“One thing: you have to walk, and create the way by your walking; you will not find a ready-made path … You will have to create the path by walking yourself; the path is not ready-made, lying there and waiting for you. It is just like the sky: the birds fly, but they don’t leave any footprints. You cannot follow them; there are no footprints left behind.”
Perhaps the most difficult task I have each day is understanding my own mind. Thoughts and dreams collect in all the crevices, but it is sometimes difficult to pin them down. Before I decided to follow the new path I was taking, to be a writer, I never really paid full attention to anything in my mind. It was a jumble of shopping lists, forms to fill out, errands to run, dreams, someone needing help, or what to make for dinner. All at once. I learned to file everything and make mental lists that I either halfway finished or forgot about, until three o’clock in the morning. I like to say that I am organized in my disorganization. I moved through my days pretty much on autopilot. These days, that still happens, but hopefully less and less over time. I am learning to understand myself, and to know that I can make choices with all the information and to do lists. I am understanding myself better each day, as I break free from the rock under which I situated myself. I have more flexibility and freedom. And that makes the difference.
Somehow, I ended up on a weekly mailing from a meditation and yoga website. I hate yoga. I have tried it multiple times, only to feel bored. I mean, I am not physically flexible like a Cirque De Soleil contortionist, and who can stay in one position for that long? I don’t think I can stay in one position for more than a short while even when I’m asleep (but that’s another blog post) Anyway, an article about meditating for better habits caught my attention. I clicked through to the site, already dismissing this as new age baloney, however, the article grabbed me. Accompanying a short blurb, is an 18 minute video of sunrises and peaceful pastoral scenes. And this voice. Whoever this woman is needs to come and just speak softly in the background of my house whenever we are stressed out. I’m not saying I am hooked, as I have only listened once, even closing my eyes and breathing as she subliminally suggests. I sat in the quiet aftermath of carpool, with a coffee at hand, and hit play. After about 3-4 minutes, I found myself listening for the sounds of the video, and nearly hypnotized, mesmerized by her voice. I honestly felt peaceful, focused and attentive to her words, though for the life of me, I cannot tell you what she said. I’m still a beginner.
Meditation makes me think of Buddhist monks or new-age folk sitting in darkened spaces, candles or incense burning, “Ohms” resounding off the walls. But I am finding, as I learn about the practice and myself, that meditation is none of these things; it is not about religion or spirituality, but about being comfortable in your own mind, in your own skin. I believe it is about being aware of your feelings and wayward thoughts, about finding your personal place in the world. I’m finding it teaches me to appreciate every moment for exactly what it is, a moment – fleeting and quick, so I need to capture the essence for myself. Sort of a happiness barometer – it helps me approach the day with a more positive, can-do attitude.
In my first foray into meditative practices, I found that there is such a thing called “walking meditation.” It is simply the act of walking while being aware of each step, and every breath. If this is the case, I have been meditating almost all my life. From wooded walks in Wroxton to dog walks, to a stop to stretch my legs at the park … No wonder I always feel ready to take on the planet when I return. I am calmer, more resilient to stress (at least for the first few minutes- teenagers will upset any balance), and I am less distracted. I am learning to let things flow past, to be calmer, so it helps my interpersonal interactions and my mental clarity.
I spent the last couple of mornings realizing that even without soothing sounds and suggestive words, that I meditate every day, just not consciously. The morning dog walk serves a higher purpose. In the darkness, there is only me, the dog and the few remaining stars. Closer to the end of the walk the early morning drivers and joggers start to appear, but I digress. In my solitude, I think about what is important. I am enjoying the cool morning air, breathing deeply and truly not worrying that I’m doing anything wrong. My mind wanders, and that’s alright, but I seem to be able to find a way out there to focus. Perhaps it’s the steady tapping of my sneakers on the pavement, but it serves like the breathing techniques I read about for meditation. I can come back when I wander. I always thought meditation was about stopping all thoughts, and clearing your mind, but perhaps the real goal, is to focus our attention. My brain is like a factory spitting out steam puffs of ideas all day; it would be foolish to shut it down. I think the goal of the meditation, in my case the walk, is to appreciate the right now so you can focus.