Photo by Samuel Silitonga
I have been curious about, flirting with, or actually participating in meditation for many years. I remember the Beatles announcing that they had learned of TM (Transcendental Meditation) and were practicing it, especially after traveling to India in 1968 to further their study. I wasn't sure what it was all about, but I knew it was getting my attention. In fact, I sometimes thought of running off to India myself (that was big in the '60's), however I was a limited thinker back then and it didn't happen.
For many years, I believed that "struggle" was somehow noble, even though it exhausted me. I also went out of my way to find the "difficult" way because I thought it would make my life (and, me!) more "worthy". Instead of lifting me up, all of that knocked me for a loop and I found myself taking some meditation classes. I was still having a hard time "getting it" and even though I dabbled a bit in the concept, I was just trying to slap tiny bandaids on gaping wounds.
By the time I was in the midst of a very sad divorce, I was finally "ready" and my teachers appeared. I studied with many wonderful mentors from the Mindfulness and Vipassana Meditation camps and began devoting myself to the practice. Because of some of them, like Jon Kabat-Zinn, who brought back the ancient philosophies and instructions, the world at large started to pay attention. It was one thing for the Beatles, those magnificent super stars, to take on the eastern discipline, and quite another for the every day person to follow lead. More than ten years later, MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) was created and brought attention to meditation for a broader-based audience. By the time I finally plunged in it was 1996 and as we entered the 21st century, the words "meditation" and "mindfulness" started showing up on the covers of mainstream periodicals like Time Magazine.
So much hoopla and floundering and conversation around something so simple. Basically, meditation and mindfulness is about seeing things as they really are, without our "stories" attached to them. It's also about finding our way back to the present moment. Our lives are complicated and more challenging because we are either mulling over and feeling badly about the past or catapulting ourselves into "figuring out" and trying to control the future. Neither one exists except in our minds.
Photo by Lesly Juarez
One of the simplest ways to shift toward being more mindful is to start paying attention to your everyday activities. When you brush your teeth, notice what it feels like, how you hold your brush, is there any noise, how do you stand, and so on. Do the same for as many other, little things you do during the day as you can. Make it a game to see how often you remember to focus just on what you're doing, perhaps as you're picking out your fruits or vegetables in the market, for example.
Even if your present moment isn't as enjoyable as you might like, simply being there instead of adding on a story about another, unpleasant time in your life in the past or worrying about how long this experience will last, makes it possible to endure and even OK.
Little by little, you'll start to notice that spending time in the present is much more relaxing. There's less pressure to "cover all your bases", especially since most of them will be imaginary. Bit by bit, you'll be able to enjoy life more and this is what I wish for you.
Weight Watchers Update: I sometimes work as a travel RN and I always take on the night shift. My "weigh-in" day is Saturday morning, every week. Working all night, especially if it's been two or three nights in a row, affects my circadian rhythms and also the times that I eat. A few Saturdays ago, I went straight from the hospital, in the morning, to my WW meeting. Gasp! I didn't lose anything and even though I knew it had more to do with my body being out of synch a little, I plunged right into a real life lesson:
I panicked and I couldn't even take in that I hadn't gained, either!
I went to Trader Joe's (where I had planned on going, anyway) and I bought both an item I intended to purchase and one I hadn't and proceeded to eat any entire day's worth of food "points"!
I finally calmed down, recognized that I had taken care of myself all week and proceeded along that path for the rest of the week. This was especially when I realized that I have never felt deprived on WW and that as long as my clothes continue to fit better (they do) and I feel nourished, it will all be fine.
The following week I lost 4 pounds.