19 for 2019: #5 Meditate More

Calling myself out here with a pretty epic fail. Sort of.

As a very young twenty-something, I encountered Asian culture and romanticized it right away. From somewhere came H.H. The XIV Dalai Lama and I connected with my first hero–I was just so enamored with how, no matter the subject at hand, and with his story that can be emotional stuff, he is rock steady, calm, pleasant, smiling, and coming solidly from a place of love and compassion. This was, and in many ways is still, the kind of human I wanted to be. As I took academic, cultural, and travel dives into the East/Southeast Asian context, studies of Buddhism and Islam naturally followed. I wore a sandalwood mala for years after my four-week walk from Lompoc to Los Angeles with a bunch of Tibetan monks and nuns and the Tibetan Independence Movement in Tibet Walk 2000 followed by attending a week of teachings with Kundun himself and a private audience. The more I learned about Buddhist philosophy and worldview, the more I felt I found a theological grounding of sorts, though I had absolutely no direct connection to organized religion, and this inability to connect with the rituals, practice, and organizational aspects of Buddhism would always keep me from full conversion. When I followed a cute Indonesian boy from Berlin to Jakarta one summer, I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into until I got there–political uprisings, Islam, where was I, anyway? It didn’t matter–the food knocked my socks off and my hosts were generous and kind. And Bahasa Indonesia is a really fun language to learn. Suffice it to say, my first real brush with Islam got me thinking a lot more and taking related academics back here stateside at university. When the holy month of Ramadan came around, I figured why not give it some kind of try, even though I’m not actually a Muslim, what better way to get “direct experience,” as an eccentric Indonesian friend in Monterey would say, after sleeping on his porch in a rainstorm. For that entire month, I rose before dawn, ate some breakfast, and meditated for an hour, or pretended that’s what I was doing, because the honest truth was that I’d probably never sat in a structured or formal way before that and really had no guidance or idea of what I was actually doing. In retrospect, I was actually more on track than I realized. I observed a strict fast all day, and broke it after sunset. Not a full complement of religious ritual, but enough to generate empathy, I suppose, and a great learning experience. And I have struggled to establish a remotely steady practice ever since.

Meditation is definitely a tool that comes out in really trying times, and has undoubtedly made some stressful times more manageable. I think I’m embracing the idea of micro meditations–a deep breath here or there, noticing something joyful or beautiful in a brief moment, and my new favorite, remembering to simply say “Yes, thank you,” to absolutely everything. This last one is still definitely a work in progress.

Getting through a divorce, my first big job hunt when I moved to the Bay Area, difficult relationships, and intense job stress are some notable moments in the last 20 years that I remember having some kind of workable container for a meditation practice. On the lighter side, there was also that time that I had a realization around how a meditation practice enhances blindness skills.

Some professional coaching I engaged in last year brought up self-compassion as an item I have been focusing on of late, and while meditation is an important part of self-care and well being, I cannot say that I have “meditated more” this year. The struggle is real. I’d probably be wise to roll this one over to next year and keep working at it, and I very well may. After all, 2020 will be a year of unprecedented clarity and meditation will be a vital component of that.Tomorrow: making my house a home.

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