A friend asked me the other day, What does meditating do for your experience of life? Although connecting cause and effect is sticky business, perhaps mentioning some of my diverse experiences around meditation might be helpful to those of you who are new to the practice. First of all, I like to use the word ‘sitting’ instead of the word ‘meditating,’ because sitting implies a simple, tangible process, versus something aspirational, like not thinking or a mystical experience. It’s more like a happening—giving space to whatever appears.
This morning when I sat, the mind was mostly quiet (which isn’t always the case), absorbed in the sound of silence. Then afterward at my altar, a few prayers were offered. Appreciation for different people in my life entered into the foreground. To my pleasant surprise, more and more gratitude showed up for all sorts of life experiences. It felt like a grace-filled moment.
There are mornings when I feel a little off, and the practice of sitting helps me to feel into subtle emotions and investigate their source. Questions arise, like Where is this emotion coming from? Where do I feel it in my body? What message does this emotion have for me? These are some useful questions from the practice of iRest Yoga Nidra, which is a meditative, welcoming inquiry that I practice and teach. Again, space is created for what wants to be seen, revealed, heard and loved, whether it be anger or ecstasy or something else.
Sometimes sitting silently creates more space for subtle messages to be received in a state of spacious receptivity. The other day a friend I hadn’t been in contact with for a while popped into my awareness while sitting. Later in the day I received a call from her.
When life seems chaotic or overwhelming, sitting reminds me that who I am is beyond this form. As I remember this and draw attention to the space around and away from the body, there’s a distancing from a sense of ego, particularly thoughts about me. What a relief when it is not all about me. Moving farther away still, I witness a broader perspective, revealing the part this life plays in the intricate web of humanity. There is a sense that we are divinely weaved together.
Sitting isn’t necessarily about creating a more easeful, healthy, creative life, though these can be some of the pleasant side effects. Although navigating life might become more manageable, more interesting or more magical, I find the most potent benefit is in learning how to let go—sooner, with more willingness. And what are we letting go of? First of all, thoughts. And what a joy it is to let go of the incessant trappings of mind stuff! Then we can drop old stories, preferences; attachments to people, places and things; concepts; plans and ideas of who we think we are. We open up to the final letting go—of life itself. If this sounds overwhelming or too big a leap, you can always just give more space to…EVERYTHING. I’ll finish with this poetic line from Dennis Lewis:
“Let yourself become one with this spaciousness and silence that you are and have always been.”
I look forward to joining you in creating a spacious frontier with you through classes, workshops, intensives, ceremony and retreat!
p.s. Oh, and by the way, there are about a gillizion benefits of meditation based on scientific studies. Below are eight: