Before I begin — A personal note:
I just want to take a minute and tell you that I think meditation is challenging to write about. Visions of flowing prose and ease were met with a different reality. So many of the changes and observations that I made during this time were internal deep feelings and reflections that are hard to articulate with words. When you are witnessing yourself and not judging the story, it is different. Words simply miss the mark of the experience. And I think this is the beauty of meditation. It is yours completely. No one can tell you what you felt or didn’t feel. That is why it is so personal and sacred- you are witnessing you. The real, deep feeling you without stories, judgment or have to’s attached to it.
My meditation practice has been a work in progress. I have spent countless hours in weekend spiritual retreats, yoga and qi gong classes, as well as visited centers like The Shambala Center for their free introduction to mindfulness meditation class. I sought out the “how to” guides and sat on that meditation pillow over and over again. But it never turned into a daily habit. It never stuck. I will start tomorrow, I’ve told myself over and over again.
I can also see how over the years I set myself up for failure. I pledged to meditate at nap time when the kids were babies —what a joke! We all know that time is crucial eating, showering and doing anything other than sitting still. Then I would tell myself I’d do it after they went to bed (joke again!). At the end of the day I had no desire, willpower or focus to mediate. Sleeping was about as far as I could get.
But this past fall I could no longer ignore the signs that I needed to make time for mediation. Every time a life question arose, I received from myself and others the response to “just meditate”. My non-action became stale and stagnating. It was a wake up call and I could no longer push the snooze button. The time was now.
I didn’t want to admit this, but the truth was that I was looking for an easier way to get peace in my life. I knew it was work and it took time and devotion. It’s a practice. Just like you practice yoga, practice medicine or parenting or build endurance at the gym — meditation too is a practice. A skill you have to develop over time. And I simply wanted it to just happen. Snap my fingers and poof there I was, Zen Deb, incredibly self aware, calm and at peace. I wanted to somehow inhabit those feelings or that space of being without doing the work. Maybe this is a result of our insta-everything culture. I have to have it now.
So I began. The date was September 12th, 2017. And I knew there was no turning back. I set my alarm for 6 AM, a time before my family was awake. A time when the moon is fading and the sun is about to rise. A special in-between time before the universe is really woke. And more importantly, a time before I could make excuses and my mind’s to-do list would get in the way of taking care of my core being.
I barely slept that night realizing the commitment I was making to myself, the anticipation of starting a new thing, an intention on the precipice of unfolding and becoming alive. So of course I woke up before the alarm like a giddy school girl already proud of myself (ego much). The idea of the journey was so exciting, despite knowing that the real work was about to begin.
Here is a glimpse into my diary during my 4 month journey:
day 2 — realizing this is a living, breathing thing. And some days will be easier, others more challenging. My mind harder to quiet today. The to-do list chatter overpowering and receiving and centering non existent. And reminding myself there is no room for judgement here. That there are just observations.
day 5 – my older daughter waking up early today and interrupting my meditation time. However she just comes over quietly and sits down in my lap. And I see the image of what we must look like to the outside — she is my little buddha on my lap. She’s the teacher. She’s the lesson. I receive her energy and we wake up together.
day 10 – my first weekend alarm to meditate after a dinner out combined with early risers today. I again find flexibility where before there may have been rigidity and anger. I adjusted and amended to what was, not what I wished was. I did 5 minutes instead of 30. And slowly I am understanding how you just keep putting in the time, as little or as much as you can and it adds up.
day 21 – awareness that this is a practice. Every day is different because every morning you are a new you that has never awoken to this day on this date. the potential of transformation can be small or large. it can be quiet or loud.
day 30 (1 month) – yay! Can I say I am impressed that I am still waking up every morning at 6? Do I dare say that I look forward to it? Closing my eyes in the darkness and opening them to the light of the rising sun. There is something magical in that.
day 32 – my husband says it’s nice to see me smiling in the morning. Accept that observation and like that I am smiling too.
day 45 — I am finding the pause between thought and words. between reaction and action.
Day 50 – patience and more patience. and some days no patience. I am observing. I am not judging or grading myself.
Day 60 (Month 2) – realizing mediation is not the answer to everything and it doesn’t make every day a disney movie where you are communicating with the animals and at one with nature. You still have shitty days. You just move through them differently.
Day 64 – noticing my mind wandering this morning. didn’t even hear the first 10 minutes of the guided meditation I was listening too. I was busy buzzing with thoughts and lists. But I stopped, quieted the mind and sunk into the beauty of not thinking.
Day 71 – alarm wakes me up 6 AM. I sleepily grab my shawl and go sit in my little meditation place. It is becoming my morning refuge. My body just goes there now without pushing. You sit. You settle. Just breath. And repeat.
Day 80 – realizing the power in seeing your own patterns of behavior and not judging them as bad or good — just ways of being that you would like to work on. I have noticed patterns in speech or in reactions to my children that I want to change. I see them now. I hear them now. And now working on breaking the pattern.
Day 90 (3 months) – my mentor challenged me to mediate without being guided and without music. To sit in real silence and stillness and see what happens. I am already uncomfortable just thinking about this, which usually means it is because I need to do it. So I try.
Day 93 – sitting in silence. Trying to just be there without chatter. To listen deeply to what comes up or doesn’t.
Day 97 – realizing I have a practice to build upon. That the past two months have given me a proper foundation to handle this new practice.
Day 101 – at the clinic my mentor noticed I was softer yet more in my power and strength at work.
Day 109 – feel like crap. sleep more important than mediation right now.
Day 112 – still sick
Day 118 – so happy to be healthy and return to the practice. I start with a guided meditation so I can just listen and begin again.
Day 120 – still here, practicing.
This is my way of being now. I can’t go back now because there is no back to return when everyday you choose to be here and now. Choosing to have this as part of my morning ritual has been powerful. And the days that I do miss it because life gets in the way (travel, sickness, kids, exhaustion) I notice a difference.
I am not going to end this piece because there is no ending, there is just beginning over and over again.
And as my mentor Thomas Droge always says, “slow is the fast way”.
How to start:
There are many forms of meditation – it’s not a one fits all kind of a practice. And as you gain your own awareness you may change and seek other types. Some days to be guided, other days to be in complete stillness and other times just doing breath work. Just keep on trying – if something doesn’t feel good to you may need to do it more because its connecting to some deep discomfort that you may need to address or simply it’s not your fit. Move on and try again.
Here are some ideas and links to start building your own meditation practice.
Not ready to sit, but like thinking about spiritual things. These two women are funny, real, smart and deep. It’s a meaningful podcast about spirituality in the modern world
Like a group. Like group energy. Want to be with people? The try:
Download an app and have access to meditation whenever you need it
Deb Ross is a licensed acupuncturist and board certified herbalist in NYC. She has been involved with, studying and practicing Chinese Medicine for over a decade. She holds a Master’s of Science degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine from Touro College, focusing on Acupuncture, Chinese herbs and Tui Na.
A note from Beyond Mom- We all want to achieve a more grounded inner world. As Deb shares it can be easier said than done and it really takes discipline and tools. On February 28th we invite you to the Finding Mindfulness in the Midst of Motherhood panel. We know you will walk away awakened and empowered to embrace mindfulness into your life as a mama and more. Sign up here!