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A Feisty Guide to Meditation from a Half-Assed Practitioner

The Huffington Post logo The Huffington Post 9/03/2016 Rena DeLevie

2016-03-09-1457559086-1814032-6174344321_6558339e00_oNickolaiKashirin.jpg © Provided by The Huffington Post 2016-03-09-1457559086-1814032-6174344321_6558339e00_oNickolaiKashirin.jpg
Meditation is a trendy topic lately and I hear all sorts of comments about what type, how often, and how to do it "right." I'm going to break this down in layperson's terms based on what I've learned in my 12 years practicing meditation. I say "practice" because that's what the gurus call it. They know it's an ongoing method of connecting with ourselves without any outside data. No words or visuals or comparisons or feedback. It's just you hanging out with you. Sound scary? I'd like to demystify it for you so you can see the potential deliciousness.
1. Even the gurus don't reach guru status.
No one, I mean no one, can truly empty their mind of thoughts. Listen to the gurus such as Pema Chodron, Jack Kornfield, Tara Brach, Thích Nhất Hạnh, and the Dalai Lama, and they all say the same thing. It's impossible to stop the chatter of the mind! Thoughts fly whether we pay attention or not, and that is the key to meditation.
2. Wait, what? What's the key to meditation?
Embrace the fact that thoughts fly whether we pay attention or not. Don't try to stop them. Let them dance across the dashboard of your mind, like lights flickering across the Star Wars Millennium Falcon console. The key? See them and go back to breathing.
3. Breathing? That's meditation?
Yes. That's it. Find a quiet-ish space where you won't be interrupted. Noise is fine, interruption is not. And breathe. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Or in and out the same way. Or the opposite. Or - you get my drift here.
I happen to like in through the nose, out through the mouth. It feels natural to me plus it keeps me focused on breathing. This is helpful because noting my breathing brings me back to steadily connecting with myself.
Here's a typical meditation for me:
1.I sit comfortably in my overstuffed chair as upright as I can without being stiff. My legs in criss-cross apple sauce position and my back leaning against the chair. My arms are either palm up on each knee or cradled together in my lap, depending on how I'm feeling that day.
2.I close my eyes and begin breathing. I smile because it feels so good.
3.I begin making a list in my head of the toilet paper and milk I need to buy.
4.I catch myself making the list in my head.
5.I begin to beat myself up for making that list.
6.I catch myself beating myself up.
7.I begin to beat myself up for beating myself up.
8.I pause.
9.I focus on my breathing and watch toilet paper, milk and self-criticism float across my console. (When I watch my thoughts, I am emotionally neutral. These thoughts are neither good nor bad. They simply exist.)
10.Rinse and repeat.
4. That's hilarious! You do that for an hour?
Nope. 3 minutes is my most comfortable amount. Are you disappointed in me? I'm okay if you are. I know this is what works for me and that's the point of meditation. The purpose of meditation is to find the path TO you, that works FOR you. So even if all your ashram friends are pulling meditation all-nighters, if that doesn't feel good or fit into your schedule, that's okay.
5. There is nothing religious about meditation.
Some meditation practitioners say specific Buddhist chants, but that is NOT required. Say "tuna fish" over and over if you want. Say nothing and focus on breathing (that's what I do). Hum a tune that brings you joy. YOU decide.
6. Why do this?
Ah. The age old question. I'll try to put into words what mediation does for me, and then you decide if you want to give it a go.
At first I spent a lot of time beating myself up that I wasn't doing it right. When I finally understood that I was doing it right just by trying, I relaxed into having 3 minutes of me time. I enjoyed that me time. It was sweet. Then something began to happen. All that steady breathing each morning started filtering into my day. I was calmer, slower to react negatively, and more patient. I got a little freaked out and then I decided to just enjoy this weird thing as long as it lasted. I began to notice that on the days I didn't meditate, I was less patient and edgy, like I used to be. But now I could catch myself. I was becoming more self-aware and self-loving. I began to realize how hard on myself I had been for so many years. I knew my inner critic was a nonstop record, but now I could see how I believed what she said. And then I began to question the validity of what my inner critic was spouting, which led to even more awareness of who I am and what kind of person I want to be in this world. This led to shifts in my behavior, which led to improved relationships with family, friends, and colleagues. I am happier having this awareness of who I am. It gives me the quiet confidence to not have to defend my choices to anyone. I can live my life as I see fit with joy. I find that my self-liking energy ripples out positively and that is meaningful. Now you know why I meditate.
In conclusion
There is no one way to meditate. There is no "right" way. What feels right to you is the perfect way.
The goal of this article is to free you from expectation and judgment. Meditation is a gift you can give yourself in the shower, on the subway, during your commute, in the bathroom at work, in nature, or wherever you choose. It's a FREE, no lessons required, fast track to calm and connection with the most important person in your life. Yourself.

Image: Nickolai Kashirin

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