My second, private meditation lesson was even more informative than the first. Eye opening in a way I did not imagine it would be.
My meditation teacher took me back to the retreats private room and allowed me to try out the two different styles of sitting to find which way worked the best for me. She instructed that once in the sitting position, I should sort of sway and move my body around until it found its center of balance. What I call, the most comfortable spot. I settled into a kneeling position, straddling the meditation pillow.
Once we were all settled in, she spoke to me about how the thought process for Americans is so different from those of the Asian cultures who founded mediation. We grow up being taught multi-tasking is the most valuable tool we have and education/intelligence is our most prized possession. For us, everything lies on a continuum of either good or bad. Whereas the Asian cultures tend to view experiences as just that and do not label them either good or bad. Instead, they tend to view experiences and events in a circular fashion, each having its own place in life.
She also spoke of change and how it truly is the only thing in life that is consistent. Being able to ebb and flow with change instead of being resistant to it is very healthy and I presume a lot less stressful.
She spoke to me briefly about how meditation is a journey rather than a destination and any benefit I would find may not come for years down the road. Although most people experience some change, if they stick with it, within the first few weeks.
I told her about my desire to quiet my mind and learn to be more malleable in life, so as to relieve some of my own self-induced stress. I explained to her how I do feel like my emotions yank me around from day to day and I have absolutely no control over my mind. In the end, I told her how it affected me physically, in a very unhealthy way with my muscle conditions. She explained, meditation is not just about quieting the mind (although it very well can be,) but it is mainly about learning to look at your thoughts differently. Not believing the first thing your mind comes up with and then following it out with an action or emotion. Your focus on meditation can be either quieting the mind with a closed meditation session or stimulating your mind with an open mediation using one of your senses. As well as, learning to look at your thoughts versus letting them hijack your day. It can also be a way of ruminating over the different thoughts you have and questioning the validity of those thoughts and if they bring any value to your life.
Do your thoughts bring value to your life???
This subject was of most interest to me! I thought, wow there really is a way to have better control over your thoughts and not just live in a reactive state! Of course, I have to give this a go. Not only did she convince me it could help me out in my daily living, but I believe it could definitely help me out with my soon to be new career choice.
We ended our session with my teacher explaining to me what closed meditation was and providing me with three different ways to stay focused on my meditation practice. One is through the sensation of breath through the nose, feeling the cool in and the warm on the out breath. Two is saying a mantra on the breath out, such as “soften and relax.” Lastly, the physical sensation of two of your fingertips barely touching. These three practices are known as anchors and they are a way to return from any stray thoughts you might have during your meditation practice. (And here I thought the lotus fingers with two of them touching was some sort of religious thing and it turns out as she teaches it, it is far from it.) All anchors are a way to stay focused and bring yourself back to the present.
For the next week after our session, I practiced traditional sitting/closed meditation. I used the cool breath in through the nose, and a mantra on the out breath, to return my focus to the present when my thoughts strayed. It was frustrating at first, but she was very firm in reminding me not to judge myself or berate myself if random thoughts interrupted my session. Just because thoughts are use to running around half-hazard in my mind does not mean I am a bad at meditating, it just means my mind needs time to learn a different way of being.
What a concept, teaching your mind a different way of being! Do you think it is possible?