March 14, 2011

Monday's Musings - More About Meditation

Meditation and I have been long-term acquaintances. During the 1970s some of my friends and colleagues studied Transcendental Meditation(TM). I was too busy being busy then and thought that politics and personal growth were not good bed-mates. I was also turned off by the fact that TM charged people for their secret mantras, phrases to be repeated while they meditated. I have changed my perspective over the years and was influenced by Gail Straub and her book The Rhythm of Compassion -- which talks about balancing the focus between self-care and social action.

                                                  The Rhythm of Compassion: Caring for Self, Connecting with Society
 "Without the in-breath of self care and reflection we can't sustain our involvement with the suffering of the world, nor do we have the clarity of heart and mind required for the complex challenges we face. On the other hand, without the out-breath of compassionate engagement with society our inner work implodes upon itself leading to the dead end of narcissism and spiritual emptiness." Gail Straub
This year, I used my participation in Winter Feast for the Soul to jump start a routine of daily meditation. My commitment for the 40 days was to sit quietly for 15-20 minutes 5 times a week. Over the weeks, without too much effort, I upped that to 30 minutes 6 or 7 times a week (missing one session every week and a half or so, mostly on the morning that I have to leave early for the Binghamton office). The most difficult part is choosing and maintaining a consistent time. Although I thought it would be too difficult to fit meditation into my morning schedule, I have found that if I leave it till later in the day…it often doesn’t happen and it gnaws at me during the day, as a “have-to” on my to-do list. So after my other morning ritual -- writing Morning Pages while I drink a cup of coffee, I go into another room and sit cross-legged on a cushion. Sometimes with a meditation CD and often just quietly, trying to follow my breath.

During my first sits in January I felt flooded by a rush of thoughts…that I could compare to the rowdy
crowd waiting outside Walmart on Black Friday, jostling and pushing to be first. After a few weeks, my ever-present thoughts got less unruly, and seemed willing to line up more calmly like a movie theater ticket queue, one at a time but close together.

I’ll write more about meditation and my practice over the next few months. Meanwhile, if you are interested in learning more about meditation here are two short free online videos:

Susan Piver offers a free Introduction to Meditation class on her website including this 10-minute video.

And this under 3 minute video is an amusing reminder of how difficult it can be to sit quietly.
Be sure to check out the rest of this WildMind website which has some serious and helpful meditation suggestions as well.


  1. Hey Barbara

    As you know, I was one of your friends who paid bucks for a secret mantra. Still feel guilty revealing it, but frankly, most of the time, I can't remember it! Still do TM when I am sick or want to feel rejuvenated. Mostly follow-the breath. There's a huge body of scientific literature attesting to health benefits of mindfulness. Great fun!

    best and love,

  2. oh yeah, and the secret mantra is . . . .


    woooooo . . .