Learning from a Beginner

I am not good at meditating, yet.

I don’t do it regularly enough. I forget about its benefits. I forget that it’s easy to do and does not require a special, quiet place or an extended chunk of time, or a completely crossed-off to-do list.

I forget that there’s no single practice of meditation that I must embrace as correct. (I don’t even know enough about meditation to really know what is correct, anyway. Though I quite like Karen Maezen Miller’s “How to Meditate,” if you’re looking to learn how.)

When I catch five minutes (or fifteen, or thirty) to meditate, though, I find myself learning and re-learning some helpful lessons. Lessons like:

When you breathe, your priorities get a lot clearer. The first one is always, Keep breathing. The next will surface quickly if you can quiet your mind and stop pushing.

The most efficient way to get your work done can involve pausing and not working for a few moments. I find that by midday, most days, I have so many different things on the go that focusing on just one of them for long enough to complete it can be a challenge. Sitting and breathing helps me set down my juggling balls for a moment, then select one of them with intention and focus fully on it long enough to move it forward. For me, this is a far more effective mode of operating than multi-tasking.

Your body knows what to do. The next time you need to make a decision and you’re not quite certain that you know what to do, try this: 1. Follow Karen Maezen Miller’s recipe for zazen meditation. 2. Invite your intuitive mind-body to help you with your challenge. I find it helpful to say to myself, “May everything that comes through me serve the highest,” as a dedication to the greater good and a caution against letting my ego speak the loudest. 3. Ask your inner knowing for guidance, and be receptive to whatever comes. It may be an image, a phrase, a song lyric, or a physical sensation. 4. Act on it. (I am learning this process from Kate Sutherland, who is a brilliant genius. I highly, highly recommend her book, Make Light Work.)

It’s okay to be a beginner. I’ve always been rather impatient with the learning process. Things that come quickly to me, I’ve pursued; things that were harder to grasp, I’ve tended to let go. Now, I find I want to practice this even though it feels unnatural, even though it does not come particularly easily. And even though I feel awkward and dorky when I do it. I also feel like a bit of an imposter writing about meditation, as a complete novice. But in some ways I think that’s part of the practice – meeting these resistance points and embracing them rather than fighting them. So I’m rolling with it. That feels like very, very good practice for someone as achievement-oriented as me.

I have a long way to go. That much is clear. And still: I’m learning already.