Written by: Mike Way
At almost 68 years old, I enjoy finding out that I am still capable of learning some new tricks. But admittedly, at this stage, acquiring new skills that are truly “life changing” is fairly unusual. For me, meditation has become a remarkable addition to my life, even if it has come in the “autumn” of my years. Better late than never, as they say.
I’d been mildly curious about meditation for many years. In a box somewhere, I’m pretty sure I can find some books on, and an old cassette tape of, meditations. But, the tape has never been played; the books unread. Somehow, I just never actually tried it. Why?
Well, I’m aware that I had been put-off just slightly about meditation, mostly based on clichés and false assumptions (e.g. shave my head, wear orange robes and burn incense?) I worried that I’d be required to pretzel myself into the lotus position – (which by the way, as I got older, was simply out of the question!) Silly, huh?
Recently, a few things happened that finally hooked my attention…including semi-retirement and sheltering-at-home because of Covid-19. Most importantly, a dear colleague and good friend invited me to Deepak Chopra’s 21 Days of Abundance meditation challenge. Although I tried to think up several excuses, I was unable to overcome one simple truth….that I completely and absolutely trusted her judgment and her genuineness.
That person, of course was/is Ali. I had worked with her closely about 20 years ago, and was always deeply impressed with her very high level of intelligence, but charmingly mixed with a down-to-earth demeanor, and common-sense thoughtfulness. During the ensuing years, our career and life-paths diverged, but we never lost touch. When I learned that she had answered a calling in spirituality, I was somewhat surprised, if not slightly shocked. But, it was clear she was the same old Ali I knew, having simply turned her incredible intellect and thoughtfulness onto a different focus. I fell back on my trust and belief in her, so I accepted her invitation. Thus began my personal journey with meditation…..
For some of you reading this, you may have already discovered the power(s) of meditation for yourself. For some of you, it might encourage or support you on your own journey. For a few of you, perhaps it may provide just enough of a nudge to finally put aside any reluctance, for whatever your reason(s) and “get on with it” -- taking that first step.
The stories I can offer are simply a way to share my joy of discovery. They may or may not be similar to any of your own experiences. I don’t represent them as anything you should particularly look for; nor as correct or incorrect milestones in the meditation process. I have no idea if they are “typical” in any way, shape or form. Perhaps their best value might be in stimulating or prompting some of you to share your own stories on this blog, or elsewhere. I feel I’ve had some “profound” insights, but no doubt profound only to me because, after all, meditation is a profoundly personal experience.
In a few cases, I’ll share some ideas of my own about the process and practice of meditation itself – often borne of my own muddled awareness and misconceptions. I don’t offer these as universal truths or previously un-earthed truths – but rather as considerations for anyone who may be having difficulties (as I once did) exploring or embracing meditation.
My first “aha!” moment came roughly two-thirds into the 21 Day Challenge and was about the “process” more than a personal insight. I had come to rather enjoy the “just music” parts of the meditations as much or more than the “guided” narrative parts. Somewhere along the way, I began to be troubled that the “just music” parts were becoming shorter and shorter in duration. The ending “bell” would sound long before I was “ready” to stop, and often when I thought I was just getting started into great stuff. It occurred to me this was probably intentional in design, and probably revealed later. Curious, I went back to the first couple of days – and discovered that, while I thought the “just music” time had been decreased down to only three minutes or so – it turned out that it was actually quite consistent at 9-10 minutes from the very beginning. In fact, it was I who had changed….rather than spending/wasting the first five or seven minutes worrying about whether “I was doing it right” or having my brain take me off course with distractions such as sounds or itchy eyes or needing to sneeze – I was instead learning to ignore that stuff and redirect my focus back to the mantra. Thus my actual time in useful meditation simply had time-warped on me, making the ten minutes fly by. It made me want more….much more.
The first, most dramatic, personal moment for me happened a few days later. For most of my adult life, I’d struggled with some frustrating aspects of my relationship with my mother. Since she passed a few years ago (at age 92), I had felt an uncomfortable, unfinished lack of closure with her. Then, during a meditation, with no context or reason, she suddenly appeared to me. There was no exchange of words or anything like that, but I was suddenly flushed with a wonderful sense of warmth, forgiveness, and reconnection. I became aware in that moment, that a slight smile had crossed my face, and felt it vibrate throughout my entire body – down to my toes. I realized it was the first time in 40 years that I had looked her in the eye and smiled TRULY and SINCERELY at her, and with her. The love I felt in that moment was astonishing.
Since then, I have been meditating every day (often more than once) without fail.