September 12, 2013

Meditation: The Presence of Mind to Let Go. ~ Dana Gornall & Catherine Monkman

Photo: Abu Afnan on Pixoto.

Dana learns to let go.

Do you ever have one of those days? Or weeks? It seems like every time you turn around, something is going wrong? This was my week.

I started out dislocating my kneecap. I wasn’t running, or practicing yoga when this happened. No—I was putting away laundry. I somehow got it caught on a piece of furniture and the next thing I knew, I was lying on the floor in pain trying to shove it back into place.

The very next day, after returning home from the grocery store, I unlocked the door and while opening it I sliced my toe on the corner of the screen door pretty badly.

Soon after that incident, while letting my exuberant golden retriever out, he bounded after my next door neighbor (as golden retrievers typically do). I yelled and chased after him, accidentally missing one of the front steps.

So there I am, sprawled out on the front walk, right foot all bloodied up and pride smashed to pieces.

The only thought I have at this point is, “Wow. Where the hell did all my mindfulness go?”

Over the past few years, I have attempted meditation but would give up after a short time. I was determined to make a commitment this time.

The goal was to meditate every day for 21 days. Cat and I have been using  the book Headspace together, practicing the exercises laid out in book to promote this habit and help solidify it into a real bonafide practice.

Some days I couldn’t control my thoughts and they ran wild, and other days I felt the warm glow of inner peace buzzing through my body. Some nights I dozed off into a long tranquil slumber without finishing the meditation, while other nights I burned with irritation for making this commitment in the first place.

What did I learn?

I learned I that I scatter myself way too much mentally and emotionally.

I learned that when I push too hard in my quest for perfection, I usually fall short. Most of all, I learned that by gently releasing that resolve to be the perfect meditator, I make more space for growth.

Everything we do, whether it be yoga, meditation or everyday tasks like driving to work, has a ripple effect.

I’ve noticed that in my yoga practice already, and I can see the potential for it in regular meditation. Taking a few moments out of the day to sit with yourself and just be present fosters a peaceful attitude, which in turn influences those around you.

As for my accident-prone week, let’s hope in this meditation quest, I become a lot more mindful of my surroundings. I am learning to step gently and with purpose, and that while falling can hurt, I can gather my pride and get back up.

It’s all part of the journey.


Cat is not perfect and her meditation is not perfect, but together, they’re evolving.

It’s been a few weeks since Dana and I embarked on this meditation journey using the book Get Some Headspace by Andy Puddicombe. Have we accomplished our goal?

We set out to create a habit of meditation.

It’s said that by doing something for 21 consecutive days, we create a habit of that action and it becomes something we do instinctively instead of forcefully. In order to create a habit, we had to know how. We read the book, we practiced and we counted the days.

Thanks to life happening (and truthfully, I’m okay with that—it means I’m living), this exercise lasted longer than the original 21 days we had planned for.

I can say that I personally have not yet completed a full 21 consecutive days of meditation. I got busy with, well, nothing terribly important or life-changing and I didn’t make meditation a priority every single day. Having admitted to that, I can also say that I did meditate most days and I’d like to think it’s had an impact on my life.

The impact is less like the warm, thick blanket of calm and peace that I had expected. (In my mind, it went something like this: 1. Meditate. 2. Zing! Harp music! Birds chirping! 3. Life is just grand.)

Instead, it’s like a mist so fine that the realization of its existence barely touches your awareness, and when you finally notice it, you take a closer look at your surroundings.

Photo: Deidre Trudeau on Pinterest.

To sum up the changes that I’ve been experiencing as a result of my meditation practice, I’d have to use the word: aware.

In my daily moments, I’m more aware of how I’m feeling, I can sometimes see the emotions for what they are and I let go a little more easily.

For example, an argument with someone would, in the past, usually result in the following sequence of emotions: irritation, frustration, anger and finally resentment or resignation. I would experience each of these like a wave, unable to control them and blind to anything but them.

Those emotions would take over me and become me. I’d be nothing but a white, hot rage or a cold, blue sadness. Now, they are not me. I am not my emotions. I experience them, and more than that—I am aware that I am only experiencing them, and I let them go.

Photo: Jody Day on Pinterest.

Of course, the recent awareness and ability to see and do in this way is only fleeting, considering my fledgling practice—I expect to be more successful at it as I spend more time meditating.

For now, it’s a smattering of moments where I feel like a witness to myself.

“Hey, that’s anger. I’m really ticked off. Huh.”

What I do with that knowledge will take more practice, because letting something go isn’t a forceful action. The letting go comes on its own when you truly recognize the moment for what it is.

During my meditation practice, I’m still unable to clear my mind for long.

I’ve gotten better at focusing on my breath but I often forget to sit after the timer goes off to set an intention for the next part of my day, as well as let my thoughts loose.

It’s funny, how sneaky thoughts can be. I start off breathing, and they creep in without me noticing: one small phrase or notion at a time until it’s loud enough for me to say, “Hey, wait a minute, here! You’re thinking!”

Then, I start all over, counting and breathing.

Why did I let the habit of meditation into my life?

My thoughts have consumed me. My emotions have consumed me. My depression and low self-esteem have consumed me. I would like a way out, and thankfully, finally, I can see a small sliver of light coming through.

The loveliest thing that I believe both Dana and I have learned is that meditation is not a beginning, middle and end sort of process. It’s a process that never stops. The practice evolves and grows, and along with it, so do we.

There’s no pass or fail in meditation. Only awareness, forgiveness, compassion and letting go—little by little.

(New to our attempt at a meditation habit? Check out the first post where Dana and her daughter attempt to meditate together (who lasts the longest?) and then read the second post where Cat’s mind is all but swept away by the tornado of thoughts and wiggling appendages.)


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Ed: Catherine Monkman & Dana Gornall

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