Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
My meditation practice began formally when I was about 14 and stumbled onto it myself. I was always a bit airy, fairy, woozy, doozy, so I read some books on Spirituality and found a type I could do. In hindsight, a very lucky little camper.
I do think sitting high in a tree and reading Enid Blyton books for hours when I was even younger was a form of meditation, but I’ll stick to the general definition of meditation for this post at least.
I’m not going to go into the things that have knitted together to form me and my life yet. Gotta get some chutzpah together for that. They have been – um – challenging, and I’d have trouble believing them if I hadn’t lived them.
But through it all, meditation has been my friend and escape. It is now as natural and essential to me as breathing.
It isn’t for everyone, but you need to remember that meditation is different for different people. Think of it like you do food. We need food – well, I love to cook and eat – but you gotta try all sorts of food before you work out the types you love, the types you can tolerate, and the types you would spit out if other people weren’t around.
There is fast food, slow food, faves, reliable easy meals and meals you share. There is food that feeds your soul, and some that you sneak in private and are ashamed to tell other people about. Read – peanut butter on a teaspoon with sultanas on top, eating in the cupboard with the door open, cold pizza and cookie dough.
There is the food you are taught to cook, but change to suit your mood. There is the food you are dying to try, but no one else will try it with you. Sometimes you make do with the ingredients you have, sometimes you plan ahead.
There is wanky food. Food served in fancy schmancy ways that are still food. A deconstructed sandwich is still a sandwich. Get my drift.
You can eat out. You can eat at home. Walking. Sleeping. Dancing. Blah. Blah.
Just like meditation.
I am a thinker and fidgeter. EVERY SINGLE THING distracts me. I was talking to one of my Kinesiology mentors about this when I was 20ish, and he gave me the best lesson.
“Does anyone else get the giggles in a meditation when they are asked to visualise stuff?” I asked him.
My usual lack of tact meant I had asked this during a course on success, where we were asked to draw a circle on the ground with our imaginary magic wand and step into our light. Yep – I had giggled and it wasn’t nerves. I genuinely found it hilarious. And it was those belly-aching giggles that make strange noises come out of your mouth and your body shake. He said that quite a few people struggle with the idea of completely emptying their minds of thought or opinions. I digress.
My meditation had always been alone, and following Lousie Hay tapes and the Swami Vivekanda books, my gorgeous, wonderful Grandma had sneaked past my highly religious family.
Even now, I like to do my meditating alone and keep it sacred and private. I had never had a chance to ask these questions. So I did. I wanted to compare notes.
I have tried all sorts of meditation. A few of my more memorable have been when I have latched onto some extrovert friends and thought “What can go wrong?”
One of my besties took me to a week-long yoga retreat, where we sang to an instrument I still cannot name. Lots of strangers touched and hugged me and informed me that their loudness/openness was a sign of their superior enlightenment. Read that compliment backwards, and I came out as a spiritual pleb because I was a bit shy.
We ate a lot of vegetarian curries, and I was told to meditate for hours on end by pulling weeds out of the grass by hand in 34 degrees C heat. There was a truckload of grass to weed (real grass) and nowhere to hide. I stayed at the retreat for about 24 hours.
Not long after this, I went to an inner-city meditation group with another good friend of mine. I was going through a tough time, and they had the best intentions to help me. We went up the stairs into a dark, subdued, incense-filled room. So far so good. Love a bit of incense and no weeds in sight.
We sat. The doors were shut and a TV came to life. The guru would attend via video. Still all good. Been there, done that.
But wait. There’s more.
Without a doubt, Mr Guru was as naked as the day he was born, and everyone else looked truly at peace with this. He sat on a cushion, buck naked, and instructed all of us to abandon our attachment to our clothes so we could find our true souls without material constraints. Everyone but me stripped.
I don’t even do naked easily with people I love and find ginormously sexy.
Even so, I knew this was not just me being a prude. This felt weird. I looked around and I kid you not, everyone else seemed to find this perfectly normal.
I wish I could tell you that I left, still clothed, went out and got a great margarita pizza and a cold Sav Blanc. Turns out the doors were locked, and I had to sit in that room with a lot of naked strangers for THREE HOURS. Nothing untoward happened. But, let’s just say there are some things that you cannot unsee.
I was taken to a therapist when I was about 18 to learn some meditation and get rid of some hang-ups. It was in a very upmarket suburb of Melbourne. I’ll readily agree I had a hell of a lot of hang-ups. Hell yes.
The therapists/meditation guides went into a trance state and then wrapped me in beanbags.
They sat on these beanbags, muttered about me being born, my mother moaned, and there were lots of weird-ass noises.
You read correctly – my mother was there.
Again, this went on for AGES. I cried a lot. It was not happy, enlightened, emotional release tears. It was “Dear God, get me outta here” tears.
Let’s just say if I reached an altered state, it was through asphyxia. I have never meditated under, in or on a beanbag ever again. I only recently bought one at 50 years of age, and am struggling to think if I have actually sat in it. Looks comfy, but – um – Nah.
There’s more, and we may get to those one day or if we meet in person. And I want to acknowledge that for some people, these may be an ideal way to meditate. Not me.
So we circle back to the advice I was given earlier by my mentor:
- You need to find what works for you.
- It is not about what anyone else sees as good, valid, or spiritual.
- You do not always need to silence your mind. You need to see, hear and feel your thoughts and emotions, and you learn to do this without judgment.
- Some days it will be impossible to sit still.
- You will change. What you need will change. Your mind knows, and you will find around you what you need.
- Most of all, make sure you enjoy what you choose to do.
- If you can’t lie down, sit. There are some amazing cushions around. Use an eye mask if you need it.
- Some people’s voices will really annoy you. Don’t persist, or you will lose your motivation.
- Sometimes you do 5 minutes, sometimes you do an hour. You might fall asleep a lot.
My wish for you today is that you open or reopen your mind to the possibility of meditating, and that the kind you need comes to you and is even better than you dream of.
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