My first meditation class was a leap of faith– I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into.
I had read about the benefits of meditation, but it was not until I had real-life contact with a fellow meditator at work when I became truly convinced that a daily meditation practice was exactly what I needed.
My First Year In The Public Service
I was 23, in my first year in the federal public service. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I was eager to learn, deliver and succeed, and also a little naive.
I was quickly promoted into a senior-level position, but before long, I knew that it was more than I had bargained for: the learning curve was steep, demands were high, and workdays were long. My sleep patterns and digestion started to suffer, and my perfectionist tendencies started to flare-up. I already had a daily yoga practice, but quickly realized that I needed “something else, for my mind” to meet the demands of my new position.
Rather fortuitously, I was given the opportunity to work closely with a colleague who had a steady meditation practice for over 10 years. I quickly noticed that, while many of the other public servants were swimming in paperwork and stress, he seemed to exhibit a remarkable calm and grace, even in the worst situations. He was somehow about to cut to the chase, focus on the issues, and still remain open-minded and humane.
I was impressed. I started asking questions about how I could make meditation a practice of my own.
Meditation Is Your Gateway to Change From The Inside.
The truth is that most people come to meditation because they are somehow suffering, in a squeeze, or in dire need to a change. This could be due to health or relationship issues, an unfulfilling career, or just the realization that your mind is getting the best of you.
Most of the time, people do not realize that it’s time to turn within until they have explored all the other options (e.g. better job, better relationship, better house, better abs, etc). Often times, there is a certain maturity in those who are choosing to go inward.
So What Is Meditation About?
If you have not meditated before, you have no point of reference for where you’re really going to go when you meditate.
Common questions include:
- What is this meditation thing about?
- Am I really disciplined enough to do this?
- Will I need to change my personal beliefs?
- Am I really the “type” to meditate?
- Do I have to become a vegetarian?
- Do I have to be nice to everyone now?
- Can I still drink beer?
These types of questions are both common and legitimate.
Meditation is about learning to relax, just as you are.
A common mistake among beginners is thinking that meditation will turn you into some kind of “perfect person” overnight: perfect focus, perfect calm, perfect kindness, perfect diet, perfect health, perfect poise …
The truth is, meditation is a training to teach yourself to relax just as you are, right now. You can have deep childhood scars and chronic sinusitis and 5 failed marriages and still meditate. However you are right now is a fine place to start your practice.
Don’t make the mistake of waiting until you are more calm or more loving or more organized before starting a practice. You don’t wait until you’re healthy to go see a doctor. Just come as you are and practice.
Meditation enhances your connection.
Imagine you are trying to have a Skype conversation with a friend, but your keep dropping the connection. If you can’t hear what is being said, it’s likely that you will get frustrated and lose interest in the conversation.
The quality of your Skype connection is comparable to the connection you have with yourself: if there is too much static on the line, or the connection is poor, you will never realize with who it really is that you are connecting within (yourself).
Part of the problem we are seeing, as a society, is that the majority of people spend more of their time/energy seeking on the outside. As a result, we are seeing incredible epidemics of depression, anxiety, scattered thinking, fear and lack of being in touch with what really matters in life.
Meditation allows you to be yourself.
In the grand scheme of things, a committed meditation practice doesn’t really change who you are: if you like shopping and nail polish, meditation probably won’t change that, and if you like trees and nature, this probably won’t change either.
You have always been you and you will always be you.
At the same time, regular practice can improve creativity, immune function, social connection, emotional intelligence, outlook on life, memory, focus, self-confidence and multi-tasking abilities.
So as much as the fundamental you doesn’t change, it may give rise to some bold new expressions that you have been wanting to unleash on the world…
It’s Not All Serious
I distinctly remember in one of my first initiations with my teacher. I had come in my best effort to be “spiritual” and “proper” and “holy”… And she showed up wearing bright-red lipstick….
We often think that spirituality is all about being calm and peaceful and loving. While these attributes are certainly worthwhile, real spirituality doesn’t really have rules like that.
Real spirituality is about giving yourself to explore the wilder parts of your own nature, to love, explore, make mistakes, and learn. Within that framework, a regular meditation practice can give you a solid, grounded and practical foundation to contain the whimsical aspects of your nature. It can help to calm your mind, to overcome habitual patterns of overthinking, and to help you to see through to the breadth of who you are.