Almost every day now, I meditate for a period of time in the morning. Just as I’m getting my day started. It’s almost a habit. One I feel okay–totally respectable–skipping on the weekends. Which I did this weekend.
Growing up Roman Catholic, there was a right way and a wrong way of doing everything. I still subscribe to that way of doing things now–right way, wrong way. So, when I started meditating I was looking for a perfect formula. Some way of conducting my morning meditation, so a) I got the biggest bang for buck, doing what ever I was doing and b) I was doing the right thing! So, as time went on, my “meditation routine” got more and more complicated, and I felt like I was enjoying it less and less.
Over a period of a couple of weeks, I read a couple of books. The Attention Revolution by B. Allen Watts and The Experience of Insight by Joseph Goldstein. A handful of lessons from these two teachers?
- Sit for longer. I always thought that my scrawny 10-15 minute meditation sessions were getting me sufficient “bang for my buck”. However, reading Watts and Goldstein I found that slightly more is better. Make no mistake, the idea is not to turn your meditation practice into a contest or competition. But you simply don’t even learn what meditation is, if you don’t sit for at least 24 minutes (Watts) or an hour (Goldstein).
- Just breathe. That is, don’t make it so complicated.
I think once I started to understand these two overriding principles, my mediation almost immediately became easier and more enjoyable–two things that any pursuit needs to be, if you are going to continue it for any length of time.
I’ve also been trying to restart another sort of habit–another sort of meditation, if you will. I used to run, every day, without too much pushing or too much pain. I really did sort of enjoy it, and looking back at it now, my running habit was also a form of meditation. When I ran, I just sort of “zoned out”. I didn’t think of the physical effort (or discomfort) and I surely didn’t think of it as anything like meditation.*
As I’m beginning to meditate seriously, I’m also thinking that my running might help my meditation practice and vice versa. My “just breathe” has turned into a sort of mantra for both my running and my meditation. Breathing is, well, pretty basic. You can’t do much of anything without breath. And while I’m working at letting go of my childhood, Roman Catholic upbringing, I’m also having a great time discovering the wonders of breathing, and rediscovering my meditative practice.
Do any of you meditate? Do you run? Do you do both? I’m curious to hear from you about you experiences.
*I learned how to meditate when I was 13-14 years old, from a paperback book called something like “How to Meditate”. I learned to sit still, using a candle as an object of focus. I was very un-Roman Catholic!