“The whole path is learning to trust yourself.” ~ Krishna Das
It’s 7:30 p.m. on Sunday night when I walk in the door.
I am starving and exhausted coming home from work, the gym, and grocery shopping. I begin my normal routine: unpack my work dishes, workout clothes, and groceries as fast as possible, because I am hungry. I sit down and watch one of my favorite shows while eating dinner (very mindful of me)—the Sunday Morning Show on CBS and today they have a segment on mediation, yay.
The segment is “Adam Grant on Meditation and its Discontents” which aired March 18, 2018. Adam likens meditation to mental relaxation and he says it’s “dreadfully boring.” He also says if your goal is to reduce stress and become more mindful there are other ways to become more present. He proceeds to quote a study that states meditation is no more effective than exercise or relaxation.
I think to myself, “More effective at what?” Adam goes on to say we can become more relaxed and mindful by watching a good television show, setting aside time for planned laziness, writing in a journal, chatting with a friend, or listening to a podcast—and I agree, all of these things are wonderful and useful and can bring about a relaxed state.
Meditation has been part of my life since I was a child. When I couldn’t sleep at night, my dad would tell me to scan my body from head to toe and relax each part. This worked to quiet my mind so I could drift off to dream land. My parents also taught me how to do visual meditations at the doctor’s office when I was scared.
When I was a teenager and trying to deal with school and a social life—my parents were also trying to deal with me and their work lives, and because they used to listen to a meditation tape, I did as well. The book on walking meditation The Long Road Turns to Joy by Thich Nhat Hanh was also a huge help to me, because I walked everywhere.
I am realizing now that all of these inner resources I was developing as a child and teenager, helped me get through those rough teenage years relatively unscathed.
When I heard Adam’s story on meditation, I had an innate reaction that I felt like something was missing from his critique, so I decided to dig a little deeper.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary online definition of mindfulness is “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.”
Jack Kornfield’s definition of mindfulness is a “human capacity to wake up wherever we are, a form of love…presence and awareness to what is happening.”
Sharon Salzberg says the difference between sitting breath awareness and/or loving-kindness meditation and finding awareness through modalities such as running, chanting and/or journalling—is improved concentration and portability.
Breathing and loving-kindness mediation has worked well for me due to their portable nature. I can practice in moments of boredom or stress, no matter what the circumstances and no one will necessarily notice.
Before I started my sitting meditation practice, I believed that we needed to receive love from someone else in order to feel it. I no longer believe this to be true. With increased attention and awareness, I have felt that loving presence within myself. I also question myself less and accept what I perceived as flaws in myself and others more readily, and notice when this happens more.
Before I committed to a sitting meditation, I ran almost every day and derived a lot of health benefits like stress-relief from that practice, but I did not feel the inner-acceptance and love to the same extent as I have so far with my sitting meditation practice.
Adam mentions that if you are judging people for not being mindful then meditation has not yet made you mindful. I agree. Like I mentioned before, what comes with increased attention and awareness through meditation, is love and compassion.
Author: Yvonne Perry
Image: Author’s own
Editor: Kenni Linden
Copy Editor: Travis May