For Valentine’s Day this year, I gave myself a copy of Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project. (Valentine’s Day was a horror show around here what with the strained silence and avoidance, no hearts and flowers.) I’d seen rave reviews online and decided that I needed to try something new to address my level of (un)happiness.
The book devoted two chapters to different aspects of spirituality: Contemplate the Heavens (Eternity) and Pay Attention (Mindfulness). While many aspects of spirituality are discussed, I latched onto daily meditation. Around the same time, Lisa at Lessons From The End of A Marriage (a blog I read) began a series about meditation. Ah, synchronicity.
I’ve meditated at various points in my life, even as recently as five years ago, but my practice always fizzled out. I felt weird, like I had to keep it hidden from other people. I couldn’t focus and felt like I was daydreaming instead of accomplishing something. My inner voice just would not shut up for even five minutes. It was frustrating and I gave up.
In February, I dug out the audio CDs of guided meditations I had from previous attempts to meditate and began a practice again. I made some mistakes: I meditated at night, in bed. Right, so I generally fell asleep in the middle of the meditation. I also used some longer (for me) meditations which gave me even more opportunity to doze off.
But this time was different. Instead of giving up, I began to meditate in the morning before working out. I wandered around Amazon and downloaded some guided meditation mp3s. I tried to keep the meditations to about 15 minutes, as that seems to be my personal limit. And I kept practicing almost every day.
I also found myself meditating when I was extremely upset or stressed, like in the parking lot at the marriage counselor’s office when I was literally shaking with anxiety. I used the breathing patterns I learned in meditation to calm myself down in the last few weeks before ES moved out. I prayed a lot during that time, too, mostly the serenity prayer (of 12-step program fame) or the even more universal, “Help!”
Now, months later, I still meditate every morning. The practice is not quite ingrained, but it’s regular. I feel calmer, less stressed, more connected, less overwhelmed, and even occasionally serene. My mind is clearer. I still wander away mentally, but it’s more like a kitten chasing a ball of yarn than a howler monkey shrieking and swinging in the treetops.
It’s hard to attribute all these benefits just to meditation, since there’s markedly less hostility and tension in my house with ES gone. I don’t think I’d have handled the dissolution of that relationship as well without my meditation practice. The volatile emotions I experienced might have been far worse and longer lasting had I not been meditating every day. Likely, the combination has contributed to my inner peace.
I use several different guided meditation audios: Celtic Spirit Meditations by Mara Freeman; Guided Meditations: Fill What is Empty; Empty What is Full by davidji; Journey Into Meditation: Guided Meditations For Healing, Insight and Manifestation by Lisa Guyman (not a fave); and The Best of Chopra Center: 21-Day Meditation Challenge by Various Artists. I bounce among these meditations, although davidji’s are my favorite.
If you want to try meditation, I like www.beliefnet.com and www.chopra.com for the many articles and free meditations offered. You can try out different meditations and find some that you like. Meditation shouldn’t be a chore. Lots of traditions are covered from Christianity to Jainism. Meditation doesn’t require a belief in any deity, so if you’re atheist or agnostic, it can work for you. If you follow a particular religion, there are likely meditations developed especially for that belief system, if you want them.
I tend to be a if-one-is-good, more-is better person (hence my involvement in not only marriage counseling but also an online marriage improvement course prior to ES leaving). With meditation, I consciously choose to find exactly what works for me instead of frantically adding more. So once a day, for about 15 minutes, I sit in a sunbeam in the living room and try to be still. It’s enough.