My blog is moving on and I hope you’ll come with me. If you’re a follower, I believe you’ll no longer receive email notifications from WordPress. The new blog will have the same address, but will be hosted by Squarespace. The address will still be slowbreathsoftheart.com. See you there!
It rains for me.
I love a bleak muted sky and the way dead leaves cling to patient trees. I love that some raindrops slant sharp and some fall soft. I love when the weather matches my mood. The birds concur. For all these long winter months, there have been no bird sounds other than the caw of a crow. But today, finally, there are trills and warbles, chirps and cheeps. The birds call to each other and they call to me.
Meditation may encourage empathy and strike up an awareness for others but mostly it creates a cascade of connections that ultimately connect me to everything around me. So, when it rains, it rains for me.
There are people who meditate and there are people who are impressed with people who meditate. If you fall into the second category, take a breath. It’s simple to switch categories.
Meditation is an easily learned skill. I could teach you to do it in five minutes. Slow breaths, relax, coax your thoughts from your head to your heart. Repeat. The difficulty is not in performing the task; the difficulty is incorporating the practice into your daily routine.
Take a solitary activity that will not earn you any fame or fortune and figure out how to get yourself to do it. It’s not guaranteed to result in weight loss or financial success. It’s not about improving your romantic relationship or your confidence, or selling more crap to more people, or winning friends and influencing people. In fact, meditation is not about any goal at all. That’s right. As they say, if you have a goal, you’re not meditating. So, no wonder there’s no incentive to sit yourself down and not do anything. You could do it, but why should you?
The real key to learning to meditate is not about the learning, it’s about finding the support to keep sitting still and doing nothing.
Be still. I say it again in my head, but this time I add a little coddle: You can do it. Try again.
I resist. That’s who I am. I like to do the opposite of what I’ve been ordered to do. You’ve always been that way, my big brother told me. It’s why I went to law school Why don’t you become a secretary or a nurse? my guidance teacher suggested. You’ll never get into law school. Admittedly, some ideas were better than others.
Contrariness suits me. Contradiction adds dimension. I test out one way, then I seek out the opposite and try that one on.
Be still, I suggest. Or not.
Yes, Annie Lennox. Everybody is looking for something. When I’m searching for answers, I often ask my questions before I meditate. I ask: how do I find focus in chaos? Or– how do I let something go? It’s a kind of show-me-the -way question. I ask gently, or at least as patiently and gently as I can. Generally, my questions are for guidance. How do I focus on this and not that? How do I get that toxic thought to stop nagging me? The questions are soft, not probing. I’m not always that deep. I’ve asked: how can I lose weight? I went for several months with eating dinner just every other night. It didn’t work. Oh well.
I don’t demand or expect an answer, but nevertheless the answer often arrives. This doesn’t happen like a bolt of lightning. I’ll notice months after I’ve begun asking the question, hey- I’ve somehow completed a draft of my novel despite the disruptions and chaos in my life. I have accomplished something significant. Or the thought that has been circling around in my head for so many months in a row has been absent for a long time.
Hold your head up, movin’ on
Most every day, there’s a new study to show how meditation lowers blood pressure and decreases anxiety, not to mention the intangible benefits of increased happiness and greater compassion. This Harvard study says “meditation literally rebuilds the brain’s grey matter in just eight weeks.”
Yay meditation! But there’s another side to meditation you’re not likely to read about in a study. A prolonged practice brings increased awareness about yourself and others. I don’t know how to say this, but with increased awareness comes increased awareness. Sometimes reality is not all that. Sometimes clarity is uncomfortable. Twenty minutes of stillness once or twice a day changes the way you process the world and when the truth of your brain and your heart converge, what follows may be awkward and inconvenient.
No one ever said enlightenment would be easy.
When all else fails, I go to evening minyan. We are a group of at least nine people and a Torah (the Torah counts as a person) who gather at dusk to recite the evening prayers. The mourners say Kaddish; the rest of us respond Amen.
Every line of Kaddish finishes angry, finishes sad, finishes strong. Technically this is because every line ends with a beat. Mystically this is because the prayer is written in a language that has long been lost. It is an insistent repetition of meaninglessness over and over.
Listening to the mourners speak the words is humbling. This is a prayer about mortality despite the fact there is no reference to death and it has been said for thousands of years in the most excruciating of situations. The saying of the words is life-affirming. The saying of the words is meditation.