed her so, even if I was wearing it. And then the timing and significance of it all revealed itself.
My neighbor to whom I’ve said maybe 6 sentences to in a year stopped me as I walked up my driveway eager to get inside and have my second shower of the day. He asked where I had been and expressed his concern that perhaps I had been taking care of someone or that something tragic had happened. I told him where I was and we got to talking about how he had learned transcendental meditation or TM in the 70’s out in California. He had forgotten about how much peace it used to bring him. We chatted for half an hour about acupuncture, dogs, PTSD, and meditation. At the end he expressed interest in relearning it to help him sleep better and find some peace. It was delightful even if I was wearing poop.
The Universe has a sense of humor, purpose, and it’s own time clock, but if you’re not present you’ll miss it all. Without presence you will be the rat in the race, looking for the next piece of proverbial cheese never being satisfied with the one you just had. I encourage you to find your way to be more present in your daily life.
If you want to add clarity and richness to your life by learning or relearning meditation I encourage you to sign up for regular blog updates about upcoming classes and for free guided meditations on my website www.ladypotions.com.
If you have a comment about your practice, or how it’s unfolding in your life, please share on the comment section of the blog or on FB. The more we recognize its benefits the more apt we are to keep practicing!