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Considering Meditation? The Path is Curiosity

If you are considering, or have ever considered, meditation, then these wise words are for you. They are from Pema Chodron, an American Buddhist nun, whose practical advice and unusual perspective are always spot on.

The path of meditation and the path of our lives altogether has to do with curiosity, inquisitiveness. The ground is ourselves; we’re here to study ourselves and to get to know ourselves now, not later. People often say to me, “I wanted to come and have an interview with you, I wanted to write you a letter, I wanted to call you on the phone, but I wanted to wait until I was more together.” And I think, “Well, if you’re anything like me, you could wait forever!”

So come as you are. The magic is being willing to open to that, being willing to be fully awake to that. One of the main discoveries of meditation is seeing how we continually run away from the present moment, how we avoid being here just as we are. That’s not considered to be a problem; the point is to see it.”   Pema Chodron.

Meditation is a tool, and learning to use it is like learning to use any tool: it takes time and it’s a process.

Pema’s quote tells us to start wherever you are; don’t wait until you’ve reached some “magic” place where you are perfectly poised to meditate. It will most likely never come, and then you would miss what meditation is for: it’s for day-to-day life; it’s for helping you get to a better place.

And the good news is, it doesn’t cost anything or take much time. 5-10 minutes a day of slow breathing while sitting still can make a huge difference in your stress levels (lowering them) and in your ability to focus (improving it).

For more information on Pema, check out her website. (Yes, even Buddhist nuns have websites!)

Meditate, Breathe: Summoning My Inner Tibetan

This morning I escaped to my Ashtanga yoga practice. I needed to meditate and breathe, and not just in the usual sense.

Since last Friday’s horrific events at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I have been on a roller coaster of emotions: pain for the victims’ families, friends, and teachers; immense sadness at the loss of so many innocent little children; horror at the  senselessness of such a devastating act.

I have also been angry at our country, our leaders, our health care system- all people and institutions which should be capable of working together in  a manner which could have prevented this from ever happening. These feelings and a sense of helplessness in the face of it all have kept me slightly nervy and emotional all weekend.

So this morning, I really needed to get out of my head and into my body and breath. I thought it would help me, and it did, but in a way I hadn’t anticipated.

In the middle of my practice, I found myself drifting towards thoughts of the event: things I’d heard on the radio, images I’d seen online. My eyes would well with tears and I caught myself grinding my teeth. “Come back to the breath,” I kept telling my mind. And then, out of nowhere, “Peace.”

Repeating “Peace” brought me to a quieter place emotionally, and I was able to finish my practice.

It also gave me a small personal epiphany about meditative monks, like the Tibetans. I had never been entirely sure how I felt about monks removed from the world, praying and meditating; I confess I have wondered sometimes how those actions could make a difference.

Today, I think I had a tiny glimpse into the power of a meditative practice: I felt active. I felt connected to those families. It is something to experience compassion and pain for someone else’s suffering, to hold it in your own mind and heart, and then release it on the breath. The relief I felt at being able to do something, anything, was powerful; I can see how it could even be healing.