Maybe the best thing about being 6 months into daily meditation is that I’ve started to let go of a little bit of the rigidity. I felt pretty strongly that in order to form this habit, I needed to commit to a very specific practice. So when I started in May of this year, I said that I would focus on mindfulness meditation and I gave myself these specific instructions:
Sit still in Burmese pose. Back Straight. Chin tucked slightly. Tongue on roof of mouth. Lips parted. Hands face down on thighs. Eyes open, gazing, not staring, 3-4 feet in front of me. Be aware of the breath. When the mind wanders, and you notice, note that you’ve been thinking and come back to the breath.
Note: 6 months later. My mind wanders constantly. Still. When I’m sitting in meditation, often it feels like I’ve made absolutely no progress. I definitely can’t just follow my breathing for the entire time. In fact, sometimes I still find that I’ve been thinking (usually planning) for what feels like minutes before I come back to the breath. So whatever progress is being made is happening subconsciously. I notice it off the cushion. I am calmer. Much less likely to spin out into anxiety, or anger. My husband has noticed this too.
The point is that lately, even though I still feel like I suck at meditation, I’m much more likely to experiment with my sitting. I feel pretty confident in my habit now, which is such a comfort. So I’m starting to bring some creativity into my meditation. Maybe the Buddhist teachers would frown on it but whatever. I’m a householder. I am a lay person. I do a lot of stuff. I have a day job that is not teaching meditation. This meditation is for me. Specific, unique, me who, for better or worse, has one foot in an international bank in Manhattan and the other foot in philosophy and mysticism and contemplation.
So mine is not some kind of perfect traditional practice. But if it’s making me feel good and I am genuinely finding that it is helping me to know myself and navigate this world in a more conscious and thoughtful way, then I’m doing it right.
So sometimes, if I’m feeling like it, I’ll smile during my meditation. Sometimes, if I feel like it, I’ll close my eyes. Sometimes, I’ll pay attention to my spine. Or I’ll try to simply pay attention to my body. What it feels like to be in my body. Or I’ll try to keep my thoughts within the 4 walls of the room in which I’m sitting. And lately I’ve been asking myself, “What does it feel like to sit still?” The answer is usually that it feels like movement, and that it feels good. And that it feels. It feels to be human.
If you have a regular practice, I encourage you to make it yours. Shut off the guided meditations every once in a while. Somedays, ignore the instruction. This is for you. Let this be a creative process. Let this be a lighthearted endeavor. When you decide that you own your practice, the magic is a lot more likely to show up.