Meditation Challenge – Week One

The Meditation Challenge is off to a great start. I have meditated every night except one (my family and I got home late from celebrating a family member’s birthday) and it has really helped me wrap up my days with peaceful reflection, and at times, helpful revelations.

To begin, I honestly didn’t know much about meditation or any specific techniques, so I have largely just been sitting cross-legged on the floor in the dark after the kids have gone to bed and the house is (finally) quiet and calm. The first two nights, this immensely helped me sort through the events of the day and my actions, reactions, and feelings about them. On the fourth day, I was feeling out of sorts — not stressed, but not exactly calm either. I didn’t even know where to begin to sort through my thoughts, and decided to try a “Guided Meditation” video on YouTube. I’ve done these sorts of relaxation exercises before, and they have really aided me in times of great anxiety. So a simple 20 minute video helped direct my thoughts and actions so that I could go to bed feeling much more relaxed and at peace than I felt prior.

Last night I decided to try Zazen Meditation (which literally means “seated meditation”) for the first time. I found helpful tips to begin on Zen Mountain Monastery‘s website. Basically, you choose from a variety of ways to sit (preferably on the floor), you place your hands in a specific position called “cosmic mudra”, close your eyes and count your breath — inhale, one; exhale, two; inhale, three and so on — up to ten. Once you reach ten you start back at one and continue on. Zen Mountain Monastery says:

“The counting is a feedback to help you know when your mind has drifted off. Each time you return to the breath you are empowering yourself with the ability to put your mind where you want it, when you want it there, for as long as you want it there. That simple fact is extremely important. We call this power of concentration joriki, or spiritual power.”

I found the simplicity of it to be very alluring, and it was indeed a very nice experience. I loved that instead of trying to work through my thoughts, I was instructed to literally let my thoughts go. I counted my breaths up to ten, started back at one and then back up to ten….over and over again. I did that for 10 minutes, and by the end I felt more relaxed and clear-minded. I think I would like to continue with this particular method for the next week. It intrigues me that a practice which seems so simple could reap so many deep-reaching benefits for those who do it on a regular basis. I would really like to see if I could experience these benefits myself.

One thing I think will be particularly interesting is the thought of my exploring spirituality. I am not, nor have I ever truly been, a spiritual person. There are moments in life, usually when I am doing my yoga practice or successfully engaging myself in “present awareness” when I feel deeply connected to life and fulfilled by it…and perhaps other, more enlightened, individuals would say that is part of spirituality. I don’t really know. I just know that I am so un-spiritual in a mental sense that I feel uncomfortable when people talk about their spirituality with great fervor, whether it be Christians, Buddhists, or new-age spiritualists. It will be interesting to see if I could possibly reach such an “enlightened” state of being — or if I would even allow myself to. I am not interested in joining a particular movement or denomination, and frankly don’t believe in a creator of any sort, but I am interested in going through life with a heightened awareness of myself and being to engage with those around me in a more meaningful way.

I do feel like the meditation has, thus far, helped me go about my days in a more calm way. I feel like my interactions with the kids have been better, and some specific revelations regarding my relationships with them has aided in that. In saying this, I want to make it clear that my relationships with my children have not been terrible up to this point, quite the contrary — I am simply trying to change how I react to the stressful situations that arise daily with homeschooling a young boy on the Autism Spectrum alongside a clingy toddler that seems like she will never be ready to give up breastfeeding. Being home with them is amazing, but it’s stressful too, so I am trying to place myself in a better state of mind to handle the stress in a way that will preserve my good relationships with my children and maintain my well-being inside and out.

There is so much to learn on this journey of awareness and peace, but I will slowly but surely work my way through and hopefully find what works for me.

If you are joining me on this journey, what have you been trying? What have been your experiences, and do you feel like you seeing benefits from it? As always, I would love to hear your thoughts.

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