Health · meditation

Meditation for Dumbasses

We’ve all heard the mantras: Live in the present. Let things go. Stop inhaling those damned Doritos. But how, when we’ve got so much to worry about? So much to get caught up in! Bills to pay and jobs to dread and social media to hate! We can’t even turn our minds off long enough to sleep at night. We are a prisoner of those relentless thought loops that rattle around our minds. That’s why it’s important to learn how to occasionally break free. But how do we actually turn off our chattering squirrel brains?

Perhaps you’ve heard of meditation? Maybe you only think of it as “sitting like a pretzel at the top of Mount Everest until you levitate and/or lotus flowers shoot out of your ass”? Well, being the self-appointed lead authority of dumbasses everywhere, I can tell you three things I know for sure: It works. It’s easy. We all can do it.

Teeny tiny Buddha says, “Hellz yeah, you can!”

Before I let you in on all my secrets of meditating. I’ll give you a little background. I started my meditation practice back in high school. I was sitting cross-legged outside on the grass, gazing at the trees and feeling the warm sun, when I gradually started to go into a trance. More like a comforting, peaceful state. I wasn’t asleep, I was hyper conscious and aware (and I had only smoked one hit off my brother’s bong that day, so trust me, it was genuine.)

I noticed something odd, my thoughts — up until that point a jumbled hot mess of things like “Is that bumblebee going to sting me?” and “Why does it look like Sting wearing a yellow and black striped sweater?” and “Holy shit, what was IN that bong?” — my thoughts started to quiet down. Oh, they were still there, incessantly blabbing into the corners of my mind, but they were slowly disappearing and melting away. Until finally all that I was experiencing was my breathing and my presence. Not even thinking about my breathing, just breathing. Imagine!

Having suffered from anxiety and depression for years, this brief feeling of freedom and peace truly changed my life. I spent years taking meditation classes, reading all the books (yes, all of them!) and practicing, practicing, practicing meditation.

Do I now have all the answers? Am I able to levitate? Did I kick my Doritos habit? Hell no! I still struggle each and every time I sit and try to just “be”. But I am able to just “be”… eventually. Oh yes, I be, baby! And it’s a gift, one I cherish and try to tap into whenever possible. It’s difficult sometimes, what with all the things I have to be offended about on Facebook. So I have some advice for all those beginners out there, or people who might think it’s too hard or not worth it. This is what I’ve learned:

  • Sit how you want. I’ve been in classes where the teacher insists you sit a certain way, or hold your hands in prayer or to the side with your finger touching your thumb. Do what feels most comfortable to you. The key is to not get too comfortable or you’ll fall asleep. I sit on my couch with my hands relaxed at my sides. That’s it. There is no magic position you need to be in. What matters is you find a position that enables you to free your mind from your body.
  • Chant or don’t. Some people chant meaningful sayings and this repetition helps one focus. Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, has one I like in which you say to yourself “smile ” and “release” with each breath in and out. Some like to have music playing or a guided meditation. Some chant silently, “I will not eat those Doritos, I will not eat those Doritos.” Hey, whatever gets you to relax and focus on unfocusing, do it. I don’t do anything fancy. I like it quiet and I simply close my eyes and breathe. (I told you I was a dumbass.)
Ommmmmmmm…..cooooool….raaaanch…Dooooritooooossss….
  • You can do it anywhere anytime. I don’t know about you, but it’s rare that I’m sitting in the cool grass gazing out at snowy mountain peaks while wearing the perfect yoga outfit. I meditate in my bathrobe. I meditate in my car while waiting to pick up my kids. I meditate during work meetings. Especially at work meetings.
  • We’ve all meditated before. In the shower, while listening to music, while listening to the boss drone on and on at meetings about how I showed up yet again in my bathrobe. It’s not some crazy woo-woo thing. It’s just being. Releasing and getting those stupid inane thoughts to shut the hell up for TWO FREAKING SECONDS, GAWD!
  • It can reduce anxiety, depression, sleep issues and more. Think of it as exercise for your soul. Meditation is incredibly healing.
  • There is no right or wrong way to do it. What works for you might not work for me. For me, the key is to let go of all of those preconceived notions, let go of all the words, all the terms, all those confining and annoying things like thoughts. You will have them when you sit to meditate. You are not failing meditation because you’re thinking, “Oh shit! I’m still thinking. Now I’m thinking about thinking! I suck at this!” Our entire lives consist of getting mired down in this nonstop loop of thoughts. You are so much more that that. You are a divine being. Let thoughts drift on by your consciousness and let them continue on the path out of your mind. This is how you tap into your true essence, the presence, the one observing these thoughts. Trust me, this is attainable. It does take practice. Once I was in such a deep state of meditating, I barely heard my boss yelling at me to wake up or I’m fired.
  • Practice never makes perfect. Here’s a conundrum: practicing meditation is crucial but you will never be 100% successful at it. There’s no endgame. There’s no winning. There is no point at which you sigh and say, “Welp, I’m done!” It’s a constant learning experience in which you are always evolving. Some days while meditating I can’t stop thinking about Trump’s hair flap or my mother or whether I took the chicken out of the freezer. Other days, I easily go to that sacred space of No Thoughts. But if I can sit and be still most days for even five or ten minutes, I’m grounded and ready to face the Big Issues and even all those petty little annoyances in my daily life.

