I think the question "What does meditation feel like?", is similar to questions like "What colour is water?" and "Why do we wish for straight hair if we have curly, or curly if we rock it straight?". Tough questions to answer.
Meditation is not about relaxation. That may be the result but that is not the goal. My best attempt to answer what meditation feels like for me is depicted in the above photo. That's me on my 27th birthday hiking the Santa Monica mountains. I have been both blessed and cursed by a mind that runs a million miles a minute. Josh calls it my monkey mind- like its on a trampoline and can bounce from one random thought to a completely different random thought in the quick bounce of a monkey... or something like that. I think a lot, get tons of ideas all the time, and then want to execute them yesterday. You know that problem of procrastination, I have the extreme opposite challenge.
Meditation shifts my mind away from its usual feeling of drowning in ideas. It allows my mind and I to take a deep breath and be still, allowing for space, oodles and oodles of space. This space allows for stresses, that we all like to keep in our special place (tummy, back, shoulders, hips...) to bubble up to the surface and then dissipate out, allowing space for no thought (which is like a cool breeze on a stifling day- true bliss) and also for brand new thoughts. Every time I meditate, it all opens up a little more, the stresses untangle themselves a little more, and as a result in my normal state, I become increasingly open and calm.
My meditation teacher explained the process like colour fasting. You dip a cloth into dye and leave it out in the sun to fade. Then put it back into the dye and back out in the sun. Dye to sun, dye to sun until both look exactly the same. The fabric is the exact colour fresh out of the dye as it is after hours in the sun. The more we meditate the more colour fast we become, where the calm and equanimity we experience during meditation, is the same that we embody in our lives. Get it?
The thing about meditation and about doing it everyday as a non-negotiable is that sometimes it totally sucks. Now of course it's not good to get in the practice of labelling meditation sessions as good or bad but I know there are times when my head is buzzing and I am a ball of anxiety and other times where I get right into that sweet zone, everything goes quiet and my hands get insanely hot (I've been told this is an energy thing). Though obviously I find the latter more blissful, it is the former that teaches me the lessons. See, meditation is a practice of life. In life there are times that are sweet and times that suck monkey balls. Those times that suck monkey balls, times that are tough, however, are part of life, and in life, we don't have the option of giving up, of getting up, and of walking away from it. Sitting through, and being with our emotions when we feel anxious or restless in meditation, is a lesson in sitting through it and being with how we feel in life- the comfortable and the not so comfortable.
Believe me when I tell you that the times when you believe you are too busy, that you don't have the time or simply can't sit still- you need it the most. It's fine and dandy to meditate on the beach, at sunrise while on holidays, but what about the days where you have to return 39 phone calls, respond to 72 emails, take care of three children, 1 spouse, 2 pets, a couple parents and take out the garbage? You need it those days too.
I could create a whole other blog and write a post a day for a gazillion years and never run out of things to say about this practice. If you know my story, you are aware of the profound influence meditation has had on me. Though there are many benefits to meditation that I can recognize in myself on the surface level, what goes on below is a whole other bag of goodies.
Through various studies, meditation has been a proven way to
- Lower stress
- Improve immune response (increases white blood cell and antibody production)
- Improve quality of sleep
- Increase adaptation energy (hello? raise your hand if you resist change)
- Enhance creativity
- Improve daily performance
- Improve intelligence
- Meet life's demands with equanimity and grace
An added dimension of meditation is that it helps us to be a greater influence for good-in our own lives, at home, at work and in the community in general.
Question of the Day: Do you practice meditation? Has it been a positive practice for you?