Monday, February 6, 2012

Meditation: Pre-Meditated

Let's talk about Meditation!

Oh, I know, I'll be doing that all month on the 28-Day Meditation Challenge Blog, but I want to take a larger view on the subject than I'm doing there: less personal, more general.

I think a lot of people think they know what meditation is, and judge whether or not meditation is worthwhile and/or compatible with their beliefs based on that faulty definition of meditation.

The example of this phenomenon I hear the most:

"Meditation is where you try to empty your mind and not think about anything. How can you love God with your whole heart, mind, and soul if you're not even thinking of Him?"

Now, as far as my own understanding of the Divine goes, this feels like a straw man argument. God[dess] is everywhere: within, without. You don't have to think of the Divine to summon the Divine. It's just there. But, apparently this view keeps people from giving meditation a shot, so it's really important that I set the record straight.

Meditation is NOT where you try not to think about anything. Have you ever tried that? Good luck. Meditation is where you choose to think about ONE thing, and if you want that one thing to be Jesus' passion, Ganesha riding around on his giant rat craving sweets, Mary's immaculate conception, the unpronounceable name of God, Allah's love for his people, or something a little closer to home, like your BREATH, that's a-ok.

Meditation is often touted as something that's outside of or beyond religion, and that's because it is. Meditation can be practiced by, and will benefit, ANYONE, regardless of their spiritual system or lack thereof. Sort of like drinking water. It's. Just. Good for you.
(Yay, wa!)

The simpler the point of focus, the easier maintaining that focus will be. You don't want to be running off on mental tangents: "Don't people in India throw themselves in front of the Ganesha float and get crushed? Weird!" "What's really the difference between being the perfect, sinless mother of God, and being Divine?" This is why sticking with the breath can be the best way to start. It's always there, and it is all that it is. Any thoughts you run off with will be outside the breath, so you can recognize them for what they are, and let them go.

The Catholic Church is actually hugely pro-meditation in many different forms: The Rosary is a 20-minute meditation on different facets of the life of Jesus, Mary, and Church history. Hundreds of Christian mystics found indescribable moments of union with God through hours of silent contemplation. Many specifically stated that as long as you're consciously aware of thinking or uttering prayers, you had a long way to go.

But to return to the drinking water argument, it doesn't have to have anything specifically to do with your religious faith. Does walking down the street having anything to do with your belief system? It might affect whether or not you toss change into that man's cup, or offer him a prayer. It might be why you're walking instead of driving, but then again it might not. It's not really dependent on what you believe. Everyone can do it, and getting out there and moving is good for everybody. Is it not ok for Christians to drink water because Atheists do it, or because Jesus said that he would give us Living Water so we'd never thirst again?
(Yep, still awesome!)

The scientific evidence is really piling up that meditation positively changes how your mind and body functions, leading to greater mental health, and more happiness!

Meditation is really just about training your amazingly powerful mind to devote it's massive abilities to one task at a time, instead of darting all over the place, following every inclination down a new primrose path. Know the feeling? You sit down to a task (say, updating your blog...) and ten minutes later you realize you've opened three different articles off of links on your facebook wall, are mentally composing a reply to a message, which, let's face it, all that's going to accomplish is tricking you into thinking you already replied when you didn't, and what in the hell are you going to wear tonight?? And when did you use the fluoride rinse? Can you eat lunch yet? Maybe you should call the yoga studio and make sure there's room for you in the 6:00 class, because the system won't let you log in online. What's up with that, anyway?? Oh jeeze what are you going to eat for lunch?? Is the marinated asparagus ready? Oh, how about an omelette! Oh, but you can't do the dishes while that cooks...thank goodness for cleaning gloves, your arm are already itchy! Wait, why is Pandora playing this? When are you going to do Reiki today? Whyyyyy don't you have any business cards???

Seriously. That happened in ten minutes. Less. Your brain is incredible! Think how much more useful it would be if it could devote that much energy to one thing you really want done, instead of fifty less important things at once!

How do you teach your brain to do that? Practice makes perfect! Sit your ass down, choose ONE SIMPLE THING to train your brain on, and go for it! Trust me, you'll end up with your own crazy thought tangent in probably less than two minutes. And that's totally ok! Just laugh at yourself, take a few breaths, remind yourself that none of that stuff is real; only this moment that you're in is, and take your mind back to your single point of focus. Do that for twenty minutes a day, and you'll start to see a difference in a surprisingly short amount of time.

You'll also meditate for years and still encounter the same stupid setbacks: losing your focus to think about other things, feeling uncomfortable or twitchy, falling asleep, etc. It's ALWAYS a practice. As you learn to focus your brain, you're also learning to forgive yourself for not being perfect, to be gentle and patient, to start over without judging yourself. Bet you can think of a few times in your daily life that those skills could serve you and those you love well.

If you don't think you have twenty minutes a day to sit still and stop ruminating about your day, then trust me, you need to find those twenty minutes!

Convincde? Intrigued? Not so much? Well, I'm oversimplifying a bit. There are lots of different ways to define meditation, and lots of different meditation techniques. Walking meditation, for example, or how about dish-washing meditation! Use that hot sudsy time to just...focus on doing the dishes. Be present for every second and every sensation of that act. (Are you beginning to see how meditation might improve your sex life?) NOW are you intrigued??

You can still join me for the 28-Day Meditation Challenge!

Live Omily,


  1. And by the way you guys, Happy 100th Blog Entry! Woohooo!!! Topped 700 pageviews last month, and I couldn't have done it without you!

    I love you!

  2. I've always been intimidated by meditation, but your post is encouraging. Maybe I'll woman up and give it a whirl!

    P.S. Do not fear floaty tops with skirts! Pair with a fitted skirt -- like a pencil skirt -- or tuck it in to any-shaped skirt to create balance.

    xo style, she wrote

  3. i need to do this ASAP!!!I am now your follower, xoxo! MUMU