By Molly Patrick
Jul 19, 2016,
Sometimes life gets up in our face and bitch slaps us silly. And sometimes it lovingly caresses us like refreshing, cool ocean water on a hot summer’s day.
Sometimes we eat kale. And sometimes we eat cake.
Sometimes we see a therapist. And sometimes we feel in sync with the universe and know that we’ve got this on our own.
Sometimes we soak up the beauty of life like a sponge. And sometimes all we can see is mold on the sponge.
That’s what makes life so frustrating and beautiful and exciting and depressing and joyful and terrible and mysterious. No one can escape the juxtaposed landscape that we inherit from the time we pop out until the time we make our final exit.
In order to be okay and make it through the sometimes fucked up and hard landscape, there are things that we can do to make it a little easier.
Meditation is another.
I might have eating a nutrient dense, health promoting diet down like a boss, but meditation is another story. I have dabbled. I have flirted. And although I crush pretty hard when I do it regularly, I have yet to make it a daily practice for longer than a week or two.
But just like any self improvement journey, it takes practice. It takes patience. And it takes getting up and trying again. Or in this case, getting down and trying again.
If you’re in our private Facebook group, you may have seen the link that I put up about the Deepak Chopra’s 21 Day Meditation Challenge. It’s a free series of daily meditations for 21 days in a row. I do these every time they come out and I’m really enjoying getting back into the practice of sitting my ass down for 20 minutes a day and being with my breath.
Not unlike eating a nutrient dense, health promoting diet, meditation is also something that people tend to over-complicate. It’s actually a lot easier than most people realize, and today’s guest (who also happens to be my mom) will explain why. Pamela Patrick was chosen by her meditation teacher (a Buddhist monk) to teach a beginning meditation class at the Buddhist Center where she practices. Today she’s giving you the basics.
Okay – let’s talk Om.
Take it away Pamela Patrick!
My interest in meditation began in the mid 1960’s when the Beatles traveled to India and explored Eastern mind culture, an experience that resulted in one of my favorite albums, the White Album. That, and the popularity of musician Ravi Shankar, sparked my interest and curiosity.
I’d heard a little about meditation and yoga as a child because my grandmother Maxine’s older sister, Amber, had set out for India on her own as a young woman in the late 1920’s.
This was not a common course of action for women of her time. She came back and wrote a book using her Indian name, Cajzoran Ali, titled, Divine Posture Influence upon Endocrine Glands. I believe that Amazon may still have a copy or two. My mom and dad never talked much about “that” side of the family.
Meditation and yoga and young women running off to India by themselves proved to be way too weird for them. As a child, I loved hearing stories that my grandma Maxine shared with me about Amber and all her adventures.
In 1973, I dropped out of my cookie cutter suburban life, moved to the mountains of Colorado, dumped the values and aspirations of my parents and their generation, and began to build a new life of my own, designed for myself and my three kids.
At that time I started to connect with counter culture ideas, people and practices. It was during this time that I was introduced to meditation and started playing around with it. I had no instruction, but it felt good to just sit with eyes closed and tune into my breath. There was something that resonated for me in the practice. There was peace.
Since then I have practiced a variety of meditation styles including Transcendental Meditation, made popular in the 1960’s by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. I used Jeru Kabbal’s Quantum Light Breath for a number of years. I have also enjoyed Deepak Chopra’s online meditation series.
Three years ago I began to practice at Wat Buddhametta, The Tucson Buddhist Meditation Center. My teachers are AjahnSarayut Arnanta, a Buddhist monk from Thailand, and Meachee Khanti, an American Buddhist nun.
I now teach a guided, beginning meditation class once a week to adults and co-teach two classes for younger people twice a month at the center. What we practice at the center is Vipassana-Bhavana, or insight meditation.
Meditation is an integral part of my life and I enjoy sharing this practice with others. It has helped to strengthen my ability to concentrate and to be more present and mindful. The benefits of my meditation practice have spilled over into many aspects of my life. My focus and attention have strengthened and this has resulted in improved communication.
Gone are the days when I would be “listening” to someone and have no idea what was really being said because I was too busy planning what I was going to say next, or my thoughts had drifted off while they were talking.
In addition, I have grown more mindful of my words and actions. I no longer feel the need to give unsolicited opinions or point of view simply because I have one. I have become more insightful about myself and whether my actions and words are coming from a place of ego or a place of understanding and compassion.
Meditation is not complicated and there is only one thing necessary, and that is, you must simply do it. Here’s how.
Find a comfortable spot. You can sit cross legged on the floor, on a cushion, a pillow, on a bench or a chair. Arrange your session so that you will not be interrupted by phones, family, friends, or four leggeds. This time is for you and your benefit. Leave the concerns, the problems, and the drama of your life outside the room.
All of these will be waiting for you when you are done with your session. Sit and be aware of where you are. Close your eyes and make a good wish for yourself.
May I be well.
May I be happy.
May I be at peace.
Take in a couple of deliberate breaths, maybe a little deeper than you normally breathe. Pay attention to that. Breathing in, be aware that you are breathing in. Breathing out, be aware that you are breathing out. Stay with that for a couple of minutes. As soon as you become aware of the PHYSICAL sensation of the rising and falling of the abdomen, or perhaps the chest, make a mental notation, “RISING” as you feel the incoming air and “FALLING” as you feel the breath leaving the body. Rising…falling….rising….falling.
