Updated: Mar 7
Day 62/366 days Towards Self-Mastery. Mood: distracted today
We've borrowed from Eastern traditions the practice of meditation. Our scientists have researched the benefits and it's accepted that there is merit in this ancient and profound practice. In the West we have adopted our various means of practicing something akin to meditation, we call it mindfulness.
Initially I resisted this new name, mindfulness, yet as I consider that we in the West have little tradition in these practices, and virtually no heritage in them, it's fair to deduce that the deeper nuances of meditation practice remain a mystery to us. It seems proper then, to give our practices this new name so as not to dilute the essences of the original practices, so I'm becoming accustomed to it.
Struggling with a mind full of distractions, unmanaged and with very little quality control on my thoughts, and no idea how to harness them, I turned to a meditation practice about 25 years ago.
Today's inspiration is to consider what you know about meditation and begin a simple practice
Meditation is essentially a means of training the mind. There are different types of meditation that have different points of focus. Essentially two types that I am aware of, Vipassana and Samatha, I am familiar with, and have practiced both and am an expert at neither.
Sometime today, retreat to a quiet place, rest your body, close your eye, connect with that inner silence, and breathe deeply and slowly for a while.
What you meditate on depends on your inner needs. How you meditate can be guided by what you find most comfortable.
Everyday practices can become a form of meditation. Cooking, gardening, walking are some of mine when I want to focus my mind on just one thing.
Samatha style of meditation is about taking quiet time to rest and focus on one thing. It could be a mantra, a word, breath, an image, a number, anything. In this practice one focusses on one thing, with the intention of bringing the mind to rest, and eventually to a state of bliss, or tranquility.
With Vipassana style, it's also been called meditation bootcamp, the meditator uses the mind as a tool for understanding the existence of life. It is about exploring your here and now living reality as it expresses itself in your body's experience.
With both these tools available to me, I will choose the method that is appropriate to my most pressing inner needs. Vipassana has given me an acute awareness of my body and it's sensations so I will use this technique when my body begins to feel uncomfortable. That will always happen when I am feeling discomfort with something in my outer reality.
With Vipassana I can quickly review and release this discomfort. Consequently my health has improved immeasurably, and my mind has not only quietened, but become sharper and more focussed with time.
Samatha mediation I usually practice as mentioned above, with walking in nature one of my favourite ways of spending this quiet time.
It wasn't always like this though. Initially my monkey mind was incredibly active, so much so it would keep me awake at night. Thousands of thoughts that didn't seem to have much meaning, and most of which I was not aware.
As I began to slow my mind down, I began to realise that those thoughts were problem solving age old unresolved events that had remained unfinished in my developmental years. Thousands of questions poring over thousands of events:
What's wrong with me?
What did I do wrong?
How could I have done that differently?
What did I miss?
Is there something wrong with me?
Is there something wrong with them?
How can I do this?
What's the right path?
What's not working?
How come they did that?
What made them think that?
What did I do wrong?
...and so many more.
It started with a 21 minutes for 21 days meditation challenge that lasted 7 days. Sitting upright in the doorway to support my back with a focus on my breath almost sent me insane. My mind was crazy busy and sitting was difficult.
Then followed a commitment to sit for just 10 minutes each day in a comfortable chair. That was easier for me and began to work wonders. Simply focussing on slowing my mind and listening to my thoughts without engaging with them. It was easy to do and I sat consistently every day for years, the duration of the sit increasing of its own accord without any particular focus on time.
More recently, I have attended a couple of 10-day Vipassana meditation retreats to learn and practice that style. These brought me into connection with my physical body. Noticing my body's response to my thoughts and questions fascinated me, and I soon learned to work at both the mind and body levels to release the many beliefs that were underlying them. Beliefs like I'm not good enough, I have no value.
Meditation has many physical, mental and emotional benefits that are well researched. Any form of mindfulness will bring benefits. If you can commit to a deeper practice I would encourage it.
366 days Towards Self-Mastery
When I considered my New Year's intentions for 2020 I had just one: To allow my heart to love what it loved...and let it lead me. (If not now, then when?)
I've spent months working on integrating my life. To live life more fully with my home life, my interests, my work, my responsibilities, all coming together, all connected. I want to give each the attention that they desire and need, and still have time and energy for the others. That means living and working from the heart.
As I was clearing out my bookshelf over the Christmas break I discovered Simple Abundance. I set it aside to explore it on New Year's Day as I lazed through another delicious day of nothingness. Sarah, the author, says this book is about living in grace. Living in grace I realised, is about Self-Mastery.
My thirst for understanding the human condition has driven me all my life, and hand-in-hand with self-mastery it has been a life-long goal. And seeing as I love to write, that living in grace is about self-mastery, and I love a bit of a challenge, then if I am truly going to let my heart lead, I really don't have any other choice. So scary as it feels, I'm starting out on a daily mission of leaning into the suggestions of this daybook and making a daily post to keep me accountable. If not now, then when?
I'm Josie. You can find out a little more about me here.
Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy: by Sarah Ban Breathnach.
This book is written for the Australian and NZ market because it refers to seasonal changes. It's available on Amazon here if you'd like to follow along.