Like my empty Doritos bag. Sigh.

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Humor

What I didn’t do on my summer vacation

I spent most of the summer reading. Author/spiritual guru/King of Chilltown, Eckhart Tolle, has a simple message: Life is all about balance; there’s an intrinsic ebb and flow. You win some, you lose some. Things come and go. You try to do the tree pose to impress your kids, you fall onto the yoga mat and pull an ass muscle you didn’t know existed.

eckhart-tolle
Eckhart’s Spiritual Truth #234: Give it up, girl. You’re a klutz.

This summer, I decided to balance my mental state by weeding out the soul-sucking nonsense in my life — social media. What was interesting in this experiment was how little I missed it after a few days. It was very difficult at first. I had the typical withdrawal symptoms: trembling fingers, twitchy eyes, bitchy mood.  I had to uninstall apps on my phone to resist the temptation.

Then I would reinstall them. Then uninstall them. Reinstall. Uninstall.

Balance, dear child.
Balance, dear child.

Then I muted almost everyone on Twitter. Then I unmuted some. Then muted them. Mute. Unmute. Mute. Unmute.

Balance, dear child.
Twitter isn’t real. Nothing is real. It’s all a figment of our collective consciousness. An illusion. Let it go.

Then I scrolled through my Facebook feed, cursing at myself for caving once again.

Facebook is merely a construct that serves the purpose of feeding the ego. We all project a false sense of self, a persona. This is not your authentic essence of your true being.
Facebook is merely a social construct that serves the sole purpose of feeding the ego. It’s a place where we all project a false sense of self; a persona. This is not the authentic essence of your true being. Release yourself from this manmade prison. And let it go, etc…. I mean, I think it really goes without saying…duh.

Finally, I threw my phone in the trash. Then retrieved it. Throw. Retrieve. Throw. Retrieve.

eckhart-tolle
Ah! For the love of– YOU are an IDIOT! 

Man, that Eckhart Tolle sure gets on my last nerve. But the smug bastard speaks the truth. When you let go of things that don’t serve you well and life is in harmony, a whole new world opens up.

And yes, I’m an idiot.

After a week with less social media, colors seemed brighter, images sharper, my kids’ names clearer. Still, there were doubts. I did miss the social interaction on the interwebz.

How would I survive without knowing how outraged people were with the asinine thing Trump did this week? How would I go on without seeing in my Facebook feed 35 photos of my friend’s cat that all look the same? How would I cope not knowing how everyone else is having more fun and looks ridiculously more attractive than me this summer?

