Monday, November 29, 2010

Forever experimenting

I am always curious and interested in exploring different types of meditation cushions and benches.  I have a couple of zafus (admittedly, one has a hole in it waiting to be repaired) and one zabuton.  I have some sort of triangular cushion I picked up at Crystal Gardens that I haven't liked since the first time I used it.  I think it's not well designed for heavy people or people with bad knees.  It is very firm and at a steep angle.

I have a gomden and knee cushions.  Those have been my mainstay for quite some time now.

While visiting a friend he showed me his meditation bench and I got to try it out.  It is a small bench you sit on.  You can cross your legs in front of you or tuck your legs under the bench.  I like to sit with my legs behind me but on the outside of the bench.  The bottom of the legs of the bench are curved instead of flat.  I think this makes a huge difference in the comfort and support provided by the bench.

While using it I have found it easier to find the correct spinal position and to maintain it during my meditation.  There is no strain on the back of my legs since the bench is tilted to fit the shape of my body.

I used it for my first 45-minute meditation a little over a week ago.  I was surprised to find how comfortable it was.  I look forward to many more sits with my new little friend!

The calling ...

I have been feeling more and more strongly it is time to bring insight meditation practice to our meditation practice group.  We have been doing a chanting meditation once a month for about 8 months now.  While I enjoy it and know others do as well, attendance has dwindled in the last few months.  I don't believe quantity is the deciding factor for a group except when one format over another can serve the most people in the greatest way.

Beginning in January 2011, we will start another insight meditation group to explore and grow a personal practice together.  I am looking forward to it and hope members find it equally enjoyable and beneficial.

It feels so good to sit!

Maintaining my daily practice has proven, once again, that regular practice produces greater results.  That doesn't mean I don't struggle with monkey mind or distractions.  I still do.  However, I have reached a point of acceptance with monkey mind and distractions.  I realize that I currently have little control over my mind.  All I can do is continue to bring my awareness back to my breath when I find myself engaging thoughts.

Another huge challenge is hearing distractions and not labeling them or responding to them.  Although, it is difficult when a kitty has decided to join you and begins to knead his paw on my knee.  Did I mention he's not declawed?

Since I meditate before going to work in the morning, I struggle with list-making.  I can be quite a way down a list before I even realize I'm doing it.  Uh-oh!  Time to return to the sensation of breath again!

With all of the challenges, I am finding myself more and more attracted to meditation and the many benefits it offers.  I have been practicing for three years now and realize this is a lifetime journey.  It is one relationship I am committed to without reservation!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Baby Steps

I am very happy to report my practice is back where I would like for it to be!  In one of my previous posts I had looked for suggestions on, basically, how to get my butt motivated!!   What I began to do is try to get up 5-15 minutes earlier each morning.  After a few weeks, I have been able to increase it to 30 minutes earlier.  As a result, I now have the 30 minutes that is my goal (for now) to sit each morning!  What a difference it makes.

One of my favorite videos (posted early in this blog) is someone teaching how to get started with Zen-style meditation.  I loved a part in it in which he spoke of how sitting can be so boring or you spend your meditation struggling with releasing the monkey mind.  However, there ARE those moments, those sits, that you can hear the angels sing because you've reached that state of awareness that transcends physical self.

As I had mentioned earlier, and is a fairly well-known fact, the more we practice, the quicker we see progress in our daily lives.  Since I have met my 30-minute goal, I have found my practice and personal understanding have picked up the pace again.  These are the things that encourage me to hold on and don't let go of my commitment to sit.

This past weekend we had two, count 'em, TWO, amazing sits in our group meeting.  My husband and I facilitate a meditation group and offer two sessions.  The group had grown to a point it was overflowing our meeting space, so we decided to offer a 6 PM and an 8 PM.  While we are thanked for our service to others, they cannot realize how much the GROUP does for ME.  We have to be there.  No getting lazy and deciding not to show up.  It also means sitting for two 45-minute periods within a couple of hours of each other.

In our last group meditation, I was able to reach that point of total awareness more than once throughout both meditation periods.  Normally, I can reach that point in the first or second, but never in both!  It was an awareness that transcends the physical connection to our bodies.  When we reach that point of no attachment to anything, but just experiencing in the moment as it comes.  The mind becomes quiet and our thoughts aren't even clouds floating in the sky.  They have faded into silence.

I have found many people confuse this sacred point of meditation with "blanking out".  "Blanking out" during meditation (which usually means you fell asleep) is great if your intention is to relax.  However, it is my personal belief, that to achieve real progress and change in your life, you must sit with the intention of just allowing yourself to sit.  No judgement.  No goals.  No intention but to sit and be aware.  To observe without becoming attached.  When we get completely silent in body and in mind, but remain aware, that is when we fertilize that seed that eventually becomes mindfulness.  But most definitely, blanking out is not the right way to achieve this.  You must remain aware for the full sitting period.

The most effective method I have found, so far, is when my mind has become that runaway horse again, I gently take it by the reins and bring it back to the physical sensation of breath in my body.  Sometimes it's my upper lip, sometimes it's my chest, sometimes it's my diaphragm. My intention at that point is to redirect my mind.  Give it something else to play with while I practice releasing and allowing the moment to be, just as it is.

We have to take baby steps ... and some of us may take more years than others to learn to walk ... but the point is that you stand up and take each little step as it comes to you.

Now to take another baby step to 45 minutes!!

My kind of kitty ...