learning to meditate

Learning to Meditate

I live in Marin County, in Northern California. That means something because like every place I know of, we too are known for our clichés. Here, fashion is a studied casual and women’s daywear is more often then not sophisticated exercise or yoga wear. We shop at farmers markets, eat organic whenever possible, we are all trying gluten-free foods and tend to drink almond milk lattes. We meditate, go to yoga and hike Mt. Tamalpais. When you live in this dynamic of a place you can’t help but get curious and then get busy exploring this lifestyle.

Today, I’m writing about meditation. One cannot list all of the undisputed benefits of meditation but how in the world does one meditate? I decided to set off on an adventure and learn how… and it didn’t go well at all! There’s an amazing meditation center in Marin (of course!) so I started there, at Spirit Rock. I arrived for a Monday night meditation (which seems to be the thing to do) dressed in my loose 1970s flared yoga pants and a cool T-shirt with a Lotus flower on the front. I felt like an undercover imposter but my outfit of choice fit right in. I followed suit and removed my shoes, made a cup of tea and gave a donation and then found my way into the main room. I’m the type that arrives everywhere early so I’m sure to get a good spot but where that was in this case escaped me. Maybe in a corner in the back of the room so I could ditch if necessary!

Fast-forward to a silent room and the Jack Kornfield is speaking in a quiet tone and giving a beautiful and reflective talk that would no doubt make me a better person if I could live every word of it.

When the meditation portion began, I assumed the famous yoga position. The first thing I noticed was that while I was supposed to be focusing on my breath, all I could focus on were my aching sits bones, my back and the fact that my knees hurt. I breathed into it and really tried to find my groove. Yeah, right! While this is the quietest place on earth, every little breath, cough and movement comes alive. It’s a symphony of distractions, or at least it was for me.

Honestly, at this point I’m trying so hard to focus, to breathe, to clear my crazy overly excited brain and to let go of all thoughts. But then, I opened my eyes (OK, I squinted so I wouldn’t get busted) and started to peek at people fascinated at their ability to just be. Apparently I suck at meditation. I closed my eyes, tried again and then spent the next 30 minutes on a business plan. I’m pretty sure I bombed Meditation 101 but I didn’t leave early and bought a few books that I have reread many times to date.

The reason I share this story is because I didn’t give up, and meditation is what keeps me grounded and in my body and heart, as opposed to my head. It’s where I find gratitude and awareness. It’s where I find my true self, explore my creativity, decompress, and see the beauty of the world around me. I ultimately feel my connection to this universe, my purpose and to myself.

I started this website and blog to help women feel and look their best and I can say unequivocally that learning to meditate had changed me and my life for the better and so I want everyone to know that you too can meditate. 

There’s a part two to this story; it’s how I overcame and then grew my passion and created a practice. First of all, find your own path. There are so many ways to learn how to meditate so look about. Do what resonates with you, whether it’s a book or a workshop, a retreat or any other offering. Now, that being said, here’s what I did.

Like I said, I have one of those busy, think-too-much kind of brains, so I needed something to fully immerse myself in. No work, no children, no men, no friends, no family, and no phone (OK, maybe a couple of peeks) and most definitely out of my zip code!

I enrolled myself in a program called Perfect Health at the Chopra Center in Carlsbad, CA. I’m telling you, this place changed everything. Meditation can be nothing but a pleasure—who knew? There is so much to say about this incredible program, and perhaps I will write a total review at one point, but for now I want to give you the CliffsNote version on meditation.

Meditation 101

Did you know that you don’t have to get mad and guilt trip yourself if you have a busy mind? Best news of the day! What I learned at the Chopra Center was this: All you have to do is be kind to yourself. Be loving and forgiving because you are a new student and mastery takes forever. When you are focused on your breath and a thought pops into your mind (for instance, ‘What are you going to make for dinner?), just thank that thought for passing through, let it go by and get back to “you” time. And, as for the pain in the back the booty or the knees, guess what, you’re not alone. You can pile pillows or blankets, bolsters and mats. You can sit on the floor or in a chair. Sometimes I meditate lying on my couch or sitting propped up on my bed. Be comfortable. There’s no judgment here!

I have found guided meditation to be my holy grail. I love it! Guided meditation, whether by a person in real time or an online meditation you found on YouTube, shuts down my self-induced information gathering brain center and allows me to let go completely and fly. A guide will talk you through the meditation, and with each meditation I’m on a different adventure and in a different location. I have been floating down a river on a warm summer afternoon on a raft; my body was hot but my hands were dangling in the cool, refreshing water and I heard the birds singing and feel the breeze. I’ve been up a very tall staircase and found my self in an old English library. I’ve been behind a waterfall on a ledge. I’m frequently by a river in a sacred space I created for myself. Ok, I’m going to say it… meditation can be so fun.

I think Maslow got something wrong when he wrote about the hierarchy of needs. He forgot to add meditation!