Meditation and mindfulness

Today I am recapping my busy month.

In many ways meditation should be first on that list. This has been one of the most important things I have done in a long time. It has been occupying most of my free time, when it’s not spent dancing Argentine tango, surfing the Web, or taking walks. So because this section deserves more attention, and rightly so has turned from a brief synopsis on the list to a lengthy description of where I am at, it has become its own blog post.

So. You know how sometimes you’re just sitting there not doing much, and you have a hundred things going through your head? Or if you’re in a situation, and your mind overreacts? Or your mind just starts coming up with stuff that you know is irrational but you just can’t help it? Some people call that mind chatter. (Somehow I keep remembering it as “mind clutter”, which might clue you in on my interpretation of it.)

I have been meditating a lot lately. My mind clutter over the last few months was just getting more out of control, I guess you could say. Or I was becoming more aware of it, and I didn’t really know how to deal with it.

And somehow the universe guided me to find all of these options:

Taking time at work
I found out about a meditation group at Staples, where I work as a contract web developer. They meet at lunchtime Mondays to Thursdays. It’s a small group, and sometimes it’s just me and another person, sitting in a dark room for a half hour and listening to strange (yet perfect) music. It definitely helps break up the day and relieves stress.

Awareness practice group
I started an Intro to Awareness “meditation practice group” at the Cambridge Insight Meditation Center. It’s a six-week course on Mondays, and we’re halfway done. There are about 15 or so in the class, and we’re in this spacious and goregeous room on the top floor. The instructor (see picture; he has longer hair now) is great and has a soothing voice, which helps guides us during the 30 or 40 minutes of meditation.

The first half of the class is about learning to be present in the moment, and to focus on your breathing, and to find a way to take time in our busy lives to just BE, and not think about anything else. (The second half of the class is about paying attention to what sensations or distractions become more prominent, and to focus on that as an object of meditation. More on that starting this coming Monday.)

Being present in the moment is HARD to do, and I nevertheless recommend this class to anyone remotely interested in meditation. The Center has free drop-in sessions on Tuedsays and other courses for newbies like me.

I have been going to sangha (community) nights at the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (note: As of spring 2010, now called Triratna Buddhist Community) center in Somerville. I first heard about this place last August, but didn’t check it out until late June. I am not interested in the worship of Buddha; however, I am interested in the meditation time that the sangha night offers, as well as the discussions of Buddhist dharma (teachings). Sangha nights are times when this small group talk about life and becoming a better person, and what it means to be a better person.

Walking meditations
I’m continuing to take walks to Fresh Pond. I even found a little scenic route that includes two stone walls, where I sat atop one day and meditated while soaking up the rays of the sunset. At my second CIMC class, we learned about walking meditations, and I tried to do that twice so far at Fresh Pond.

First I thought I had to walk more slowly, so the first time I tried it, the loop around Fresh Pond took much longer. Then last night I tried it again, after realizing I didn’t necessarily need to walk slow. I just needed to be mindful of the sensations, of the feet against the ground, of the breeze, of the feel of the walk itself, the feel of my body moving forward with purpose through the air. I must say, it feels different. I feel bigger, taller.

(The modesty in me wants to correct that to say, I don’t feel as small as I used to feel. Because I am a tall person, that might seem strange for you to hear. That might be a future blog post in itself, perhaps having much to do with being one of the youngest and shortest kids in my high school class.)

Being more grounded
I’ve learned that you can take five minutes out of your day and just sit and focus on the sensations of your body, and nothing else, and that will help you feel more grounded.

That, perhaps, is the greatest benefit I have had with starting to learn meditation. I feel more grounded. In fact, in one of my late-night journal entries, I wrote that sometimes the foundation I stand on feels like a rocky pile, and I’m not standing tall and proud upon it, but squatting down, trying to balance myself on anything that won’t crumble. Lately, I have found a more solid foundation to stand upon, and I don’t have that feeling of squatting and trying to find balance. Maybe that’s why I feel bigger, stronger, taller, leaner. I have found myself, and I have found myself to be worthy of being found.

1 Comment

  1. It really is difficult to be present. Kids do it so naturally. I remember my first yoga class. I hated it because I could do the moves but didn’t feel what I should’ve been feeling. (Granted it was on a cruise ship out at sea.) Since then, I’ve continued with yoga sporadically. Mostly I’ve just tried to focus in the moment. I find that my work forces me to context switch too much, and there are things like coding which I avoid like the plague. Somehow it’s easier when I am fully in the moment. Also, the gym has been a big part of learning to be in the moment. Exercises feel very different when you’re just repeating for repetition sake versus being mindful of how you are moving.

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