Guest blog by Vicky Cook.
I introduced you to Vicky last year when I wrote about the reiki treatment she gave me. I really dig this woman and love what she has to offer. She has a committed meditation practice and has taught meditation series’ for a while now. Meditation is gaining recognition in mainstream society. It’s necessary. We’re barreling forward, like a fast-moving train, toward a life of complete connection to machines and devices and technology. To a lifestyle where, each moment between awake and asleep is filled with projects and tasks or pressure, stress and trying to achieve better and more of whatever it is we think we need, and want. The problem then, is that we are not spending enough time doing nothing.
Meditation then serves as a practice, not of checking out, but of checking in to ensure that all the ‘more of’ that you’re doing, is actually serving you. Meditation helps create the life you want, not check out of the life you have. Here, Vicky tells us her journey through meditation, gives us some tips and resources and takes the mystery out of the practice.
When Lyn asked me to write a piece on Mediation I was surprised, I practice meditation, I’ve taught meditation but I never really considered myself an expert on meditation. I sat down to write this and many thoughts flooded my mind (this happens when I sit down to meditate too…) and I wanted to write a prolific piece on the many benefits of meditation, the beauty and peace of the practice, but a voice kept coming to me WHY do you meditate, why?
So, time to get honest. I meditate mostly to avoid being an asshole. When I don’t meditate I find I am often annoyed, slightly irritated by local traffic, I am impatient with my son and can be quite a smarmy bitch to my husband. This isn’t my regular behavior by nature, I believe I am a kind-hearted and compassionate person. I’ve created or learned some pretty gnarly coping mechanisms early on in my life to deal with deep insecurities and retraining myself not to react but to act has been a lifelong process.
Simply put meditation is a necessity for me, it is not by some virtue that I found the practice; it was out of desperation and desire that I found it. There is a saying I heard early on in my journey “religion is for people who don’t want to go to hell, spirituality is for people who have been there”. I had been there and meditation is a way out.
I picked up my first book on meditation almost 20 years ago, its concepts and ideas were leap years beyond anything my mind could comprehend and I clearly was not ready, but the seed was planted. I have found myself, over the years, drawn to meditation in strange ways but they always seemed to be attached to a deeper commitment than I was ready to make. About 15 years ago I was introduced to Raj Yoga and attended weekly meditation for a brief time, but they were recruiting for their center in NY and the rebel in me still wouldn’t let me join anything. I did find I liked the way I felt after our weekly meetings and desired that feeling for many years to come.
I found Reiki & Yoga about 10 years ago and that began my real practice of a consistent meditation. Coming to a regular practice is hard; I have had some resistance towards it for most of these years. My spiritual experiences have always come as more of the educational variety anyway, and so has it been with meditation. This has been a benefit because it has allowed me to slowly evolve and steep myself more into an authenticity I never knew existed. It has allowed a process of becoming rather than just changing. I am who I am meant to be at this exact moment and I even believe that some of the time!
How do you do it, you ask? I’ve learned all you have to do is just sit and be quiet and you can do this anywhere. But… when you are beginning you should create a ritual (a set time, so you have something to commit to) create a space, I have an altar, but this can be a chair in your favorite room, you can have candles, a deity or any other object that softens your heart Right now I mediate on my beautiful porch overlooking an English garden. I found it easier to start in a quiet space with very little distraction. Now, on my porch I hear cars go by, birds chirping and general neighborhood noise which I embrace, it teaches me I can find stillness anywhere. Next, set a timer, as little as 5 minutes a day can make a difference. I’ve found that rarely is my mind ever void of thought, so don’t get discouraged when you start creating lists or when random thoughts invade your space. The practice of meditation isn’t to become void, but to become as “full”y present as you can be in each moment. It teaches you to act rather than react, to begin to know yourself, without judgment, but with clears eyes and an open heart.
Some techniques that helped me out early on were to simply count my breath, it was the first real deliberate meditation practice I was consistent with. It gave me something to do while I was trying to be (you can’t go from “doer” to “be-er” overnight). I tried a Zen meditation where you count to ten and then begin again, this never worked for me as I would always go past ten then berate myself for not doing it right. Counting my breaths 108 times (a single breath being a complete cycle of inhale and exhale) was a regular practice at the beginning. I’ve used mantra which is also very powerful. This can be a Sanskrit mantra or just a positive statement such as I am peaceful, I am happy, I am loved, I am abundant or I am here. Just the repetition of a beautiful phrase in and of itself is healing, but repetition is where the true practice of meditation begins.
Many people close their eyes during meditation, which was very helpful for me early on. I now practice with a steady downward gaze my eyes looking over the bridge of my nose a foot or two in front of me. This is a common practice for meditation in Reiki which is my regular practice. There are other meditation techniques in Reiki I use and they can be found in the Japanese Art of Reiki http://us.ihreiki.com/shop/product/the_japanese_art_of_reiki. My Reiki teacher has a new meditation CD out with guided meditations and is very helpful when you are first beginning (or something fresh for the seasoned practitioner), it takes all the guessing out of it http://www.thereikijourney.com/The_Reiki_Journey/Welcome.html. If you prefer print, I am currently reading Be the Change by Deb and Ed Shapiro which shares personal experiences from many modern-day practitioners http://www.amazon.com/Be-Change-Meditation-Transform-World/dp/1402760019. There are many great resources and ways to meditate, but the only way to begin is to begin. Ask people around you, read excerpts on Amazon, find guided meditations, anything you desire, there are many resources, just look.
I’ve found meditation is strong and grounding, which surprised me when I started. It should help immerse you into the world, or perhaps it will be a bridge to find your place with in it. Either way the practice of meditation is never about moving away from the world, but finding your true “seat” within it. Don’t expect anything, don’t expect a quiet mind or a more peaceful life, don’t ask it for anything. Meditation will give you more than you ever knew existed, I promise.