“Meditation does not make you a better person”
I read an interesting article this morning with that title. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/02/05/meditation-does-not-make-better-person-study-finds/
In the article it found that people are not necessarily more calm or compassionate after practicing meditation. So… why have Meditation Mondays? Why promote meditation?
Well, everyone has to start somewhere!!! I have heard many people describe different meditation techniques. Personally, I practice my own version (everyone has to figure out what works for them) – I like to call it – listening meditation. Often when people say you should “clear your mind,” it gets confusing on how to accomplish that. Unless you have been practicing control of your thought impulses, it is extremely difficult to sit and have NO THOUGHT. It is a function of you brain to assess, judge, contemplate, etc. Therefore, to stop an innate trait takes time, it takes practice. So what is listening meditation?
For me, when I close my eyes and LISTEN, it gives my mind a task. I observe what is in the here and now through my hearing. The difficult part is OBSERVING your mind and the thoughts that arise while you attempt to only listen. Listen to what’s around you, listen to your breathe, and attempt to feel your body.
Meditation CAN calm you, but it takes work. Simply closing your eyes is not meditation. OBSERVING your mind and attempting to stop it from traveling down endless rabbit holes is a form of meditation. By slowly understanding your thought process, you give yourself the opportunity to control it instead of letting situations control you. No longer do you REACT to things based on unobserved emotions, you RESPOND to situations.
“Meditation does not make you a better person.” True. However, by practicing mindfulness I can be a better version of myself, a more present version of myself. By being present, I become truly available to everyone and everything around me. Who would want to miss that?! By being stuck in your thoughts, you do miss it! Even if it’s happening in front of you, when your mind is elsewhere, so are you.
Where do you find yourself reacting strongly? Is it towards certain people or in specific situations? Do you know why?
Let’s all strive to be more responsive and less reactive. See what happens in your circle when you do, it mayyyyyyyy just make you a better version of yourself 🙂
Blessing and Peace
Ever thought you weren’t going to make it? But then, you did. The more this happens in my life, the more I realize I must PERSIST! A few years ago, I trekked Annapurna Circuit with some friends. The most rigorous day was that of Thorang La Pass.
Early in the morning, before dawn, we began hiking in the cold. I mean cold. You go to use the bathroom and the bucket of water that’s meant as your toilet paper is now frozen. It was a COLD morning at a high altitude. It was the first time I experienced altitude sickness (but not the last). In order to make it, I had to give my bag away for someone else to carry. That alone was difficult, because it felt like it wasn’t a true accomplishment. But that was a stupid thought.
Whether you come to trek 3 days, 5 days, 3 weeks through Sagamartha Park with or without a porter, finishing what you start is important. It gives you the energy to move on to the next goal, then the next. When we arrived at the top, our porter threw up his fingers with a #2!! It was the first time he had a group finish the trek to the top in 2 hours. It did not matter if someone else had to carry my bag. I was not going to finish with it. What mattered is that the goal was met and hot tea was consumers at 5416 meters in Nepal overlooking the most incredible views.
It is important to make goals, to give yourself something to look forward to, but be easy on yourself. Remember you are the one setting the goals and going after your dreams. If you need to give someone else your bag, let it go. Just do something! Anything that inspires you to keep experiencing the beauty around you.
Blessings and Peace
The last Monday Meditation focused on death and what it means to “be” instead of “do.” This Monday is similar, but more focused on the doing rather than being.
What I find interesting about death is that, for a while, we humans act like animals unaware of our finite status. Unaware of how much our actions affect others both positively and negatively. Being unaware of your inevitable end shapes your present perspective. For many, there is much less fear. It is easy to jump off a cliff if you do not think you are going to die. Once we discover pain, suffering, and inevitable death, many react with sadness and anxiety. Knowing about death means knowing we are always getting closer and closer to it.
Have you understood that you will die? That this is your chance to really live? You will never be as young as you are now. You will never have the same opportunity as you do in this moment. Similar ones may come along, but they will never be the same, you will never be the same. Knowledge and experience change us.
Does knowing this fill you with dread or excitement? If it fills you with anxiety, take some time to figure out why. Is it out of fear for tomorrow or maybe from regrets of yesterday? How are you reacting and interacting with the world around you?
For me, “doing” starts with your mental reaction. We are in control of our reactions towards life. We cannot control life or death, but we can choose how we respond – first mentally and secondly, physically.
It is our choice to look negatively at our finite status or as our opportunity to appreciate the gift we have. We have no idea how many days we will have on this earth. Filling those days with aggression, resentment, etc., does it help you?
Today, start to watch yourself and your reactions. Ask yourself, not whether or not my reaction is justified, but does this reaction help the circumstances? Ask yourself, what can I change in my life to improve it?
Life is short. Life is a gift. It is your choice to waste it or appreciate it. What will you choose?
“The fact that human beings know that we will die is rather remarkable. It means not only that we know we are alive, but also that we must wonder about what life means, what death means and whether any of it has any purpose or meaning.” — John Shelby Spong
I am often reading philosophy books. Even after Seminary, I am still looking for the answer to the thoughts expressed by Spong… Does my life have any purpose or meaning? I am alive.. Doesn’t that mean something? Anything? If so, what SHOULD I be doing with it?
Growing up in the United States, I was told my life mattered, that I could accomplish anything. Traveling around the world, I came to the realization that this assumption was not true for everyone. Lives do matter, but not everyone can realistically accomplish anything they want. There are borders, wars, famine, disease, ignorance, hatred, etc, which prevents individuals from having the opportunity to reach their full potential.
While living in Nepal, I had the opportunity to sit and breathe, to really question what I had learned in life and in Seminary. What I discovered is that I personally believe we put too much pressure on ourselves to produce in the West. A friend once told me we are human beings, not humans doing. We are flesh and blood, not machines built with a specific purpose for someone or something else.
In Nepal, many people can simply “be.”
What I mean by “being” is that they can sit at a corner and wait for the bus patiently. They can talk with a stranger while their food takes a few hours to make (especially if there is a closed border and no petrol). They can change their plans when you show up 2 days later than expected. Why?
Because they are more in touch with the here, the now. Instead of focusing on what our lives means to others, they are present. It seems even in Nepal this is rapidly changing with the arrival of cell phones and facebook, but still… it’s STILL. The people may have drama, but I do not see the same kind of obvious anxiety a lot of Americans express when something goes wrong. They can digest it without getting overly emotional and deal with the issue at hand.
These days, instead of trying to figure out WHY I am here, what purpose I serve, or what my life means, I reflect on the fact that I do exist. This life is a gift, not an obligation. This life is an opportunity, not a resume for my afterlife.
What does it mean for you to be here, be now? Today, take some time to be present, to look around and see what is in front of you. Instead of being lost in plans for tomorrow, get lost in the beauty that is today … and if possible, have some fun!!
Hump days in Nepal are more like Mountain Days. To get through the week, we hope to offer a little inspiration. This photo of Mt. Gangapurna was taken by Sunil Adhikari, good friend and local guide from Nepal. Here are his words to describe the experience :
“They were huge — gigantic mountains. I thought that was the end. That is the last point of the earth. I used to dream of reaching there. One day I did. I dared to face the challenge. There was no tiredness, literally no cold, not any difficulties… because the beauty of the place made me forget myself. One day I reached there. I was on the top and I crossed over a layer of mountains. Surprisingly there’s another part of heaven hidden beyond these mountains. I realized then there is no end. You just have to keep going. Life is full of miracles. Dream it, dare to do it & of course, let’s go!”