My Meditation Journey

meditation_smI learned meditation from my Zen Buddhist boyfriend in the early 1990’s.  I learned to follow my breath, counting each inhale-exhale cycle up to ten, restarting the count if a thought arose.  I struggled to make it past the count of two, unable to even sit still, quickly concluding I couldn’t meditate.

A December 2006 emergency room visit for “atypical chest pain” scared me into revisiting meditation.  I applied the Zen approach my former boyfriend taught me, beginning with five to ten minutes, eventually increasing to an hour and fifteen minutes a day.  I continued meditating daily, rejecting unwanted thoughts for over six years.

In 2013 I worked briefly with a Zen Buddhist monk meditation teacher.  Under his tutelage I recited The Heart Sutra in Japanese instead of following my breath but after several months I realized the practice increased my stress instead of decreasing it.  I returned to counting breaths.

Last year a book on Transcendental Meditation (TM) caught my eye at the library.  Seeing the data regarding TM’s impact ranging from increased creativity to reduced blood pressure and even lower crime rates impressed me.  In July 2014 I trained at the TM center in our town, coincidentally the only center in our state.  The TM approach using a personalized mantra instead of following my breath initially caused physical headaches for me.  Suddenly I realized how hard I worked avoiding thoughts through controlling my mind with counting and then with my mantra.  Learning to tame these self-induced headaches shifted my awareness and practice, moving me from effort and hard work to a much softer inviting and allowing.  This new meditation approach allowed me to cope with the tumultuous end of 2014.  What you need always arrives when you need it.

Do you meditate?  What approach works for you?

 

10 comments

  1. Meditation I found a wonderful meditation the best I think anyone could find. Tom Cronin’s The Stillness Project.
    He answers so many questions and the course is 21 days, but you get given a seed sound mantra to say silently.
    The mantra has an effect of taking the level of brain waves down to the deeper levels. He suggests it is not a problem at all to have thoughts, you just start to say the mantra again ,as soon as you become aware that you are thinking, no pressure no tryings not too, accepting each meditation however you think/feel it went, as someone who has put off meditating for way way too long, its the best course I could have found, and I don’t sell it or anything like that:)

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    • Hi Jane,
      Thanks for sharing. While I’m not familiar with Tom Cronin or his work, the philosophy of it aligns to what I believe and have experienced. How great you found something that spoke to you and works for you.
      Warm regards,
      Christy

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  2. Hi Christy, Thanks for sharing your meditation journey. I’m glad to hear that you reached a place of “softer inviting and allowing”– the ultimate goal in the process. I have struggled with traditional meditation and sometimes think I have a gorilla mind that simply refuses to be tamed.

    A brief story…

    Several years ago, I participated in a 2-hour meditation session in a nearby community. We were provided with prayer beads and sheets filled with Sanskrit expressions. We repeated these expressions while using our prayer beads. When the facilitator asked for feedback, I made the following comment (that did not sit well with many of the other participants): “This reminds me of saying the rosary.” Driving home, I realized that prayer does indeed calm me and, at least, I know what I’m saying. I can’t say the same for the Sanskrit.

    Joanne:)

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    • Hi Joanne,
      Thanks for sharing your story. I no longer believe our minds can be “tamed” – they can only observed with more detachment! Luckily in TM they are viewed as released energy, not something negative.

      I think prayer, particularly when associated with the kinesthetic element of fingering beads, is one of the most powerful meditations humans have created. I agree speaking words in a language I understand adds to the power of the ritual. Even after months of chanting The Heart Sutra, I still had to read the Japanese words off a piece of paper. I don’t want more effort in meditation, I want less. 🙂

      Thanks as always,
      Christy

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  3. Hello Christy
    I sat at zen center and learned Rinzai zen, for about 4 years a long while ago. It really helped me to pay attention to my breathing. I know what you mean about working hard around it, and I too have learned to soften and allow.
    My partner does TM about 2x a day. I am curious about it. Where is the TM center that you were taught this
    way of meditating.

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    • Hi Joann,
      Thanks for your comment. There must be an unlimited number of ways to release working hard, I’m glad you found yours! The local TM Center is on Route 2A, Williston, Vermont. My husband did the TM training too and I’ve been shocked by the shifts it brought him.
      Warm regards,
      Christy

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  4. I count breaths too. I read about it in Buddha in my Backpack. I have never had a teacher, although I’ve heard it’s a good idea to have one to move along in your mediation. I’m happy with counting breaths. I found it transformed me. I suppose when and if I’m ready to look for something more it’ll come. (I did just start listening to meditation that suggests a mantra to repeat each day. I’ll try it, but usually return to the counting of breath if I really want to empty my mind.)

    I’m curious to hear how different TM – do you find your meditation deeper? Do you find your days more peaceful? Do you find you can solve problems more easily? I guess what I’m asking is – why did you seek another form of meditation?

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    • Hi Joanne,
      I love the concept of Buddha in my Backpack! I agree you’ll seek when and if you need something different than what you already have.

      You asked a lot of great questions here, some of which I’m not sure I know how to answer. I wasn’t actively seeking another meditation form but I was more stressed than I wanted to be and wondered if a different approach might help. My meditation is definitely deeper. The Transcendental Meditation intention is to transcend, to experience bliss. I can’t claim I do this consistently but I’ve done it enough to feel the power of it and to know it can lead me places I could never have reached previously. My days are not more peaceful, unfortunately, because my life changed irrevocably when my father passed away last October leaving me to assist my mother with practical and emotional challenges. I do have the sense I’m handling it better and solving problems more adroitly than I would have without TM. The impact is particularly striking on days when my mother’s overwhelm threatens to swamp me as TM brings such release and relief!

      All the best to you,
      Christy

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      • Ah Joanne, that’s cosmic like my experience was – in my case the book about TM essentially fell into my lap, I discovered the only center in our state was in our town, then I learned the center opened only a year or two before I became aware of it. The good news is they offer a free introductory talk which allows you to decide whether it seems right for you before you commit to paying for the training. Good luck with it!

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