I have an existential question that has gone unanswered for much of my life and it continues to be a bit of an issue for me. I’m not exactly sure how to put it but it has something to do with value in plain ol’ existence. Can I be here on the planet, use resources and pollute, do regular things and still be of value in the big-picture way? This question isn’t always in the forefront of my mind, but I do think that the question is there, surreptitiously shaping the choices that I make. Perfectionism, judgment and self-worth stem from this unanswered question. There have been periods of my life when I’ve come at this question from different angles to try to figure it out. I’ve looked at other people who seem to not struggle with this. I went to church. I’ve done some experimenting. I practice yoga. But I’ll tell you that I had a really interesting thing happen during today’s morning meditation. It’s still pretty green to be sharing, but, Hey—that’s part of blogging, so here goes.
As mentioned in the last post, I have had a (shaky) meditation practice for about a month. I get up (some) mornings, I sit still and I (try to) focus on the breath, clearing the mind of thoughts. I like the sitting and I like the breathing, but the still-mind part is tedious and not really working. My mind stays busy through my 12 minutes of sitting. I’m sure that if I stuck with that technique, I’d get there, but sticking with it is the big ‘if.’ I’m not real big on struggle. I need manageable challenges. I didn’t find more that a second or two when the mental-chatter-loop-tape wasn’t running. I was starting to like the discipline of it, but not that much, really.
So this weekend, I went to a workshop led by Chase Bossart and there was SO MUCH good stuff that came out of it. One good thing: my meditation practice got a makeover. Mr. Bossart led us in several guided visualizations and when I talked more about this with him, he suggested that instead of sitting still and focusing on the ever-present, but very subtle breath, I work with visualization and movement during my meditation practice.
Since then, I have been meditating on a mountain. I do some stretching for a few minutes, sit and breathe for ten minutes or so and then I start my twelve minute timer. For twelve minutes, I think about the qualities of a mountain. I move my arms in and out with my breath and I try to keep a picture or maybe more of a feeling of Mt. Rainier in my mind’s eye: Cool, clean air, big solid mass of earth, supporting lots of life, beautiful, still. My mind is active, but focused. It is kind of a soft focus, where I can let my mind wander around the mountain. I don’t need to be the tour guide who says, “let’s start here at the tree line and now, come over here and think about the patch of wildflowers.” I just wander. Unexpectedly, today, the wanderings led to this question of existence and value.
There was this understanding that settled in, sometime during the 12 minutes. My head got kinda floaty and it was really peaceful and simple. The understanding came as a feeling of connection to the mountain and to myself. I’m finding it hard to describe and because it was a feeling and not so much a thought, it doesn’t seem useful to breakdown the metaphor of how mountains are like people. Mostly, I want to say, it was really curious and kinda-great.
I guess I’m sharing this because I am convinced that there is more ahead. I started this practice because other people, whose opinions I trust, said it was worth it. I resisted truly committing to it for about a decade, but now I guess I’m ready. I can see that this daily practice helps me with acceptance, patience, discipline and some self-awareness. Just the act of getting out of bed with my alarm clock helps with those things. A meditation practice helps me not to take things so seriously. It helps me to develop focus. There aren’t that many things that I do on a daily basis, but to have a daily experience that I set aside for myself to be present with my whole-self seems worth the effort and the early bed-time. Yep. I’m ready for month two.