Meditation: A Reluctant Beginner’s Story and Guide

My meditation chair and environs

Every fitness and self-help program I come across lately seems to point to the value of meditation. I have never been one for this practice. I would tell myself that writing in my journal, or doing art, were forms of meditation and now I must recognize that it’s not. I also used to think that prayer was a form of meditation and I now believe they’re different.

I am feeling better after a two-week long cold, and what a difference just being free of that bug makes. I decided to walk this morning, which I hadn’t done since I’ve been sick. When I walk, I listen to my favorite podcasts (also not meditation). And since I have a free, unscheduled day, I wondered what other positive steps I should take to mark my return to wellness. Meditation came up. Instead of rationalizing out of it, I made myself do it.

But how? My living situation is a bit complicated. I live with my mom and other family members (yes, I’m a grown adult), and she is hard of hearing. She listens to news programs all morning, some lighter shows like Ellen in the afternoon, and talent shows like the Voice in the evening. The volume is always on very loud. Nowhere in the house is there silence, even if I close my bedroom door. The point is, with regard to meditation, my environment in my house is not a serene place. However, we do have a yard, with many fruit trees and lots of shade. And it is a beautiful sunny morning. So, I brought out a little gardening chair and sat under the persimmon tree, totally out or hearing range of the television.

What do I know about meditation? Not much. Something about emptiness. I didn’t want to look up research about how to meditate, so I decided to wing it based on my prior knowledge. I did not bring my Tibetan singing bowl with me, or incense, or any of those other stereotypical implements often associated with meditation. Although I brought my phone out to keep track of the time, I did not use it to listen to music or podcasts.

I just sat. No agenda. Just sat. Eyes open. I’m sure I had random thoughts that I’m told are indications you’re not doing it right. But generally, I just took in whatever came through my senses. Visual imagery was obvious — the sky, the trees, the fruit, the butterfly. Skin sense? It was a perfect Hawai’i morning, not at all hot, a gentle breeze drifting in now and then. What I attended to most were the sounds. I could hear at least four different bird calls. I heard a soft pat of a gecko as it landed on a branch in front of me. I could hear a softer pittering sound as it crawled up the branch. This is the front yard, so it abuts the street, but there wasn’t a lot of traffic at this time. The cars that did pass by didn’t disturb me at all. I don’t know how long I was out there, but it was long enough to feel connected, to feel grateful, to feel a bit of a charge. Hey, I think that was meditation!

Why was this different from journal writing, art making or praying? I think that there is a bit of a work ethic connected to those activities that meditation is supposed to be free of. I’m trying to produce when I am writing or doing art. In prayer, I’m trying to talk to God, even if it’s to acknowledge “thy will be done.” There is some kind of goal involved in conscious activities, even if they are acts of creativity, as in art-making. But when you have no goals except for setting time aside to do nothing but “meditate”, something else happens. Calmness, connection, clarity. Nothing monumental (this time), but just a general grounding. If you try it, I think you will be pleasantly surprised at the result.

I don’t know if this is the meditation that is so good for your health that everyone seems to be advocating as a key to wellness. But for me, a former meditation resister, now a meditation novice, it’s enough to get me to want to continue this practice. This is day one of a new -hope to be- habit. So I’ll let you know if I can keep it up, if it’s something that one can get better at.

Here is a guide to beginning mediation based on nothing but my own successful first-time experience:

  1. You do need to be in as quiet an environment as possible.
  2. It helps to be in nature, in whatever way it appears in your life.
  3. You need to acknowledge that you are meditating. I believe this is like an on button.
  4. Let your senses provide you with input. Savor this input. I loved hearing the bird calls.
  5. Just be in that moment — that time and space.
  6. End when you need to or when you feel a natural end, but try not to end before you acknowledge — hey yes, I just meditated.

I don’t know what the experts would say about my little foray into this spiritual practice. Perhaps I’ll do some research because now my interest is piqued. But I hope they would approve, because I believe I’m in the lane.

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