I love to meditate, but as with all things that are “good” for me, I struggle to actually do it.
For a while there I was meditating every single day for twenty minutes or more—now I’m lucky if I squeeze it in a couple of times a week.
Nevertheless, I deeply believe in the power of meditation. It is something, like foreign travel, that I think every person, particularly every American, should be exposed to. Both things change how we fundamentally perceive the world and ourselves, and both for the better.
When my son was a fuzzy little chick, we used to meditate together. It usually lasted about a minute before he dissolved into giggles and I would open my eyes just in time to see him reaching out to grab my nose. Not much was accomplished, but I wanted the idea of meditation in his tool box. I envisioned many years of us sitting and watching our breath together as he aged and matured.
Fast forward eight years, and he rolls his eyes at me if he even senses a word beginning with the letter “M” forming on my lips. Nope, it’s all Bob’s Burgers and You Tube and Big Nate comic books for him.
But he doesn’t know that I have a secret. I have still managed to teach him how to sit, and he does it practically every day.
Each night before he goes to bed we have what we call “June time”. This is the period between when we’re done reading, talking, card playing or whatever, and lights out. I let our Great Dane Juno to jump up on his bed—the only time this is allowed (officially. I’m not claiming to be a slave to edicts). My son then inevitably lays on top of “the Bear” and I stretch out next to them, the three of us succumbing to some kind of canine/human trance.
When we first began to do this about two years ago, I didn’t think much of it. I had a dog when I was a kid, and laying with him was generally the pinnacle of my day. I was just glad I could give the same experience of dog love to my own child. But then I began to notice some interesting things were happening.
The first thing I realized is that nothing was really happening at all (the trademark of really good meditation). The TV was off, the cell phones silenced, the door closed, books put away. Absolutely nothing but being there was going on. It dawned on me that these were the only few minutes during my son’s day for which this was the case.
The second thing I noticed was my son’s breathing. It slowed to a rhythm that echoed the dog’s. The rise and fall of Juno’s big spotted rib cage and the unselfconscious huffing through his formidable nose acted like a soothing balm.
I learned to watch and listen during June time, and saw my son’s fingers gently exploring the flesh of Juno’s ears and the curve of his elbow.
Occasionally he asks me a question:
“What is this extra nail doing up high on his leg?”
“That’s his dew claw,” I answer.
“Why does his skin turn pink when he sleeps?”
“I don’t know. It just does.”
“When he dreams, what is he dreaming about?”
“Chasing bunny rabbits and eating bones, I suppose.”
After each of these sorts of questions, a reflective silence descends, as both my son and I slowly turn ideas over in our minds.
And though it is not commonly advised to speak while meditating, and though my son is not alone, sitting cross legged on a cushion or even intending to do it, I came to understand that these moments were indeed, deep meditations.
And not just for him, but for me as well.
The goal of meditation as I see it, is to sink below the frantic workings of the conscious mind and connect to something deeper in ourselves. It is a time to observe without judgement, to accept what is, and to step back and just be. And this is exactly what June time is all about. Of course, I would never ruin it by saying all this to my son.
The thing is, all of us can find June time without it being too much of a stretch.
If you have a lazy pet like I do, that’s a great place to start. Just go into a room with your dog/cat/fish/lizard/hermit crab/turtle/snake, shut the door, lay down beside them and pay attention. You might even consider getting a low maintenance pet for just this purpose.
If you don’t have a pet, just go outside and find a tree to sit under or a place where you can see the sky.
Get comfortable and watch. See what happens.
It’s that simple.
It saddens me that meditation has acquired a mystical reputation, because the idea that it is only for yogis or sages or people trained in some form of it undermines the truth, which is that it is available all the time, everywhere, for anyone.
It’s all about slowing down and training ourselves to be present no matter where we are or what we’re doing. Whether it happens in a prophet’s cave in the remote reaches of Tibet, or on a stinky dog in Golf, Illinois, the result is still the same—a deeper, richer experience of this beautiful life.