These mental notations serve as an anchor for the mind to stay with the object or focus of meditation. The breath serves as our chosen object as we sit in meditation.
Following the breath is where we choose the mind to be. We choose this object (the breath) because it’s always available to us. It’s always present in the here and now, in our present moment of reality. As we focus on the breath, we are building the power of concentration. Concentration in our meditation practice is the mind’s ability to focus on a single object.
As you sit in meditation and all of a sudden become aware or mindful that you are thinking about something, use the mental notation, “THINKING”, repeated a time or two, and then gently, lovingly return your focus to the chosen object of meditation, the breath. Resume the practice of using the mental notations, “RISING” and “FALLING” as you experience the breath coming and going.
It’s natural that thoughts drift into the mind as you sit. The nature of the mind is to think. That is okay. As your power of mindfulness grows, your ability to recognize when your focus of concentration has shifted from the breath to thinking will come with greater ease.
What is important here is to KNOW that the mind is thinking and to ACKNOWLEDGE the “thought” that has carried your focus from breath to thought. When you acknowledge the thought as soon as you become aware that you are thinking, it seems to short circuit the thought. It is as if you were saying, “I hear you, but I am doing something else right now. I will get back to you later.”
It’s kind of like being at home on your day off and being involved with a project you have chosen to accomplish that day. The doorbell rings, or a knock is heard at the door. NO! This is your time to do what you have planned to do, and you DO NOT want to be interrupted.
You ignore the bell or the knocking, but your best friend is out there, they know you are home, and they want to see you. You ignore the the bell or the knock. It only gets louder and more demanding. The solution is to answer the door, acknowledge your friend’s presence, say that this is not a good time, and let them know you will call them later on in the day. They leave and you return to your planned activity.
That’s it. Concentration and Mindfulness. Being fully present in the moment of here and now. Bringing the concentration back to the breath each time it moves away. Always returning to the breath…..over and over and over and over.
That is meditation.
Know that meditation is not a competition. It’s not an activity that we set out to measure in terms of some standard of excellence. It’s not a practice that begins with expectations like, “This time I will sit and not have one thought come to mind!” This is one way to set yourself up for disappointment, feelings of not “doing it right” and self criticism. There is no room for these things in meditation. Reflect upon your experience, but do not “evaluate” or “judge” it.
It is what it is.
The practice of meditation is cultivated and strengthened by simply doing it, whether you have 5 minutes or 30 minutes to practice. By doing it daily, you’ll begin to notice subtle shifts in your ability to be present, to be fully awake to your reality, to be able to focus on the moment at hand, whether that be having a conversation with a friend or slicing onions for the meal being prepared.
If you are slicing onions, just be with that; allow the onion to be the object of your concentration. You may even want to try a mental notation, “SLICING” as you work. If you are listening to a friend, just be with that instead of allowing the mind to race off in some other direction resulting in not even knowing what your friend has said.
The practice of sitting in meditation and strengthening single focus concentration promotes positive changes that can overflow and foster mindfulness in many areas of your daily life.
Clarity begins to emerge. A sense of peace is felt. Ironically, the highly over valued skill we call “multitasking” so ingrained in us by our fast paced culture, elevated to being a prerequisite for success in most areas of our lives, is the skill that leaves us feeling scattered, stressed, uneasy, and exhausted.
There is a better way.
So, I invite you to sit. To breathe. To practice concentration. To practice mindfulness. And to be patient and loving with yourself along the way. You can begin anytime. No one comes late to the practice.
I don’t know about you, but all I want to do right now is sit my ass down and tune in with my breath. The combination of eating a health promoting diet and having a regular meditation practice is a powerful duo.
It won’t stop bitch slaps from the universe, but it will change how you respond to them. And THAT will change your life.
If you’re not currently getting my weekly Plant Fueled Meal Plans, they only make it super easy to eat a nutrient dense, health promoting diet on a consistent basis. Pair that with even 10 minutes a day of meditation and BAM, your life just got a lot easier to manage.
Okay – Carrot Dogs seem weird, but they’re actually really fucking good. This recipe is stupid easy and they taste weirdly like a boiled hot dog from street carts (or so I’m told by my meat eating, carrot hating girlfriend).
- 6 small - medium sized carrots stems chopped off and several slits made in each carrot.
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon black mustard seed
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon onion granules
- 1 teaspoon garlic granules
- 2 tablespoons Coconut Aminos
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Place all of the marinade ingredients into a pot large enough to hold the carrots without breaking them in half. Whisk the marinade ingredients together and place the carrots into the pot.
- Place a lid on the pot and simmer for 7 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and allow to cool. You can transfer the carrots and the marinade to a plate to cool them faster. When the carrots are cool, transfer them into a ziplock bag, along with the remaining marinade.
- Roll up the bag tightly and place it in your fridge. Marinate for 2 - 24 hours (the longer the better).
- After they marinate in the fridge, they are ready to heat up and eat. You can do this on a grill, or simply in a skillet.
- If you go the skillet route, add the carrot dogs and the marinade to the skillet and heat for about 7 - 10 minutes over medium - low heat, turning over frequently.
- Serve on a toasted sprouted hotdog bun and pile high with mayo, mustard, onions, tomatoes and lettuce. Throw on some Sauerkraut if you’re into it and call it a feast.