Just as there are many ways to meditate and be mindful, there are many paths to it. I am not an expert. I am a novice; but my journey to get here has been a long and winding one, full of distractions and false starts.
I first learned of a way to bring a calmer sense to my being when I interviewed a young woman for a job. She told me she was a Buddhist. She was so calm. I have always been a person on the edge. I was impressed. However, I was too busy building a career and hanging out with my friends on the weekends to explore Buddhism.
The next time I thought about meditation was during a counselling session. The counsellor wanted me to try focused breathing. She said it would calm me. We did one exercise together and she gave me a CD to listen to at home. I found it very difficult to have alone time. The maiden was always at my side. To get her to calm at night I had to be upstairs. I was so mentally exhausted most nights I would fall asleep before she did.
During this time I had a respite worker for the maiden. She was a very calm person. She taught yoga. I don’t know beyond that if she spent time meditating but was she ever calm! I felt like a train wreck next to her.
I then heard about an 8 week mindfulness session being held close to my home. It sounded like what I needed. I lasted three classes. I told myself it was because it was winter and I didn’t want to drive through snowstorms at night. The class wasn’t until 7 p.m. – it was hard to be motivated to get out at that time. The woman teaching it, although nice, had a really harsh voice, I didn’t find relaxing. I couldn’t commit to meditating 45 minutes 6 out of 7 nights. So I stopped going.
A few months later I discovered a one hour weekly class held at a YMCA in a town close by. It was spring – so weather would not be a problem. It was on a Friday at 11 a.m. – so no nights. I showed up the first session excited. There were four others. I soon discovered this facilitator believed in meditating for a spiritual experience. She asked all participants what colours they saw. I wasn’t sure this was going to work for me. I went two more times, but the session where the facilitator broke down crying because of the experience she had at that session; it made me uncomfortable and I did not go back.
I wanted to be more at ease. I wanted to lessen my anxiety and depression. However these classes were making me feel like I wasn’t doing it correctly, wasn’t sitting properly, holding my hands in proper form, or that it was some higher plane experience that I just wasn’t getting.
So, I started to read about it. Mostly Jon Kabat-Zinn. I bought a CD. But more than anything I realized there is no right or wrong way to meditate. There are just as many ways to do it as there are people who do it. My focus right now is simply breathing. Focussing only on my breath. Sometimes I sit, sometimes I lay down. Sometimes I am on the floor cross-legged, sometimes on a chair or even in my car. Sometimes it is 5 minutes. Sometimes it is 30 minutes.
I may not be adhering to one particular way, but I have noticed I am more aware of my moments. I am more aware of being present, or bringing myself back to the present, instead of the past or future. I am calmer. And I have only just begun. I realized that with many things in life, it is my experience that matters. I must do what works for me. For now, formal, with others, isn’t my thing. The fact that I dedicate time most days to breathing and being mindful is enough for now. And now is all we have.