I need to meditate. Unfortunately, I have the attention span of a bad radio frequency making meditation one of the hardest things for me to do. The Pitta, Type A in me doesn’t have a ton of patience either and this is not conducive to a zen lifestyle. But after taking a meditation class led by a Zen Buddhist monk in Kyoto, I’ve decided that I’m going to make a big effort to meditate everyday. During the class, it was explained that meditation’s help with stress-reduction, strengthens our immune systems, regulates our hormones and make it easier for us to be more open, kinder people (sign me up!). Personally, I know how excess Vata and stress affects our skin and see it as a major player (if not the main cause) in cases of acne, eczema and intense skin dehydration.
Beyond this, studies have found that meditation can help with memory improvement. I don’t know about you, but the chaos of modern living makes me very scattered (and Vata) – and this has led me to losing my memory. Nothing is more irritating than losing a skill you used to excel at (why so many people get annoyed by growing old), and my memory was amazing. I got through school, propped up on the fact that I could recall information perfectly after reading it once – a handy tool for exams. Ben used to call me an “elephant” because of my abilities, and scorned it when we would get into arguments (I could recite what was said in the past with exact accuracy…and it was his fault! lol). But now I can hardly remember what I had for dinner last night. Yes, over-stimulation and a lack of groundedness has eroded my memory and I’m committed to getting it back. So, for the next 30 days, I will be meditating daily and blogging about my progress (and inevitable frustration). Hopefully I’ll come up with some devices and tips for any of you who also have difficulty “clearing your mind” and tapping into “higher consciousness”.
But lets start with some principles that we discussed in my class.
Meditation practice is more about regularity than intensity – The monk/teacher/meditation guru talked to us about how regularity is so important. He explained that while many people go on retreats that have us meditation for days without breaks, its more about integrating into our daily lives rather than extremism. Like many things in life, regularity is the name of the game – eating well everyday, not just doing cleanses, using great skincare not one facial treatment…we need to learn that regularity and repetition take much more discipline and we want it to become part of our behavior, so that it can influence our lives. At the class, we embedded into our morning routine, starting at 9am and were served our morning matcha tea and rice biscuits. So for this Challenge, I’m going to start with 15 minutes a day, and hopefully after 30 days, it develops into sheer habit for me:)
Meditation should be done in a calm space – And the same space everyday. It is easier to relax when you are not distracted by a new environment or one that is too stimulating. We meditated in a lovely room facing a perfectly pruned zen garden. It also didn’t hurt that all of us participants happened to be staying at the temple as you could rent out rooms too. This was so relaxing and quiet, the perfect backdrop to start meditation.
Don’t beat yourself up – I have a tendency to run away with my thoughts during meditation, and this really irks me. But I find myself beating myself up about it, which makes it worse because it becomes a time to self-deprecate rather than de-stress. The teacher told us that losing ourselves in our thoughts is okay. He said that sometimes to get to relaxation you need to digest your thoughts. He compared it to having dreams – where the unconscious processes the conscious. So, instead of getting frustrated, let your thoughts wash over you, then let them pass. For me this was key – it takes away so much pressure! While I’ve been told to “let thoughts go” in the past, he was saying to embrace them, engage in them and that will help to let them pass. I found this helpful during class, and hope it will make my meditation endeavor easier in the days to come.