Meditation is one of those things that makes me go hmmmmmmm...It's a rather simple thing, right? Essentially, you're supposed to sit and be. There's no doing, which can be a tough thing for our minds, which are made to run around in circles like an excited dog nipping at his tail. Sounds easy, right? No, I'm not talking about the mind doing its excited thing because that's par for the course. I'm talking about the fact that sitting in stillness is pretty basic. Yet when one begins a relationship with meditation, things get complicated.
First off, there are teachers that try to help us sit in stillness (do we need someone to tell us how to sit still?!?!). They answer our questions (which is funny in and of itself -- meditation isn't about thinking and asking questions, it's about being, remember?), they give us techniques (sit...get ready...stay -- yeah, that's quite a technique), they provide us with instruction and advice regarding our posture. That sounds like an awful lot of work to just sit still. Like I said -- complicated.
The truth is that meditating is simple (I know, I know -- sitting with yourself can be quite difficult, but I'm talking about the act of meditating), yet we complicate it with techniques, tricks, form, accessories (you just gotta have that Zafu), and resistance (why can't my mind slow down? Answer -- because your mind has a job to do and it's doing it all the time, so it doesn't understand a meditation break until you give it some time to get used to stillness).
Perhaps this is why I avoided meditation like the plague for quite some time. I didn't know which technique I wanted to practice or which teacher I wanted to study with or which meditation camp I wanted to align myself with, so I did what any meditator-in-waiting would do -- I shopped around. I tried different teachers, techniques, schools, and yes, I picked up a few meditation accessories here and there.
Frankly, it all became too much for me and it seemed to me that all of the fuss and muss I had around meditation defeated the whole purpose that meditation was trying to achieve -- stillness, in the moment consciousness, relaxation, well-being. These days, I steer clear of meditation labels. I don't get crazy if I meditate using my bench (one of my handy dandy meditation accessories I picked up before going on a meditation retreat) or simply sitting on the couch or in my bed or on the deck outside. Yes, I sit upright, but I'm less concerned about my posture and where my hands should be resting. I no longer come up with all sorts of questions about what I should be doing and what should be happening when I meditate.
In fact, I've even stopped using the word meditation because of all of the baggage that it carries for me. I once heard meditation described simply and beautifully as creating space. That's what I say to myself now when I want to sit -- "I'm going to go and create space." This seems to work for me.
What works for one person most certainly won't work for another. That's the beauty of meditation -- it's an opportunity to learn more about yourself and find a path that calls to you. For some it might take years, while others stumble upon a way of medtiating that immediately works for them. My friend, Leonie, has quite an interesting meditation story herself. It's filled with humor and it reminds me that there's no "right way" to meditate. Here's Leonie's story:
How to become a Meditation Goddess
For years, I beat myself up over that fact that I wasn't a meditating goddess.
I knew it was good for me.
I knew it would still my mind and clear my heart.
I even had this glorious image in my mind of course - of me as this long, flowing haired mermaid sitting atop a lotus flower. Cue tinkling wind chimes made only from the tallest reeds that grew along a sacred river in the mountains of Far Off Distant Magical Place.
I would be dressed in a leotard. Or a flowing white Grecian dress. Or organic yoga wear threaded by chanting dreadlocked zen priestesses.
Everything would be perfect and beautiful and serene.
If only I meditated.
But the space between me and my meditation cushion stayed the same. There was no love affair between my bum and it - only long gazes of:
I really SHOULD be meditating on you.
And no zen priestesses adorned moments atop a lotus.
I thought there was something wrong with me.
Meditation was a should. An uncomfortable blimp of boredom, a much ignored item on my To Do List.
It was an epic marathon of me staring behind my eyelids, chasing each thought with:
STOP THINKING LEONIE! What's for lunch? OMG! STOP THINKING LEONIE! YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE MEDITATING. Ohm. Is ohm a thought? OH GOD I'M THINKING AGAIN. MEDITATION ISN'T FOR THINKING.
What was wrong with me?
Absoloodely, positively nothing.
I just hadn't found the way to meditate that worked for me.
These days, you'll find me meditating in my pyjamas in bed. Or curled up on a sun lounge. And always with bed head and disheveled delight. There are no lotus flowers or yoga wear knitted upon crystal-strewn looms. There is just me. And my iPod. Filled with meditations that guide me into a magical world.
I've found the way that meditation works for me.
It's no longer an epic quest to STOP THINKING.
It's now a vision quest, a soul's daydream, a guided journey into the light.
It's the way that works for me and sings to me and makes me whole.
This is how I am a meditation goddess:
by doing it in the way that sings to me.
And that's my story, dearest heart.
Guided meditation is the path that works for me for right now. Maybe it will work for you, maybe it won't.
If meditation doesn't sing to you yet… I want to give you complete and utter permission to find a way that does. Meditation doesn't have to suck. Meditation can make you glow.
I wanted to give you a gifty… of one of my own guided meditations. It is my dearest hope that it will light you up… and remind you that the real lotus flower is you. Always unfurling into even more beauty. Wind chimes or not.
Listen to: the Healing Rains Meditation MP3
Goddess Leonie is the creator of GoddessGuidebook.com, a popular creativity + spirituality blog for women.
I can definitely relate to much of Leonie's story. For anyone interested in guided meditation, Leonie offers a bunch of awesome guided meditation kits including, Divine Dreaming, Chakra Healing Goddess, Releasing Fears, and The Holy Dinger (the name alone makes you want to check it out, doesn't it?).
If there's one thing I've learned time and time again, it's this -- it doesn't matter how you do it, it just matters that you do.