There was a question posed in the Facebook ADF study group about people’s favorite way to meditate. The original poster had said his favorite way to meditate was deep breathing in the woods. I thought this was a pretty typical response. When you say the word “meditate” the picture that comes to mind is most often the person sitting criss-cross, eyes closed, Ohm style. That’s never been me. I’ve always had a tough time shutting the voice off in my head for meditation time. Not that I can’t sit quietly. I LOVE sitting quietly…with my thoughts. And it’s not even that I CAN’T get the voice to shut up to meditate that way. For me, I find that an inefficient use of my time. It simply takes too long for me to shut the voice off. So when I responded to this person’s question, I shared a little bit about my own style of meditation and it got me thinking about the entire PURPOSE of this journal as a record of my journey in mindfulness and such as it refers to the ADF requirements.
When I meditate, 99% of the time it includes headphone with music involved. A long, long, long time ago I was training to play NCAA soccer. When I’d run, I’d have to have headphones on for “motivation.” I spent a lot of time putting together mix tapes to run to. Carefully timing when each song would come on and where I’d be on my run (i.e. “You Can Make it if You Try” by Sly and the Family Stone when I came to the big hill on Comm. Ave by Boston University? Hell yeah!) This is something I might call “moving meditation.” While it’s true I was listening to music to motivate me to run. It is ALSO true that knowing my trail and knowing my mix tape, allowed my thoughts to wander. Then one day something made me very angry. I don’t remember what it was, but I remember strapping on my sneakers and heading out the door WITHOUT my beloved headphones! To my shock, I discovered that my legs DO in fact work whether there’s music or not! And even more interestingly, I discovered that my run was more satisfying without them! Why? Because running through the streets of Boston just listening to the pit-pat of my feet and the in-out of my rhythmic breathing, was enough! It was an amazing discovery.
Later, when I was training to run a marathon for charity, I began using headphones with music to help me visualize myself crossing the finish line (in all my grand dramatic fashion! but hey, it was MY fantasy!) Sometimes I still ran with headphones, sometimes not. But that was the beginning of this visualization type meditation that I would continue to use.
After college I moved to NYC and FINALLY had a place to myself. Here I began meditating in the bathtub with my headphones on. I think it was particularly successful to meditate in the tub because I could make it so nice and dark and the water so nice and warm, it was almost like sensory deprivation, other than the music. I began each session by envisioning the same thing, modified from an exercise for past life regression maybe? I don’t remember now. The original exercise involved walking down stairs and opening a door (all of which you’re supposed to describe…what kind of door, how many stairs). Designed, I imagine, to help you “descend” into your subconscious? I modified the idea a little and rather than walking downstairs, I always imagine myself walking through greenery. Tangled bushes and/or trees, deeper and deeper into the mysterious forest. I allow myself to wander this way for a bit, until I’m met, usually by a female goddess type, or goddess representative, I’d hardly consider myself worthy of ACTUALLY cavorting with the gods. Then she and I walk together as she guides me to “somewhere.” That’s usually the point where my mind lets go and I see whatever I see. I’ve had some REALLY powerful meditations this way, including the time I wandered so long in the tangled woods I started to shout out, “Hello?” into the nothing…only to be grabbed by the arm by a male figure, the green man, perhaps…where his hand encircled my wrist his fingers grew out like roots and wrapped around my arm. His face was close to my face and then he said something like, “It is not your turn.” Which would make sense if I told you, this was during a period where my family (years have now passed since my being single and free in NYC, now I am married with two children) was searching for direction, and my specifically, my part in how we would move forward. This particular meditation was SO powerful, that when I was done, I launched from the tub and still dripping wet, hastened to write it all down. I still have that piece of paper.
Now that I have a husband and two boys though, it’s nearly impossible for me to find the time…the QUIET time to soak in a tub. I can’t even think of how desperate I must have been to force that kind of thing into my schedule.
Meditation time is different now. I haven’t gotten a good tub soak in years. Most recently meditation takes the form of “moving meditation” again, as it’s most often done while I’m working out on the farm. If I’m out there early, I won’t wear headphones because I love the sound of the birds in the morning. Or the sound of a gentle rain. If I’m out there for a while though, I’ll put my headphones on to keep me company while I’m weeding our 100 foot beds. I put on some Pandora, on my Loreena McKennit station and let my mind wander.
That’s during the summer though. Right now, during the school year, I’m sitting behind a desk with an 8th grader working furiously trying to finish a science assessment from last quarter. We still have snow on the ground and there’s no work in the field yet. The closest thing to meditation I get nowadays is in the car on the way to work in the morning. Fifteen minutes of alone time that my kids think is SO unfair because I make them ride the bus to the same building I’m driving to. Tough luck, kids! I put on my music, Riverdance is a favorite, and let my mind wander. Believe it or not, I’ve had inspiration for liturgy during that time. I think the thing for me is, if you look at all these different types of meditations I’ve practiced, they all involve music. So at this point I’m like one of Pavlov’s dogs. The minute I hear the strain of some Irish music…my mind is wandering off into la-la land.
Thinking about all these different meditations I’ve had also serves as a strong reminder that I’m NOT currently experiencing that much meditation at this time. My schedule is so tight, my body so tired, there just doesn’t seem any way to squeeze some more me-time into my day. But just like the kids and my refusing to drive them to school with me, I can do it, if I try. I used to make a point of soaking in the tub once a week like that. Who’s to say, that just, every once in a while, I couldn’t go figure out SOME way? It’s so hard when, unless my kids are sleeping, part of me is always listening for them. Even if Daddy is home minding them and I’m in the tub…it’s not the same. I could put my music on while I fall asleep, but that’s the only time I get to watch my internet news (the direct OPPOSITE of meditation). That’s probably the best time though. The kids are sleeping. The husband is usually sleeping. And all I need is the first note or two…and off I go.
It appears that my problem with meditation isn’t with the meditation itself. It’s with the motivation and commitment to doing it. Reminds of that time at Martial Arts Warrior Camp, when I was sitting in the front row at a lecture from one of the masters. He had asked the crowd who WOULDN’T want to meditate for 20 minutes a day? And I answered honestly, by raising my hand. I was the only one, of course. The Master smiled and spent much of the rest of the lecture speaking to me. My own SaBuNim (Korean Martial Arts Master), Master Herbert seemed to have really enjoyed it, as it was reported to me by fellow students. I’m honest, if nothing else 😉