In meditation, you serenely sit in lotus position, eyes closed, focused on your breath, and empty your mind of all thought. Well, not really. That’s something you see in the movies. Rather, few have mastered that kind of spiritual enlightenment over their years of training. At least that’s my experience of meditation in my four years of practice. It’s not natural. Nor is meditation easy.
I still kind of suck at mediation. Rather, I’m not as good as I would like. Yet, I discovered that access to peace within me, in some small measure. I also get from Sensei that for anything to become natural it just takes practice and time. You must do it over and over and over and over again.
A few years ago I experienced anxiety and moderate depression when I worked my previous job. I got professional help to deal with this. I took prescription medication for about a year. It just didn’t work for me. The physical side effects actually made me more anxious. So after a year, I chose to pursue another alternative: meditation.
Please realize that my choice was entirely personal. I needed to discover a way that would work for me. Thousands of people experience profound benefit from prescription anti-depression and anti-anxiety medication under the care of their qualified clinicians. Doing so allows those suffering to lead productive lives. They rediscover joy within. They discover their own measure of peace. That’s all that matters.
My late spiritual advisor and chiropractor Victor had a client who taught Transcendental Meditation (TM). I contacted him, but he was no longer a teacher. He directed me to Google a local TM instructor. Amazing that spirituality is readily available on the Internet. I found Dave in Palos Verdes.
The TM initiation fee was pricey, but what the hell. If it could help, I was up for it. Dave was a good decent man. He was older, the grownup hippie surfer dude. He said TM helped him calm his anger within. I worked with Dave for about a month learning the basics. I got my mantra. I got the breathing. I even downloaded the cool TM meditation app on my phone. So I practiced every day.
I was grateful for Dave. However, he was not the meditation Sensei for me. Dave provided little profound insight into accessing meditation for me, making it my own. Still, I continued to practice the basics.
One day after Aikido class, I talked with Sensei Bobby. We talked about meditation. Bobby has practiced meditation over the years. He asked if TM was working for me. I said, “Not really.” He discovered that my mantra word was not perhaps ideal for me. He discovered a new one for me. Bobby knows. He’s my Sensei.
After meditating for a few months I began to experience calm. Maybe, by just practicing, I got better. Or perhaps the new mantra was really the deal. Regardless, I discovered access to a measure of peace. I was grateful for Bobby’s direction.
Through Aikido training, I can sustain mushin, “empty mind” for brief periods of time during practice. I train for mushin during my meditation for 15 to 20 minutes a day. Sensei Dan had told me years back about his meditation that was of great usefulness. He said that you can’t completely empty your mind. When your mind wanders, concentrate on your one point, your “ki”. Concentrate on your breath. Keep coming back to center. Maintain balance. So I do so.
In meditation, I experience that voice in my head and a lot of noise: blah, blah, blah. Or even, “Hurry up!” That occurs in the beginning. I’ve gotten used to it. When I let the noise in my mind just be, my mind begins to quiet.
I experience the mushin of Aikido practice. I don’t think meditation is ever about attaining complete “nothing,” per se. In my meditation, I see the times I spent having dinner with Mom. I see Dad and me fishing together on the boat on the Kenai River. I see Sensei while eating lunch together at the French café in Culver City.
No, this ain’t textbook meditation. Yet, I discover my measure of peace in that brief time. I discover that it’s what Gandhi and O-Sensei said: Peace in the world must first come from discovering peace within me. That peace may last for only a few minutes. That access to peace inspires that peace may exist outside of me, in the world.
Discovering peace in our chaotic world might start by accessing the peace within. At least you and I have a say in how that goes. I can’t heal the world unless I begin to heal me first.
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