At the time meditation burst on the scene, I was in college trying to make sense of the 60’s. I didn’t understand what meditation was, but the Beatles were doing it and that got my attention. Beatles music brought joy back after the shock and sadness of the JFK assassination. Suddenly it was ok to have fun again. Meditation, however, was a harder sell.
For most of us meditation seemed too foreign. The swamis, saris, beards, bare feet, sitar and the chanting in sanskrit were cultural references we didn’t understand. Personally, I was not ready to defend, define, or explain to my New York, Irish-Catholic family why I needed to leave the room, sit crossed-legged on the floor, and go silent. I was afraid meditation might turn me into a different person, make me “blissed out”, or overly reverent. I didn’t want to lose my edge, my sense of humor, or wit. Yet I was intrigued.
A few years later, however, I signed up to learn Transcendental Meditation (TM). The class was nearby and I heard that it could help with stress. Since drugs and alcohol gave me a stomach ache I decided to give meditation a try. That lasted about 6 months. After a while I was convinced I was doing it wrong and stopped. Fast forward about 40 years. A friend asked me to join her in a modern meditation program in Arizona.
Now, older and wiser, I was willing to try again. From my perspective it helped that Sarah McLean (founder of the McLean Meditation Institute) was from New England, didn’t wear any special clothes when she meditated, sat where it was comfortable, spoke English, and was a highly-functioning business owner not living as a hermit or a monk. The program set me straight. It was a modern approach.
In her Simple Easy Every Day Meditation Method, Sarah reassured us that meditation is a natural process. Her “Five Essentials of Meditation” made meditation a game-changer for me:
- It’s ok to have thoughts
- Don’t try too hard
- Let go of expectations
- Be kind to yourself
- Stick with it
As it turned out meditation was not what I thought it was. I learned I don’t have to be different than who I am. In fact, its just the opposite, when I meditate it feels like I’m coming home. Meditation is probably the most powerful tool we have to help us release every day stress. Specifically, the kind of stress which builds up and gets in the way of us actually enjoying our lives or prevents us from knowing who we really are and what we really want.
Meditation has re-connected me with that part of myself that has always been there but I had lost contact with. My soul. Now I meditate everyday because I want to. If I don’t, I feel the outside world pulling me away from what’s important. Meditation has become invaluable to me.
There is still a lot of confusion and misunderstanding around the practice of meditation. If you have tried to meditate and, like me, gave it up I invite you to give it another shot. Take a class, attend a workshop or get private instruction. Meditation can help you be happier with you. It can help you focus, sleep better, build a strong bond with your intuition, recharge your batteries and give you a sense of renewal. Sometimes I explain it this way: Meditation is like taking a mini vacation from your over-active brain.
Pat McGrath is a Spiritual Counselor, certified as a meditation instructor from the McLean Meditation Institute in Sedona, Arizona. She teaches workshops on mindfulness and meditation at The Healing In Harmony Center in Glastonbury. For more information please contact her at: www.adventuresinmind.net. or check the Healing In Harmony website for class schedule.