Discipline – or perhaps it’s actually routine – doesn’t come easily to me which, in many ways seems a shame, mainly because my talents could have been a whole lot more developed by now if I’d learned to practice them daily. Kindly, we might say that I am a woman of divided attentions and that perhaps I am merely an exceedingly late bloomer.
I know that my preference for spontaneity is going to create challenges for me in adopting the much needed practice of meditation so I’ve asked my far more routine-oriented husband to be my partner in committing to the actions needed to make mediation a habit. We’re using the breath as the focal point to which we return when thoughts, feelings and sensations float in and attract our attention. So far, we’ve had exactly one ten-minute group meditation session graciously guided by Life University’s own Dr. Brendan Ozawa-DeSilva and four subsequent ten-minute meditation sessions on our own.
Clearly, I’m only just beginning the first steps of adding meditation to my “happy habits,” the activities that are part of the Happy LIFE. Meditation has been shown to be associated with reducing stress and the host of ills that come along with it: hypertension, inflammation, insomnia (she wrote at 4 o’clock in the freaking AM), heart disease, etc. Although there are far more forms of meditation than my minimal understanding can even pretend to convey, meditation that is focused on mindfulness seems most effective in producing wellbeing and even flourishing in our lives.
Given the minuscule sum total of my experience with “real” (as opposed to “haphazardly self-taught”) meditation, my practice of it is far from masterful. So it is, being so new to the practice that I might fairly be thought of as a meditation embryo, I have no idea of the significance (or lack thereof) of the very interesting experience I had while mediating yesterday morning. As usual, thoughts and feelings would float to mind and attract my attention after which I would bring my focus back to my breath. And, I’m told that this multitude of thoughts rising to mind when meditating (especially in the beginning) is normal and exactly how it’s supposed to work. And, each time we return our thoughts to our breath, we are strengthening our minds in the same way that repeatedly returning a dumbbell to its “focal” position in the process of doing arm curls, strengthens the biceps.
I was aware of many thoughts floating to mind, fleeting sensations of mild discomfort in my creaky old bones, and an awareness of what is either the energetic whirring of the world or the beginning of tinnitus. If I’m going for the contented life, I prefer the former poetic interpretation to the latter geriatric one. In any event, whether it was triggered by a particular thought or by the meditative process of letting them go, I began to feel a sense of happiness and I’m sure I began to smile. As I returned to focusing on my breath each time I became aware of the happy feeling, it seemed to continue to grow until, near the end of my ten-minute meditation, I was feeling almost elated and even a little weepy with joy. I’d have to say that the feeling was somewhat intense and really quite lovely.
I have no idea whether experiencing such a strong sense of joy was typical of what one might expect from breath-focused mindfulness meditation and I don’t know whether I’ll ever experience it again. I do know that I welcome the opportunity to “test drive” the practice of meditation to see if making it a happy habit might add depth and focus to my life and work.