Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Meditation Is as Easy as I-2-3, er, Damn!

Meditation is as easy as counting to, well, one.

Once again I suggest that you listen to Michael McAlister at infinitesmile.org, particular his podcast ISmile150 - The Pitfalls of Practice on how to get started in meditation.

It is really quite simple, as Michael describes it.

  1. Breathe in.
  2. Breath out.
  3. Count 1 if you had no intruding thoughts.

And Michael categorizes those thoughts into:

  1. Plans--Anything from "Gee, I need to pick up some bread on the way home" to "How will I feed my family?"
  2. Memories--Obvious enough. It could be remembering the nice time you had on vacation last week to something terrible that happened to you in your childhood.
  3. Judgments--It can be as simple as, "Dang it, my foot has fallen asleep and that's pissing me off" to "Why am I such a failure?"

I would add Dreams/Day Dreams/Fantasies to this list, as sometimes completely nonsensical or non-linear thoughts enter my mind.

Sounds easy, right? Breathe in, breathe out, no thoughts? Count 1. Then, see if you can put five in a row together and get to 5.

Well, for this beginner meditator, this is how it goes.

  • Breathe in.
  • Breathe out.
  • "What time is Matt's game tomorrow?"
  • Damn!
  • Ok, that was a "plan."
  • Breathe in.
  • Breathe out.
  • "That Boston cream pie last night for dessert was great!"
  • Damn!
  • Ok, that was a memory and a judgment.
  • Breathe in.
  • Breathe out.
  • One!

You get the idea. It is really, really hard for even an instant to clear your brain of clutter.

But as Michael explains, part of the trick is that by identifying your thoughts--Plan, Memory, Judgment, (Dream)--you still slow your thoughts down and create space between them.

And lengthening that space between thoughts--which for me right now is in the seconds zone, not the minutes or hours zone--is how you gain awareness. And through awareness comes peace. And through peace comes enlightenment.

One breath, one count at a time. Scrub. Rinse. Repeat.

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