Several months ago I began learning to meditate. I downloaded the Headspace meditation app, and it gave me a terrific start. I would have kept using it, but beyond a certain point you have to begin paying a monthly fee that I felt was out of my price range. I then found an app called Meditation Timer.
I edit the Meditation Timer app for the length of time for my session. I’m still just doing ten or fifteen minutes, but that quiet, centering time has become precious to me. You can choose a sound for your start chime, interval time, and end time. The interval chime will sound when you want it to; you can set it for halfway through or whenever you like. I like to set it to chime when I have two minutes left to go.
You may never have considered meditation as a practice before. Or you may not understand what benefit there is to this practice. For myself, my life had become extremely busy. I was a full time employee and a full time student last fall. I have a family with a husband and two young adults at home, four adult children out on their own, a daughter-in-law, and one young granddaughter. The political climate coupled with world events was causing me great anxiety, because I am both an idealist and have a passion for social justice. My emotions were out of control, and I was finding it difficult to focus. I was struggling to keep my busy life together, feeling like I was going crazy. And I was physically exhausted.
Here’s what I have found on my short meditation journey: Meditation is not ’emptying your mind’. I don’t believe it is possible to empty one’s mind. Meditation is done in the context of silence, stillness, and solitude. These three things focus me inward to that place where my spirit is calm. In that calm, quiet place I reach out to understand the reality that I am not alone. In meditation I am positioning myself to experience that still, small voice that I have trouble hearing through the clamor of my thoughts, emotions, and the busyness of my life. I meditate to connect to my true self and to God. Sometimes I say these words to focus and calm myself: “Be still and know that I am God. Be still and know. Be still, Be.” I say them slowly, focusing on their meaning. I am talking to my own soul, offering open arms to those parts of me that are sad, angry, confused, exhausted.
I do not actively try to quiet my emotions. I am a Feeler; I have accepted that I experience life through a rich tapestry of emotions. But I also realize that they are like wild horses that will run away with me if I let them. They will take me to dark places where truth and light cannot be found. So as I sit in meditation, I allow emotions and thoughts to surface. I let them be what they are and then float away. Sometimes I picture myself sitting beside a stream. Leaves are slowly falling from trees around me, and as thought and emotions surface, I allow them to land on a leaf and float away down the stream. I consciously turn my thoughts to the silence, stillness, and solitude, remembering that I am not alone. I console the sad parts of me, offering myself the same understanding and comfort that I would a friend.
A while back I began rising earlier to spend time in prayer before my day begins. I added these small meditation sessions to that time. If my prayer time is difficult, because my mind is wandering or my emotions are bubbling up, I stop and meditate. I calm my soul and move to my spirit, making space for God to meet me. Then I return to my prayers able to focus. Sometimes I meditate at the end of my prayers, and sometimes my ten minutes are not enough and I do another ten minutes. Sometimes I do this because I feel the need for more time. Sometimes I do this because I am enjoying it so much that I don’t want to stop quite yet.
My meditation practice will expand as I become more experienced. I am not concerned about forcing myself to meditate for an hour. There is no standard, no goal. I am simply learning what I need to do to be balanced and healthy on the inside. My husband reports that I seem more peaceful. It is working for me right now, so I will keep going. If you think meditation is something you would like to explore, check out the Headspace app. It will give you a foundation to begin to build upon. The Meditation Timer app is a great tool as well. Remember, this is your practice. No one can tell you you’re doing it wrong, not doing it long enough, etc. Just enjoy the fruits of spending some time in silence, stillness, and solitude. Give yourself the gift of your attention and care. Make the choice to love yourself. Focus on that place within where God meets with only you, and you will be better able to love others.