Last week I found myself doing what I have done nearly every morning for the past six decades: taking a shower. The routine of the shower, what to do, where to stand, which way to turn, are all so familiar to me. I shower on autopilot, almost without any thought at all.
But then, as I almost always do, I began thinking. The voice inside my head powered up. The shower quickly vanished. I found myself getting keyed up for the day ahead, my inner voice rehearsing a conversation that has never, will never, go the way I want, trying to score the points that only I can imagine will bring me comfort and satisfaction.
And then something strange happened. Partway through my inner speech, I caught myself. As I began the next round of scrubbing, I picked up the soap and silently greeted it. “Hello, soap!” My eloquent, impassioned diatribe against the injustices in my life was gone.
I felt the water raining down on me and greeted it too. “Hello, water!” I felt transformed. Back in the shower. With everything I needed in that moment. And a feeling of gratitude for the simple joys of a too-often taken-for-granted morning shower.
I was surprised last fall to see a short article in Science magazine (“Well-being in metrics and policy“ by C. Graham, K. Laffan, S. Pinto, 19 Oct 2018, p. 287-8, DOI: 10.1126/science.aau5234) targeted one of my pet non-academic projects. Namely, is our society’s narrow attention to financial wealth (and the things that go with it, such as the seemingly endless pursuit of money and material consumption), our best measure of social progress? That is, does a larger bank balance, salary, and house, actually make us feel happier, and better able to deal with life’s endless challenges? So I read the article from top to bottom.
I’m currently on vacation in Hawaii with my family. This morning we went to a lava-filled park where petroglyphs had been carved into the hardened stone centuries ago. From there it was a quick walk to a ‘beach’ made of lava and dead coral pieces. In the tide pools I saw things that I had never seen in the wild anywhere else: sea urchins, a small eel (well, maybe a long skinny fish?), multiple sea cucumbers, and 3 large sea turtles that were grazing on the plant-covered rocks. So I’m happy, right?
Sometimes this blog just writes itself.
Today I found this link in my inbox: “5 Reasons You (And Everyone Else) Are Having a Hard Time Meditating” (Trike Daily, 12 Jan 2018). So, rather than draw this out, just follow my link and see for yourself what these folks imagined might be getting in your way.
Reluctant to open another tab on your web browser? I get that feeling a lot. Here’s their list of 5 reasons plus one more that I thought up all by myself. But why dwell on the obstacles? Go to their site and see what you can do about these things. Happy meditating!
- How do I find time to meditate?
- Will people think I’m weird?
- Meditation could bring up too many painful emotions.
- Meditation could make me too soft.
- Something else is my meditation.
- (Alan’s favorite) I meant to meditate, but I forgot. =)
It seems one cannot meditate without confronting one’s mind, thoughts, and experience. This may be sad news for some. Once, after asking visitors to my beginning meditation class to share what they hoped to get out meditation, one young woman looked away from all of us, and said in a low, urgent voice, “I want to stop thinking!”
I suspect that few of us would want to enter a thought-free state for all time, but the notion that meditation might offer a temporary refuge from thought, or at least, certain types of thought, is certainly appealing. So, naturally, we tell ourselves stories about how meditation will accomplish this for us: how sitting still, being quiet, and following the breath, will create a zone of mental peace and quiet.
A few months ago I wrote about the virtues of 5 deep breaths (Reset with 5 Deep Breaths, 5 Mar 2017). Now I’m back with scientific news that shows breathing affects brain function in mice. To put it briefly, there are special brain cells that connect breathing with states of arousal: sleep-wakefulness, vigilance, and emotions.
“Breathing control center neurons that promote arousal in mice” (Yackle et al., Science, 31 Mar 2017, p. 1411) summarizes its findings as follows:
Is the 3-headed monster (final paper, final lab report, final EXAM) chasing you? Don’t hide. Reduce stress and restore focus with a meditation break. Reed’s Community Wellness team is sponsoring:
Thursday, May 4, 12-1 PM, at the Eliot Chapel
Meditate to Reduce Stress and Increase Focus:
Learn a simple yet powerful technique of meditation that reduces stress, improves physical and emotional well-being, and promotes calm focus regardless of outer conditions. Conducted by cellist, teacher, writer and meditation practitioner David Eby, who specializes in exploring the benefits of meditation for performance (http://www.davidebymusic.com).
Open to anyone (Reedies & visitors), regardless of religious or spiritual background, seeking to access their highest potential.
If it helps, come back to the Chapel the following Tuesday, May 9, for silent meditation, 12-12:40 PM.
The election polls closed less than 24 hours ago, and as elections often do, they unleashed a tsunami of emotions: fear, anger, vindication, triumph. I wish I could have escaped, but I was swept away just like everyone else. The current still feels pretty strong, but I’ve also done myself a favor by taking some time to sit still and ask myself, “what is all this really?”
“Anyone who enjoys inner peace is no more broken by failure than he is inflated by success.“ – Mathieu Ricard, “A Way of Being” (Tricycle, Summer 2006)
The Shambhala Mountain Center is convening top researchers and meditation teachers this week (Oct. 19-23) for a free, online summit on The Science of Meditation. Follow the link to learn more and register. Remember, it’s online and free!
Update: I just registered (takes 2 sec) and learned that some (maybe all?) of the materials will be available after the ‘live’ sessions so you don’t have to worry about being in the right time zone, or work-summit conflicts.