Meditation is an act of bravery.
To sit down and allow life and thoughts to swirl around you while perched upon a planet that is both spinning in circles and revolving in an ellipse is a quiet revolution in and of itself. It’s an act of resistance against the constant motion that sweeps us in a current of busyness. To meditate is to see what one often ignores, the underlying silence and stillness.
But why bother, is always the question.
Although sitting quietly seems simple enough that we don’t hesitate doling out that command to kindergarteners, it is actually quite a challenge. As soon as our bodies stop moving, the clutter of our thoughts seems to pick up speed heading willy-nilly in all directions. Peace is not the first thing we encounter on our path to stillness. Usually we run smack dab into a wall of restlessness first.
Again, why bother?
I teach meditation classes comprised mostly of beginners. They show up on a personal quest for peace, and soon meet the monkeys goofing off in their minds. Their bodies constantly alert them to the discomfort of being still by making joints ache, muscles complain and feet go numb. If you peered through the window of our studio, we would look like a tranquil monastery, but often the journeys taking place inside are bumpy and annoying.
Still, the students show up. And the more time they spend sitting in their restlessness, the calmer they become. Their bodies start to expect and accept stillness. The students begin to feel waves of energy they’ve previously ignored. The monkeys in their minds begin to take breaks from all their commotion. Peace becomes tangible, not just in the sense that they are experiencing it as a state of being, but tangible in the sense that peace is an actually thing that can be touched, held, carried, and shared. It is beautiful.
Still, others don’t come.
They express genuine interest in learning meditation. They know the benefits and feel the longing, but they remain caught in the riptide of perpetual motion. As a teacher I know what they need to do is just come and sit. They will find the courage they need to break free simply by showing up. As a teacher I also know that the first step has to be theirs. And so, the door remains open.
Here is the answer to why bother.
Imagine yourself at the end of your life. An angel appears and it is time for you to go. You ask for more time, and to your utter surprise, your wish is granted. What would you do?
You don’t get years, or months, or weeks. Travel and ambitions are out of the question. You get seven precious more hours here on earth. What would you do?
Would you waste them worrying as they frittered away, counting down to nothing? Would you bobble along as usual? Would you try to control what was no longer yours? Would you grieve your gift away?
Or would you want to sit or walk on this beautiful planet and marvel at the miracle of existence? Feel the sun warm your face one last time? Breathe in the wind? Would you want to kiss, and cuddle your beloveds, truly hearing their sweet voices one last time? Would you want your entire focus to be not on what you are leaving, but what you have for seven extra hours?
All of us hope to die in peace, but the real miracle is to live in peace.
Meditation is a practice. We practice peace, because wouldn’t it be a shame to leave that to the very end? None of us know how many hours we have left on earth, but if we would choose to spend our last seven in peace, why not all the rest too?
The first step is simply to sit down and breathe.