This morning, on All Souls Day, I did a short, guided meditation with Shinzen Young and it is one that I will use again. It is day 270 of my commitment to practice meditation every day, even if for just a few short minutes. I find that even a 5 minute meditation helps give me the equanimity and calm to approach whatever storms exist in any particular day.
About a year and a half ago I read Dan Harris’ autobiographical book, 10% Happier: How I Tamed The Voice In My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works. I had overheard a conversation of a colleague who was explaining to another how this book had changed his life, and the subtitle was intriguing enough for me to fire up my Amazon account and click to order. (This is a habit of mine, I must confess, they make it so darn EASY, and the one-click ordering, don’t get me started…).
Dan Harris has since started an App and a podcast to go with his original idea released in the book. I am not advocating for that. In fact, I had already started using the Insight Timer to track my meditation, and I found it annoying that the 10% Happier app has some free features, but is mostly a paid subscription type service. In any case, the tagline really appealed to me: meditation for fidgety skeptics. That is me to a tee, he sure has his audience down.
One of the podcasts (episode #64) is a guided meditation from Shinzen Young, and now that I have experienced this type of meditation, I will do more research. For now, what I observed is the fact that, by paying attention to our visual, auditory and sensory/somatic observations during meditation, and accepting these as part of nature, I release the self-criticism that often arises for me. There is no need to criticize our minds for wandering, as they inevitably do, while meditating, or just while going through our daily lives. This is what minds do, and the practice of mindfulness as taught by Jon Kabat-Zinn, is just the exercise of bringing the mind back after it has wandered. Just by noticing what the mind does, we are practicing mindfulness meditation. It is that awareness, that “watcher” self that is able to bring us back.
It is a radical act of love and self-acceptance to See, Hear, Feel and then lightly “name” these sensations during meditation practice. My other favorite practice up until now has been the loving kindness meditation that I believe really helps me have compassion for all living beings. But now that I have learned this new practice, I plan to incorporate it more frequently to see what arises for me.
We are approaching the anniversary of a very difficult day for me, the election of 2016. It was a time of excitement (prior to the election) and then a very big shock for me, and I realize for many. Meditation has been a resource that has helped me focus less on the differences between people in either camp (or neither camp) and more on what binds us together, our shared humanity. It has rescued me from what I perceived as a cruel joke of the universe, a t.v. reality star becoming president(!) Everything that happens in this life is temporary, an event in time, and it all fades and passes. Knowing that can help us cope when we are feeling miserable and stuck. That holds enormous comfort for me.