Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Meditation on Meditation

This morning we had a meditation service at church. We started off with a vowel chant that I really enjoyed, and I was really able to get into it. Then, after joys and concerns, the choir sang another chant (and I, as a member of the choir, was able to get into that as well; we harmonized very well, thank you.)

I really enjoy chanting because I can focus on the words, and as I focus on the words, I'm able to let myself go and relax.

Free form meditation, on the other hand, gives me problems.

In lieu of the sermon, our service leader played the gong. It's not like the gong that's banged on that old TV classic The Gong Show, no! Instead, he took two mallets and gently played the gong, making the sounds and the rhythms faster, then slower, then louder, then softer. Imagine how ocean waves sound crashing against the shore before, during, and after a big storm. That's what the gong sounded like.

And as we listened to the gong, we were supposed to relax, let our minds unwind, and just let our bodies lay still and quiet.

Well, my body was still and quiet, but my mind started racing.

This happens whenever I try to meditate. I try to let my mind go still, to let it relax and empty out all of the thoughts I have, but it never seems to work. Instead, I just keep thinking, and that's the worst thing. Here are some thoughts I had in this morning's attempt to meditate:
  • Should I change the litter in the cat boxes tonight?
  • When should I pack for Washington?
  • Should I vacuum today, or tomorrow?
  • What should I have for dinner?
  • Is it worth it to go grocery shopping when I'm flying to DC in a week?
  • What am I going to write about when I blog about this failed meditation experience?

Author Elizabeth Gilbert writes about her early attempts at meditation in her wonderful book, Eat, Pray, Love. She spent four months at an ashram in India, and wrote candidly about how upset she became when she just couldn't let her mind unwind. There is one hilarious passage in the book where she and her mind are arguing over which image to concentrate on during meditation: an ocean, a Greek island, or a lake. She starts meditating on a Greek island, but then her mind says it's too touristy. She then meditates on a lake, but then her mind argues that the lake could be filled with noisy jet skis. She finally settles on an island in the river, but still keeps arguing with her mind on whether she IS the island or the river.

Eventually, though, Gilbert is able to meditate successfully. Based on what she wrote, I believe that meditation is a skill that must be acquired gradually, and not overnight. She writes about how she experiences this cool blue pulsating light whenever she meditates. So, I figured, that if she experiences this cool blue pulsating light during meditation, then I must experience the same thing.

The closest I come to a blue light these days is the KMart mascot, Mr. Blue Light.

Instead, I close my eyes, try to unwind, but instead let my wander to work issues, home issues, or whatever random thoughts come across.

Some people fell asleep during the meditation today. One guy even started snoring! And that was what annoyed me most of all: here was a prime chance for me to squeeze in a midmorning nap, after being up to the wee hours this morning, and I just couldn't snooze.

And now I'm trying to come up with a snappy ending for this post, a play on words, maybe, and NOW nothing runs through my mind.

Let's meditate on the reasons why my mind is empty NOW, shall we?

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