I found meditation this summer at a one week yoga retreat.
I had struggled with incorporating meditation into my daily life for a year, but somehow, this retreat broke through my barriers. It could have been the remote location at a Japanese Buddhist Zen Center in beautiful Crestone, Colorado? Or maybe it was the 4:30 a.m. start time.
It was because the procedures were laid out so clearly—it was hard to miss the point. Since many of the retreat attendees were new to meditation, the head monk gave a short talk on meditation the first night. He demonstrated how to sit, how to hold our hands and gave us three simple rules to follow:
1. Don’t move.
2. Don’t scratch.
3. Don’t invite your thoughts to tea.
Simple right? Not so much. Each rule encompasses an entire philosophy. Brilliant.
This one is fairly straightforward—sit in an upright meditation posture, breathe deeply and evenly and do not move. This means do not get up, fidget, change position, fix our hair, fix our outfit, adjust our bra or anything similar. We are, however, able to sneeze, snort, fart or cough, as needed, and most of the monks at the Zen Center did just that at every meditation.
When I first heard this, it sounded redundant with the first rule, but then he explained. Don’t scratch means do not react. If you have an itch, (which you definitely will, especially as a beginner, when meditating for 20 minutes), notice it, but do not immediately scratch it. In other words, acknowledge the itch, but don’t react to it right away. You might be surprised how often the itch dissipates on its own. This also applies to pain in our legs, hands, feet, hair in our face, wedgies and other physical discomforts. Once we have noticed it and given it a chance to subside on its own, if the pain/discomfort/annoyance becomes too much to bear, we may move efficiently into a new position, but then return to the meditation.
The hope is that overtime, we can translate this behavior to the small annoyances of daily life. When someone cuts us off in traffic, notice it, but don’t react immediately by getting angry and unleashing a volley of curses. Our boss sends us a scathing email, acknowledge it, but don’t write something back in the heat of the moment. This doesn’t mean we cannot thoughtfully respond once we have had time to think it through.
Don’t invite our thoughts to tea.
This rule means don’t allow our thoughts to take over our mind during meditation. Instead, try to clear our mind and focus on simply breathing and sitting and being. This is a tough one, especially when we are new to meditation. I still spend much of my meditation time drifting into thought, but once I realize it, I acknowledge it and remind myself to refocus on my breathing. Some days are better than others, but what I have come to realize, is that this is part of the process. The act of noticing and bringing myself back to focus is the point. It is the meditation.
When we notice thoughts invading our mind during meditation, it doesn’t mean we are doing it “wrong,” it just means we are doing it.
The hope, is that we can begin to do this in our daily life.
The more we can stay focused on our current activity, rather than being distracted by every crazy thought that goes through our mind, the more enjoyment we will take from everyday life. If we are at lunch with a friend, stay focused on him in the moment, rather than worrying about the 10 emails we haven’t yet read or the meeting we have later in the day.
Now that you know the rules, will you give meditation a try?
I have been meditating 20 minutes each day since I returned from the retreat and I love it. I feel more calm, less reactive and more peaceful. I hope I can keep it up.
Author: Shari Eberts
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock
Photo: flickr/Moyan Brenn