Whole Life Magazine

August/September 2015

Issue link: https://digital.copcomm.com/i/548772

Contents of this Issue


Page 41 of 43

42 wholelifetimes.com S he sits serenely on my desk, head bowed and eyes closed. You wouldn't know from looking that she's my "stress ball," made from dense, squishy foam in the shape of a woman in lotus pose. A gift from a friend congratulating me on adopting a practice of daily meditation, my yoga girl stress ball is also a clever reminder that for those who meditate, there is little need for a stress ball. Several years ago, I knew absolutely nothing about meditation so I signed up for a beginner's course at the library. The instructor provided step-by-step instructions on the basics of breathing meditation. There was no mandatory physical posture, no leg crossing or molding of our fi ngers into elaborate shapes. We were encouraged to sit however felt most comfortable—in a chair or on the fl oor—and to cradle our hands in our laps, one inside the other with thumbs touching. It was not quite what I had imagined. In fact, I was a bit disappointed because I didn't feel like a Tibetan monk in a Hollywood fi lm. We concentrated on our breathing. Not just the in-and-out rhythm, but a pinpoint focus on the sensation of our breath entering and exiting the edge of our nostrils. At fi rst I couldn't feel a thing. I tried breathing deeper and deeper to increase the fl ow of air, but I sounded like a snorting bull. When I practiced later at home, I spread menthol rub under my nose. It gave my breath a cool sensation and I fi nally experienced what my instructor had described. During my fi rst few classes I sat in a chair with my feet fl at on the fl oor, but I became distracted by my posture. So I eventually switched to the fl oor and tried not to think about all the dirty shoes that had walked across the utilitarian carpet in that public meeting room. During the second half of every class, all of the students meditated together, quietly guided by our instructor. Sitting unseeing and still in a small room of strangers, with no sound except collective breathing, was uncomfortable for me at fi rst. I worried my stomach might rumble, or I might sneeze and interrupt the hushed concentration. However, after a few weeks it became an intimate experience that somehow was deeply personal and introspective. From those fi rst classes I learned that meditation is a skill; it's not as simple as taking a few deep breaths while you ignore your screaming children. It took me weeks to grasp the basic concept and many more months before I became even remotely adept. In the beginning, I was easily frustrated by my distractibility. I couldn't get comfortable, my foot would jiggle or I would become fi xated on an itch. My teacher told me if I concentrated on the sensation it would eventually fade away. Of course I could never refrain from scratching long enough to see if he was right. I learned that meditation is all about focus; it's simply a matter of where you choose to focus. I started with mantra meditation, the classic "om" style of meditating. I actually thought you couldn't meditate without saying that word aloud. I also struggled with "loving kindness meditation," which involves fostering love for others, even those you can't stand. Visualization has be- come one of my favorite styles of meditation. I was taught to imagine my negative emotions exiting my body as black smoke on each exhalation. On the inhale I envision bright white healing light entering my body and fi lling it with positive energy. At times I feel like a dragon, but always end up cleansed and invigorated. Since those beginning days at the local library I've taken more courses, read extensively and continue to explore other styles of meditation. I have discovered that no matter the style, the daily practice gives me greater physical, emotional and mental wellness. And for those days I don't manage to meditate, there's always my stress ball. backwords MEDITATION 101 By Stephanie Gibeault Early adventures on the contemplative path

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Whole Life Magazine - August/September 2015