Senior year of college I had the recurring experience of being incredibly frustrated by my mind taking off as if being chased by wild, hungry, people-eating demons with halitosis.
It was terrible. I’d spend the briefest of moments in that soft, luscious state of mind that is somewhere between waking and sleeping.
As soon as my mind realized that waking consciousness was within reach, Yahoo! And off it’d go galloping to all the things I would do today! things to remember! things to think about! Loud. Fast. Out of control.
A few times, it literally brought me close to tears. I had NO control over it. I had no idea what to do about it, had no tools at my disposal to call it in check. I was victimized by it.
I tried pleading, cajoling, negotiating. Nothing worked. Not even a little.
I saw a poster for a meditation course. It was a three part series on campus. Never having tried meditation, I somehow had a sense that it might help with this wild-mind harassing me in the morning. I signed up.
Very little, actually none, of that course remains in memory. What I do recall is meeting an Italian exchange student who had come out of curiosity. Having just been an exchange student in Italy myself, I was way more interested in practicing my italian with him than focusing on what we were there to learn.
Somehow, I made it through the sessions and was invited (as was the Italian) to attend their meditation group off campus. Along with a few others, I accepted. Within a couple of weeks, they informed us that our guru (we faced an image of said guru in meditation) would be in San Francisco and we were allowed to attend.
Adventure to SF! Fun! Italian guy and I decided to make the drive from Santa Barbara together along with another, very quiet guy, who had apparently been in the campus class too.
I think we all signed up to go more for the fun of an out-of-town field trip to San Francisco than any real desire to deepen our novice meditation practice.
Truthfully, the whole guru thing didn’t make sense to me. Kinda freaked me out, actually. Why were we watching videos of the guy running? And why was everyone all goo-goo over him? Seemed kind of ego-centric to me.
Our little trio decided it wasn’t our thing and spent more time playing in the big city.
We had a great time taking picture down the famous Lombard Street, finding good places to eat, exploring Fisherman’s Wharf.
It was a memorable trip for many reasons. The main one being that it was the beginning of a romance with the quiet guy (not the Italian).
I forgot about the whole reason I thought learning to meditate would be helpful in the first place. Not that I didn’t keep waking up with my mind taking off as if a runner after the starting gun. But when you’re in love, it just doesn’t matter.
That was 20 years ago. Being more interested in the feelings stirred up by boyfriend (didn’t take long… ) than my wild-mind, I lost interest in the meditation attempts. It was hard to sit. The benefits felt non-existent.
I’ve caught myself lamenting the lack of perseverance of my 20 year old self. What a flake. I had the hit that meditation would be good for me and I basically ignored it. Fine if the guru thing wasn’t for me, but I certainly didn’t try very hard to discover another way.
If I could count that as Year 1, how different my life would have played out! I probably wouldn’t have experienced so much angst during my 20s, gotten into such a crazy predicament in my early 30s and so on.
It took another 15 or so years for me to heed the call again. At this point, the timing was right, the motivation stuck, and it’s continually getting easier to sit.
I have a few inspirational books from the Buddhist tradition and I’m considering a meditation retreat. I still don’t belong to any particular tradition or follow any particular teacher, although I’m thinking I might be ready to head in that direction.
Why do I share this with you? If I were trying to get you to give meditation a shot, I should’ve focused on the benefits of a practice, right?
What I’d love for you to get from this post is the reminder of the importance of self-compassion and acceptance.
It’s easy to look back with 20/20 vision and be hard on yourself for not taking a certain course of action. Sure you think you know now how it would’ve turned out, but that ain’t the way life happenedâ€”and you know what? That’s fine. More than fine. It’s excellent.
Sure I’d have been a different person with 20 years meditation under my belt, just as I’ll be a different person in another 20 years and another 20 years after that.
Acceptance and compassion will result in infinitely more peace of mind than regret. Regret focuses on what you lack while acceptance invites the experience of wholeness.
â€œA person experiences life as something separated from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. Our task must be to free ourselves from this self-imposed prison, and through compassion, to find the reality of Oneness.â€ â€”Albert Einstein
And who’s going to dispute Al’s words?
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Image credits: Shawn