By Becky Mahoney
This morning I was perched on top of a thick wool blanket, straight from the jungles of Chichen Itza, Mexico; legs crossed Indian style, hands on my knees. My palms were facing upward, ready to receive (peace, wisdom, wishes - any old gift will do) and I laughed, out loud. I couldn’t take it anymore. Here I am, not a total newbie to this meditation practice, and it was still happening. My nose itched and I felt like I had to sneeze. My foot fell asleep and I willed it to wake up. It didn’t. Was that smoke I smelled outside? Maybe I could splurge and have a mocha latte for breakfast. How many Weight Watchers points would that be?
The sound of a text message from the other room, pierced my brain and stunned it into silence for a few seconds Like a two year old with the attention span of a rabid squirrel, the left brain began to duke it out with the right brain. Right brain leapt into colorful, creative, and fun! Squirrel! Left brain, the old Nun schoolteacher, rapped me on top of the head with a ruler and said, “Stop thinking. Repeat after me, breathe, breathe, breathe … In, out, in out.” My right brain, scattering fairy dust into the air, sing-songed, “Lalalala … I can’t hear you” … and skipped on down the yellow brick road with Dorothy and Toto. Ghandi once said, “To train your mind to eliminate the chatter is like trying to empty the sea with a teacup.” Somehow I feel better hearing those profound words from a master teacher. These days, I not only accept this chatter as “normal” I surrender to the squirrel and watch her dart on by. That’s progress. I used to obsess over how lousy I was at this very difficult practice.
I’ve been actively practicing meditation for about five years now. I picked up this tool when my life came tumbling down into a jangled mess of depression, fears, and heartbreak. A good friend suggested I try it. My experience in the past with meditation was reading a little motivational or religious quote and then sitting in my big chair pondering its meaning. Not that this wasn’t helpful to changing my attitude, but I needed some big guns to blast through this rather messy period that seemed to have me trapped in a continuous loop in my head, and a sky is falling mentality. I had no idea what meditation would do for me, but rumor had it, I might find a little peace, and maybe, if I was patient, it would disconnect me from the inner critic and reconnect me with an inner knowing.
I did my research. My first meditation practice was Mindfulness Meditation. I bought a CD which guided me through a series of exercises designed to focus completely on whatever was right in front of me. The moment. One of the exercises, I fondly called “raisin foreplay.” I was to take a single raisin, roll it between my fingers, determine what it felt like. Hmmm, I thought, feels like a shriveled leftover from under the refrigerator. Then, I was to sniff it. I worried about snorting it up into my nostril. Finally, the instructions were to put it in my mouth, but, ah-ah-ah, don’t bite down! Could I feel the raisin juices ready to explode? Not hardly. It had been rolled flat and practically stuffed up my nose. There were no juices left. I quickly swallowed it and popped another one in my mouth just in case there were hidden cameras and I was caught empty raisin-handed by my silky voiced instructor. Hey, I was still an instant gratification girl, back then.
My next endeavor was “OM” Chanting Meditation. It consisted of intoning the mantra (OM) very slowly and repeatedly. The thought behind it is two-fold. The vibration it creates is like a tuning fork, matching the vibration of nature, and thus, become aligned with the Universe. Second, the rhythmic pronunciation of the word OM as well as the reverberation that percolates inside your body, slows the nervous system and calms the mind. You could read the climate of my day, by how often you heard me through the open window chanting my worries away. A few years ago, the neighbors probably thought a UFO had landed with all the whirring noises emanating from my living room. Beam me up, Scotty. Please. I soon discovered, while physically I felt better chanting, there was a quieter form of meditation that could give me the same results and keep me from getting arrested for disorderly conduct. An added bonus, I could go within and discover who I was, and why I am here. Guided Meditation has helped me to do just that. That’s where I’ve landed the last 2-3 years now; perched on my blanket. That’s where the squirrels usually find me too.
I’ve always prayed, daily. I view prayer as a one-sided conversation with God. Guided Meditation for me is getting silent and listening for God’s answers. They show themselves throughout my day, through chance encounters, insights, sychronicities, and opportunities to explore, love, and serve.
Meditation is a practice, not a destination. It’s like adding to a retirement account. You start out doing what you can, five minutes or five dollars; your deposit may only be small at first. Somedays, the money seems to just sit there, not really growing much, but you keep on investing, and your cents, turn to dollars and you want to throw more in. One day you notice, you’ve built up quite a little nest egg; readily available for those times when you might forget why life is the best vacation you could ever take.
And the days the Squirrels take over, I chase them away with a little OM chanting. They can’t stand the noise.
Becky would enjoy hearing from you and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org