My Meditation Practice

Friends ask me about meditation. This coming October will mark 8 years of consistent meditation for me. I started by doing a few daily minutes following instructions I found on a YouTube video. I now do 70 minutes a day, more on Wednesdays, and 100 minutes on both Saturday and Sunday. I also try to participate in a daylong meditation retreat every 4-6 weeks. Why worry about the minutes? More minutes means that I’m less reactive, less prone to agitation while driving my kids to and from countless activities. I tried doing only 45 minutes, but it didn’t work, my stress level went up. I found that at least an hour was my magic amount. What kind of meditation do I do? Vipassana or mindfulness meditation, and often Metta or loving-kindness meditation.

How do I get my minutes in? 3am to 3:20am is usually my first session after going to the bathroom (then I go back to sleep). Session number two is from roughly 6:20am to 6:30am. Before I get out of bed I’m already halfway to an hour, and more importantly, I’ve set my intention to be mindful with my day ahead. Around 8am I get in my next meditation, 2 minutes before opening my computer at work. I find it takes the apprehension out of checking early morning email. Assuming there is a work meeting where I’m mostly listening, I will sneak in 3 more minutes there, counting my breaths (7 inhales equals one minute). Depending on the day, I will sit in my car for 5 minutes of meditation before leaving to go home or pick up a child. If I’m alone in the car driving, I will meditate at the longer red lights collecting at least 2 more minutes. At home to help with dinner, I’m at 42 minutes. My last session comes at around 9pm after reading to my son and tucking him into bed. I mindfully breathe for 28 minutes while he falls asleep. 70 minutes complete.

Key for me is that I’m always looking for meditation minutes, similar to people who try to get in steps. Rather than trying to be more physically active, I’m finding opportunities to be more mindful, more present. For me meditation is an opportunity to let my inner self connect with something bigger than just me. Endless time? The universe? Infinite wisdom? Who knows exactly what it is, but meditation has brought me peace, contentment, the ability to not care so much about superficial things.

Scheduling Spiritual Growth

People schedule SoulCycle, mani-pedis, evening cocktail encounters with friends. I schedule spiritual growth. Very American of me, I know, but I live in a world of kid carpools, grocery shopping, laundry, and taking the dog out to poop. My daily calendar is always filled to the brim with bills that need to be paid and emails that must be returned. If I don’t make time to listen to myself, everything else takes over.

For years I knew there was a spirit in me, a writer in me, a poet in me, never fully free, always bound by external obligations. I have figured out a formula for expressing my inner being. I begin each morning reading a spiritual text that helps guide me on my journey. I meditate at least 45 minutes a day, scheduled breathing, in, out, trying to be as present as possible. Most Wednesday nights I meditate for an hour with a small group of friends, we then read and discuss the writings of Thich Nhat Hahn for another hour. I spend daily minutes (often hours) writing, reflecting on who I am with words, my words, on a page or computer screen. Every two months I plan intensive meditation weekends (Friday-Sunday) where I meditate multiple hours a day either at home or away. Each day I also do some form of yoga.

What exactly is spiritual growth? For me spiritual growth invites my internal quiet to speak loudly with truth. When I grow spiritually I learn things like love is everywhere, more is learned by listening than talking, there is good in everyone, anger is always reactive. Wisdom I’ve heard before, known before, but I need reminding, over and over again. Am I sitting enlightened under the bodhi tree? No, but I’m keeping a channel open, my spirit touching a timeless stream.