In my last post, I described my angst in dealing with my noisy mind. It seemed only natural that I should turn to the peaceful practice of meditation to quiet my chaotic mind… I’ve read about the many benefits of meditation and everything about the practice really appealed to me. I have always been drawn to the Buddhist philosophy, and it seemed to go hand in hand with the way I want to live my life… So off we went (Of course I dragged my beloved along with me on the first guided meditation adventure!) to the Austin Shambhala Center for an Introductory class on Mediatation. Upon entering the building I was immediately at ease. We were greeted by a lovely woman who brought us into a seated area where there were other newbies sitting in discussion of what brought them to the center.
(Ok, sidenote, I have to say that a tiny part of me was scared that I was going to be immersed in what some call “hippy-dippy bullshit” or something akin to a Scientology nightmare I once had. It couldn’t have been further from the truth.)
Some people found the center merely by googling, “meditation austin.” Others had heard about it through friends, acquaintances, etc. One guy was there because his world religions professor had given his class a target list of places to experience (What an awesome idea!). You could see that everyone in the room was searching for something, whether it was a little peace of mind like myself, or an A in their last collegiate history class…
Soon we were brought into the meditation room, which looked much like many yoga studios that I have practiced in, with the decor focused on Tibetan art. It was a beautiful and peaceful room lined with about 5 columns and 6 rows of meditation cushions. A gentle soul greeted us and proceeded to deliver the most relaxing and comfortable instruction I have ever received. I thought, more than once, how I wish this man would deliver all of our faculty in-services from here on out!
Before I knew it, I was seated and meditating. I focused on my breath. I breathed in… I breathed out… Hunger pang strikes! Followed by “I wonder what we’re going to have for dinner.” Back to the breath, Danielle. Ok, ok, breathing. In… Out… I was engaged in a soft focus, as is instructed, and my eyes were gazing softly at the patterns of the hard wood floor in front of me. Breathing in… Breathing out… I concentrated on the breathing for many moments feeling myself relax and let go.
Then the most remarkable thing happened! As I inhaled, the soft gaze that my eyes had settled into became immersed in a lavender bath. As I exhaled, the lavender color became magenta. This repeated with every inhalation and exhalation for several moments… As I wondered, “Am I meditating? Is this what happens?!” it occurred to me that I hadn’t blinked in about 5 minutes. I was probably depriving my eyes of some much needed lubrication or maybe my breathing was introducing some much needed oxygen, hahaha! Just as I was about to laugh aloud at myself, I remembered where I was and guided myself back to the meditation. It became increasingly easier with each moment, although there was always the ever present chatter of my executive committee trying to plan or a stray worry coming into my peripheral thoughts. I gently put each passing thought aside and focused. Wow. I felt a semblance of peace. Sigh…..
Next we were guided through the Buddhist practice of walking meditation. Rather than focusing on the breath, you focus on the walking. Seemed easy enough. It started out with a few more distractions as the group was walking in a clockwise circle around the room. Of course, the squeaks in the hardwood floor, ambient sounds of nature, whispering, these all became less of a distraction as we shuffled along. Concentrate on the act of walking. I thought to myself, I can soooo do this. As I began focusing on what my body actually does while walking, I became in awe of what had previously seemed so mundane! Legs moving so rhythmically, with such purpose, yet seeming so awkward the more that I thought about it. “Am I standing straight? Why is my right leg more awkward than the left?” Back to the walking. “I wonder if I should mention this to my chiropractor.” Back to the walking, Danielle. Then as I passed the movement of my ankles, I stopped at my feet.
I was NEVER EVER so acutely aware of how my toes CLING to the ground. THAT was mind blowing! With every step that I focused on the walking, I felt as if I were losing control of the ground that I walked on. How is this even possible? I know how to walk! As I rounded the corner of the room in my walk, I almost tipped over. I felt as if I were on a tight rope. OK! This is not relaxing! This is NOT peaceful, I’m about to fall flat on my face in a walking meditation and that will surely scar me from any further meditation experiences… “Who is that speaking inside my head?” I asked myself. “What part of me is so afraid of this feeling of vulnerability that they are acting a fool?!” Silence. I relaxed into the walk. The more I relaxed with the thought, “I KNOW how to walk. I’ve been doing it my whole life.” And just as I’d been practicing for many months, I instinctively thought to myself, “Let go, Danielle. Hey, feet… Shhhhh!” And they did.
Interesting to note: *Deepak Chopra states that while colors might be pretty to look at, they are merely the result of the refocusing of perception. Important, is to remember that the purpose in practicing meditation is to bring the mind back to the meditation itself and not to be taken by distractions.