I’m happy to say I curbed my addiction. I stopped doing things I wasn’t truly enjoying anymore. I let negative stuff go. I didn’t blog for two months. (gasp) I didn’t go on Twitter. I came to the stark realization that no one really cares how tasty my omelet looks on Instagram. (For the record, it had feta cheese and spinach and it was AMAZEBALLS!) I discovered that people no longer say ‘amazeballs’. My Facebook page was (mostly) silent.

Guess what? I exist. I’M STILL ALIVE!!

(Barely, but I do feel a faint pulse…)

Thanks, Eckhart. You’ve changed my life, dude.

eckhart-tolle-full-size
Huh? Did you say something? Sorry, (hehe) but I was watching a YouTube video of Chewbacca Mom wrestling Trump in a vat of pudding.  Hilarious! But (ahem) yes….uh….balance. It’s all about letting things go. All that matters is being fully engaged in the present moment. To find out more about how we hold onto material things that don’t matter, be sure to buy my book on Amazon, on sale for only 19.95 plus shipping and handling!

Gloating in my success at banning social media, I watched a YouTube video of Tolle talking about another addiction we all face (after I checked out that hysterical Chewbacca Mom clip). It’s an addiction that’s much larger in scope and more difficult to beat.

Our addiction to thinking. Specifically — overthinking. Or thinking about overthinking. Or thinking about not thinking about overthinking thinking.

I am so screwed. I love to think! It’s what I do best! Or worst. First step to get back on my road to Chilltown: Buy beige sweater vest.

The key to a calm mind? It's all about the vest.
Calm vest, calm mind.

Thankfully, I’ve practiced meditation for nearly 25 years, so I’ve got this nonthinking shit down. I just have to not think about it so much. Easy! I need to breathe in….and breathe out….just…..be….one with my true essence…ahhhhh…

I feel dizzy now, but it’s all good.

Because — like Eckhart has said many times in that soft, mesmerizing, endearing Yoda-like way — we are all simply forms of consciousness, always transforming, manifesting and dissolving into formlessness. This is the true reality of existence. Not worrying about how big my thighs look in my leggings or how in the hell I’m going to survive until our election is finally over.

You hear that, Trump?

Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump stands during the Fox Business Network Republican presidential debate at the North Charleston Coliseum, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016, in North Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
The Donald — fully basking in his true essence.

You are a temporary form of consciousness! Everything has its purpose! It’s OK! (deep inhale) You’re just manifesting! (long exhale)

Sigh. I think I need to meditate again. Om.

________________________________________________

How was your summer?
How long have you gone with no social media?
Do you have any extra beige sweater vests lying around?
Is this election all just a crazy, mixed-up, endless, nightmarish trip I’m having due to that time I accidentally smoked the ganja?

 

 

reflections

It’s all in your mind

Blooming lotus in peaceful mind...
Blooming lotus in peaceful mind Image by Thai Jasmine via Flickr

What is love? What is life? What is time? Please tell me. What are the words you choose? Are there words that can accurately convey these concepts? Well, we try to come up with them. But in my experience words are so limiting and often fail miserably at communicating such subjective and powerful ideas.

It’s like trying to describe to someone what it feels like to jump out of an airplane.  You could say, “It was awesome, dude!” Or you could be more specific and say, “All I could hear was the wind rushing and my heart pounding.” In any case, I’d be willing to bet the only surefire way I’d understand what it was like was if I took the plunge myself. And that experience would no doubt leave me with different impressions than others. Maybe I’d see a glimpse of heaven. Maybe I’d squeeze my eyes shut and cry “I want my mommy!” the whole way down.  This is what makes the human experience so fascinating. We are all constantly filtering what we experience and applying it directly to our own personal state of being. Continue reading “It’s all in your mind”

reflections

My Zen

The tiny bright ball of energy was whirling in front of me. It swirled and spun while even smaller dots of yellow light zipped around the ball like moons orbiting Jupiter. I was mesmerized. All I could do was observe it in my mind’s eye. The light was growing bigger and bigger, suspended in space in front of me. There was no thought. There was no time. There was no “I”. Nothing existed except for that ball of light. Continue reading “My Zen”