I am by no means an “expert” in meditation. I have been practicing meditation sporadically for a little over a year. Practicing it sporadically has actually helped me see the benefits of meditation because they go away when I don’t do it. It’s like a controlled experiment… except that it’s controlled more by spotty practice and my kids’ schedules rather than a randomized trial plan.
Regardless, here I three things I noticed this morning.
I was doing a ten-minute meditation. About 90 seconds into sitting still and breathing I thought, “Cr*p. There is no way I am going to make it through ten minutes of this.”
Then I remembered my practice. 10 minutes is in the future. I needed to stay present. So, instead of worrying about how crazy my mind would be going in 8 more minutes, I stayed present to the practice. I focused on my breathing as I was breathing. In and out. In and out. (If you are from Southern California, I know what you are thinking right now!) Before I knew it, 10 minutes were up.
I was reminded how important it is to not worry about the future but rather to do the thing in the moment that needs to be done. That doesn’t mean that we don’t plan. But letting our minds zoom ahead with anxiety about what may not come to pass accomplishes nothing good. Plan but don’t worry. Leo Buscaglia said it this way:
“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.” — Leo Buscaglia
Jesus said it with a slightly different twist:
“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. — Matthew 6:34 (NLT)
I was reminded of the power of staying present. By disregarding the difficult ten minutes I faced and staying present to where I was at the moment, I made it through the ten minutes.
My daughter was running late getting ready for school. I had reminded her that we were going to be late and that she should hurry. She said, “Ok,” but if the pace of her progress was altered, it was utterly imperceptible to me.
This is where I would normally begin to use a louder voice, possibly threaten with punishment, and certainly experience agitation. But I didn’t.
Make no mistake, I was frustrated that we were running late for school. But I experienced the frustration differently. Her tardiness was her tardiness. I felt my boundaries stay in place instead of tying my self-evaluation of my parenting to my 14-year-old’s decisions. I also did not waste time fuming. I attribute this to having meditated. And it felt good.
I have been developing a regular habit of going to the gym. It feels really good overall. But I tend to look at really fit guys with some jealousy and desperation. When I see someone who really looks fit and healthy in the locker room (that is where you can see for real, after all!), I tend to internally shake my head, sigh, and resign myself to never being in that kind of shape.
Yesterday morning I saw a guy in good shape and something very strange happened: I spoke kindly to myself. I said to myself, “Not yet, but I’ll get there.” I felt hopeful. But it was more than that. It was also self-acceptance. I accepted myself as I currently am (needing to lose about 20 lbs.) and I could see myself in the future in the physical health I desire. Part of that is, no doubt, due to exercising and the power one feels when one actually changes one’s life for the better. But I also attribute the shift in attitude to the positive mental and emotional benefits of meditation.
If you want to learn some of what the scientific community is discovering about meditation, CLICK HERE to see my post, “A Free, Scientifically Proven Way to Be Physically Healthier and Feel Better about Life.”
I use an app called “Calm.” You can take a look at it at http://www.calm.com. In addition to using it online, they have apps for iOS and Android. There is a free version and a paid version with more meditations and daily new meditations. I use the free one because all I want is the timer and the basic body scan meditations. Sometime I’m going to write a Christian meditation app! (Do you know of one?)