“Quiet the mind and the soul will speak.” ~ Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati
A couple of months ago I gave myself a challenge. I committed to meditating every day for the next thirty days. I created a small altar on the coffee table in our living room, consisting of a Buddha statue, a surrender box, and an incense burner.
Every morning, soon after waking, I sit cross-legged for ten minutes in front of the altar. I meditate with my eyes open, but in soft focus and place my awareness on my breath. I count my breaths from one through ten and begin again when I reach ten. This method helps calm my mind and keeps me focused.
That does not mean that I've achieved enlightenment or inner-peace! On the contrary, meditating has helped me realize how active my mind really is. It sees as soon as I begin, my mind remembers this HUGE to-do list that had previously been living in the dark recesses of my mind. Things that had seemed trivial yesterday all of a sudden come to the forefront, wanting to be heard and recognized. When the thoughts come (and they always do), I try to practice compassion and loving-kindness towards myself. I label the thoughts “thinking” and bring my focus back to the breath.
Sometimes while meditating, I experience thirty seconds of presence and sometimes I experience two whole minutes! And at other times, no peace comes, just an endless stream of thoughts punctuated by breath.
What have I earned in my 80+ days of daily meditation?
- Time. I used to feel like I did not have time for anything, like time was constantly slipping away and I was running to keep up with all the items I had to check off my to-do list. I still have the same amount of responsibilities in my life, but now I experience a lot more space around these responsibilities. Time seems to be elastic, rather than fixed. And although I'm taking at least 10 minutes a day to sit in stillness, somehow I seem to have more time to do the things I need to do and, more importantly, the things I want to do.
- Inner Peace. A funny thing started to happen after I'd been meditating for awhile. I started sweating the small stuff less. For example, I live in New Jersey and have struggled my entire adult life with road rage. The moment I get in the car I'm “horn happy.” I will not claim to be a saint now, but I will say that my tolerance for sitting behind someone who has stopped at a green light has increased ten-fold. I no longer take their absent-mindedness as a personal affront, but recognize that they may be having a bad day. Nowadays when I find my stress levels rising, I remind myself that “we are all one.”
- Perspective. We all struggle. We all have stressful aspects to our lives that are not going as well as we wish they would. Meditation has given me the perspective to recognize that my problems are only as big or as small as I make them. I have the power to change my perspective. I have the power to decide if a problem is going to ruin my day.
- Positivity. Before I started meditating, I was often at the mercy of my mind. Human beings have a tendency to over-focus on the negative and I was no exception. Since I've started meditating, I've become more aware of my negative thoughts. When you notice a negative thought before it takes hold, you can easily replace it with a more positive thought. One of my favorite sayings is: “You do not have to believe everything you think.” Meditation has given me the power to choose more positive thoughts and that is an invaluable gift.
This started off as a thirty day experiment, but now that I'm eighty-seven days in, I think it's safe to say I'm hooked! I can not imagine not continuing to meditate daily and I've upped my daily meditation practice to fifteen minutes a day. Meditation is how I start my day; it is a small, but incredibly effective way that you can begin your day with self-care.