This Present Moment: Adventures in Meditation and the Arrival of a Mantra

English: All Solutions By Yogi Tamby Chuckrava...

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It began with the purchase of my iPhone, this new bad habit.  The cold weather, this cold apartment and my laptop encouraged me.  I began to love curling up under the blanket and surfing in the hour before sleep.  And if I woke in the night, which I do sometimes, I’d pick up the phone or the computer and surf again.  When the harp sounded on my iPhone alarm in the morning, guess what?  Out came the laptop.  I just needed to know if Matt’s gig in Oxford was a success, if it was snowing in Michigan or if I could chat with a friend in Nevada I’ve never met.

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve a stack of books next to my bed, too.  And sometimes I even read them.  I jest.  Of course I read.  Since ditching the cable and television I’ve had plenty of time to read.  But it’s clear to me this new bad habit is filling the gap those ten-year-old episodes of “That 70’s Show” once held.

If I really want to quiet Monkey Mind and to have a life long, transformative meditation practice, then I need to break this new bad habit and begin a new good habit.

Here’s where I’ve gone wrong:

Rather than dedicating the same time each day to practice, I’ve been fitting it in when I can – four or five days a week, ten or twenty minutes at a time.  The only dedicated periods of meditation are the forty-five minutes a friend of mine and I take prior to a yoga class we attend and the hour of practice I enjoy on Thursday evenings with a local Daoist Meditation Group (I’m new to this group and have only attended twice.  Still, it feels as though I’ll continue indefinitely).

I don’t want meditation in my life as something I practice on a whim.  Meditation should be who I am, not something that simply hovers around me.

Fortunately, I have a mentor who is gently guiding me in the right direction.  He’s the teacher who recommended Eknath Easwaran’s Passage Meditation to me – a book I’m now recommended to anyone who is on a path similar to mine.

Last night my mentor gave me the gift of a mantra.  He said it would change my life.  He said it would settle me (how did he know I was unsettled?) and that if I repeated this mantra each day very soon nothing would ever again ruffle my feathers (how did he know my feathers were ruffled?).

Seriously.  All that from one word? Almost less than a word – my mantra is one single syllable. He’s telling me one single sound can change my life?

I surfed before sleep last night.  And when I dreamed about earthquakes I woke and checked the USGS website.

But when my iPhone’s harp began to play this morning I swung around, placed my feet flat on the floor and set the timer for thirty minutes.  I let my hands rest on my lap, right hand nestled in the left with my thumbs touching and I closed my eyes.  And then, for one hundred and eight rounds, I began to repeat…


Start Where You Are: More Adventures in Meditation

Since beginning the teacher training program at Avalon Yoga Studio in Palo Alto last September I’ve heard this phrase repeated again and again:  start where you are.

Start where you are is simple level-headed advice that we should remember when we’re beginning anything new, whether it’s the yoga we’ve always wanted to try, the novel we’ve wanted to write or the song we’ve wanted to learn on our guitar.

Don’t argue, don’t procrastinate and don’t wait for conditions to be perfect.  Start where you are.

The advice is particularly useful when contemplating a meditation practice.  Do you want to meditateStart where you are.

Read this blog back far enough and you’ll find a post about my two weeks of Yin Training in the Santa Cruz Mountains with Paul and Suzee Grilley the summer of 2009.  We began each morning with thirty minutes of meditation.  I was determined to continue the practice once I returned home.

It didn’t happen.

I used every excuse imaginable from being too tired to crawl out of bed to convincing myself I’d practice later in the day but of course I never did.

Why?  Because I felt fraudulent.  No one gave me a list of instructions (and we know how I like my lists).  I didn’t understand the steps. I couldn’t possibly be meditating correctly. And so I didn’t meditate at all.

The truth is, there are no list of instructions, no easy steps.  And there’s very little you can do short of strapping on headphones and cranking Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit to eleven that would ruin the experience.

Because we start where we are.  We find five minutes and we sit still.  And then we find ten minutes to sit still and to listen to the breath.  Soon we’re sitting for twenty minutes and the breath may become a mantra.  Or not.

There are plenty of books that offer techniques.  I’m reading one now, Eknath Easwaran’s Passage Meditation. The book is a basic primer the offers suggestions and teaches the reader why meditation is life enhancing.

And there are groups you can join.  A friend of mine and I recently dropped in on a local Daoist Meditation Group.  And you know what?  The Daoist technique was deeply different to my personal practice.  Does that mean I’m wrong?  Of course not.  And neither are they.

We start where we are.  We find our way.  We choose our path. And there is no wrong.  We start where we are.