Monday, December 8, 2014


Today's Holidailies prompt:

Today is Bodhi Day, a Buddhist holiday that commemorates the day that Buddha experienced enlightenment. Tell us about a time when you felt truly enlightened.
Um, I can't say that I've "felt truly enlightened." At least, not in a way that made a lasting change in my life, which it seems to me like "enlightenment" would have to do in order to qualify. So instead, I'll talk about my experience with a practice associated both with Buddhism and with his experience of enlightenment: meditation.

I think I first encountered meditation from two directions in high school: there was sophomore year world history, where we talked about Buddhism and the Buddha, and then there was... the International Thespian Conference, in the early summer after that year. One of the sessions they had was on using yoga for relaxation, to improve theater performance. Intrigued, I came back to small-town Ohio and checked out every book our library had on yoga, which I'm pretty sure was two.

It's probably fair to say that you can't learn physical skills through reading, but that didn't stop me with yoga (or tennis). Ironically, I've gone on to teach both of them in one way or another. But I digress.

I've been more and less into yoga over the years, but as anyone who's ever done yoga would probably attest, the best part of the whole thing is "corpse pose," the last thing you do, which as the name implies is basically laying there like you're dead. It's meant, of course, for meditation, not for falling into an exhausted sleep.

Aside from that meditation, I've also had an interest in other forms of meditation, gravitating most toward the sort where you observe and/or control your breath. I did this even before I connected it to music, but there's a natural fit. Breath control is an important technique for singing and for playing a wind instrument, and I've done both in my time. I suppose music is a meditation in and of itself.

Although I've been acquainted with meditation for over 20 years, I'm afraid I can't say that I've built a really consistent practice in that time, though I've done enough to have moments of--oh yeah--enlightenment in which I realize that life would be better if I did have that kind of practice.

I've become in some ways reacquainted with meditation through the health and fitness communities that I've participated in, which have moved beyond nutrition and exercise into broader areas of one's lifestyle, including sleep and stress management, particularly meditation. I skimmed through 8 Minute Meditation in roughly 8 minutes (spoiler alert: the book is too long to actually read in 8 minutes), and mostly what I got out of it was nothing new, just the idea of setting a timer for eight minutes and, you know, meditating.

I've had a few times in the last few months where I've hit a wall in the middle of the afternoon, where I felt tired and unfocused and just generally unlikely to get any productive work done. Sometimes I go get coffee. Sometimes I end up wasting time. But sometimes, I set the timer and meditate. I turn off the light, close the blinds, lock my door, lie down and meditate. And two things seem to happen: first, I hit my 8 minutes and it's so good that I just set the timer to do another 8--but then almost exactly 4 minutes in someone knocks on my door. It's uncanny, like 12 minutes is how long the universe decrees that I should meditate. The second thing that happens is that I feel fantastic and have no problem getting to work and being super productive.

Seriously, why don't I do that every day? I guess that's what I meant at the beginning of the post when I said I hadn't really found enlightenment.

1 comment:

  1. I haven't managed to establish a consistent practice either, and oh how good it would be! Would love to start each morning with yoga and take time each afternoon for meditation or contemplative prayer.

    My retired priest friend also approached yoga first through a book, which amused me greatly.