Rethinking Retirement  

Meditation Without Hesitation

by Jenice Cutler

Imagine in your mind’s eye that you are in an inviting space in your home, the aroma of incense permeates the air and sweet silence almost rings in your ears. Now, sit. Feet touch the floor. Back straight against comfy pillows. Eyes closed. Oh, sorry, eyes slightly opened and unfocused. Start over…sit on the floor with legs crossed. Back still straight. Hands…uh…palms up on your legs. Wait, maybe it’s hands placed loosely, one on top of the other, resting just below the belly button and with thumbs gently touching. Now, breathe in through your nose and out your mouth, no, NO, out your nose too. Seriously, this is impossible!

Oh, the challenges of writing about meditation with such varied philosophies, techniques, and disciplines (not to mention the improbability of obtaining silence in my home)! First things first: the disclaimer – I am no expert on meditation. In fact, I have never even formally studied it. As with most of my “spiritual” practices, I enter with a child’s mind and I play with it, and over time I discover what works for me. So as a “layperson” who meditates and is sharing with, I assume, other laypersons, my intent is to share my personal experiences with meditation in hopes of stimulating and supporting your practice.

The inquiries posed to me for this article included…How do you begin meditation? What do you need, how do you do it, etc.? The answer is simple: all you need is your intent to meditate and then to create time for meditation. Yet, many of us find that the actual practice of meditation can sometimes be not-so-simple.
Releasing any and all expectations
The best thing I have done for my meditation practice is to release any and all expectations about it, whether it is concerns over time (how long to meditate or how often), or what the meditation experience is “supposed” to look or be like. My intent is to allow the process to be whatever it is, rather than judging or criticizing myself.  I have had meditations where I have gone to really deep and profound places, and others where I have not even been able to relax! I do not expect each meditation to top the last, creating an upward climbing path on a graph; rather I understand that my meditations are unique every single time, dotting the graph like the stars in the night sky. So, each time I meditate, I surrender to the star shining through the brightest.
Personally, it doesn’t matter if I meditate for as little as five minutes or as long as an hour. When I have a certain window of time that I am fitting my meditation within, I have found my cell phone alarm handy to set time frames, which allows me to not focus on the time, or worry about it. Sometimes my time frame encourages me to stay in meditation longer, and other times, when needed, it keeps my meditation short and simple. If I have no time constraints at all, I like to eliminate the idea of time altogether by not checking the time at the start or end of my meditation, and just allowing my meditation to run its natural course.
When I have been out of the routine of meditating, I have the same resistance to starting up again as I do with starting to exercise again. It doesn’t make sense because I know both are good for me and that I truly enjoy them when I get in the rhythm again, but still, the resistance is tangible. So I make deals with myself, like, “I can set aside five minutes a day to meditate, which is five minutes more than I was doing before.” Or I will alternate days of working out, meditating and writing. The idea is to get meditation on my priority list again and into my consciousness as one of the possibilities of how I can choose to use my time.
I have friends who are disciplined and meditate for an hour or hours daily, and friends who, like me, go through spurts and spells in their lives when they meditate, or don’t.  I recall Dr. Wayne Dyer (author of many spiritual books) suggesting that we take the time sitting at a traffic light to meditate.  I like to use the time in my car to meditate while I am waiting for my kids.
When I am meditating regularly, I have another tool to improve my health and enhance my peace of mind. One of the paradoxes I have discovered with meditation is that when I find myself in a period of being overscheduled and “too busy” to meditate, that is exactly when I benefit the most by meditating. Unplugging from the idea that there is no time for meditation by actually meditating almost always frees up more mental space and results in my being more calm and efficient.
Creating space/mood/routine
Over the years, I have discovered several routines that assist me in my meditation process.  
  • I grab my “to do” list and a pen to have by my side because more often than not when I start meditating, all of the things that I need to do pop up in my mind. I can then write them down and release the impulse to try to remember them, which allows me to relax more deeply.  
  • I light a candle or burn a smudge stick (a bundle of sage used by Native Americans to purify an area). I have found that when I start with a special routine, it helps set my intent more deeply and, over time, the mere act of lighting the candle or smudge stick helps carry me into my meditative state. 
  • Sometimes I like to hold in my palm an inspirational symbol, such as an angel charm or a cross, or I am drawn to hold a particular crystal or stone. For me, holding a charm or crystal that embraces a higher energy or consciousness seems to help me connect with a higher energy and consciousness. 
  • When my mind is particularly active, I start by praying and when I have exhausted all of my prayers, I stay in that sacred space.
Playing with meditation
Sometimes I like to play with my meditations, just to shake things up a bit, or to help direct my focus if I am having a difficult time meditating the “traditional” way.
  • Visualization and my imagination are my favorite playmates. Sometimes I will visualize that I am at a peaceful place, like the ocean or a garden or the woods or a river or even the sky and outer space. Sometimes a thought, idea or image will pop up in my mind and I will allow my imagination to continue the encounter and experience. 
  • I remember when I was growing up that my parents taught me to “step into another’s shoes” to help me understand another’s side or situation.  I play with this concept now by stepping into the shoes of life forces other than humans. Inevitably, I experience a broadened sense of self. I naturally seem to connect with trees, to send my love and gratitude to them, and to tap into their essence and energy. I simply put my focus and attention on a specific tree and see what comes to me. What life force energies would you find intriguing to connect with? (I also am drawn to birds, fruit, the wind, rivers, and dolphins.) This may sound awkward at first, but you don’t have to tell anyone what you are doing!  
  • Have you ever started to meditate and then the neighbor’s barking dog or lawn mower keeps you from going deeper? When I find myself distracted by sounds, I turn my full attention to my sense of hearing and listen for all the possible sounds I can detect. By having all of my focus on one thing, in this case, listening, I am actually meditating and able to go to a deeper, inner place. For me, it works to make friends with, rather than get annoyed by, whatever external or internal distraction shows up at the time. 
  • I am always energized to discover an answer to, or a different perspective on, a question or issue that I am struggling with. I set my intent at the beginning of my meditation to receive help on a specific question and then I bring it to my silent space and see what answer comes to me. I find it important to begin my meditation with my question; otherwise, I tend to end up in la-la land where all is perfect and I have no questions or concerns!  
  • Walking a labyrinth, dedicating a whole yoga class to simply focusing on my breath, and allowing music to move my body (my favorite!) are just a few active meditations that juice up my practice.  
Meditation allows me to tap into my/a higher wisdom and knowing. It helps me to see the traps and illusions I have fallen into by revealing a broader perspective and picture than the limited one I may be seeing or living in at the time. It reminds me that the divine spark of creation and love and beauty are within me and accessible. It takes me to a space, a sacred space within, where I am able to connect more deeply and directly with God, Spirit, Source. Through meditation, my authentic voice and my authentic power and greatness unfold and come to light.

Jenice Cutler is a wife, mother and author of the book, Diary of an Awakening:  A Spiritual Journey of a Lifetime. She hopes that her “reflections on life” writings will help people to discover and deepen their own spiritual paths.

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