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How I learned to meditate

How I learned to meditate

About five years ago, I switched from a conventional primary care physician to an integrative medicine physician. My hope was that when I brought up alternative therapies such as massage and chiropractic (and nutrition!), I wouldn’t get a blank stare or an immediate scolding.

 

What I got was so much more….

 

My new primary care physician spent an hour with me during my first visit, and we talked about everything – from medical history to nutrition to relationships to…spiritual practice?!? “You’re basically really healthy,” she concluded, “but I really think you should try meditation.”

 

Hahaha – right, I thought. Like that’s going to happen. At the time I was working full time, building a business, and taking an online certification program to become an integrative nutrition health coach. Oh right – and I also managed a family of four, volunteered at my kids’ schools, drove carpool, put 20-21 meals from scratch on the table every week, and worked out five days a week. Besides, I’m not a floor sitter – that lotus pose was just not going to work.

 

My first contact with meditation was when I was little and my father took up transcendental meditation. He would sit in the armchair in his study and try to meditate…and inevitably fall asleep! Who had time for that?

 

Being a rule follower and a people pleaser though, I did give it a try.

 

Hmmm. Nope. Just couldn’t sit still long enough, couldn’t focus on my breath without my brain going into monkey mind mode: “As soon as I’m done with this, I need to make breakfast, pack lunches, get kids to school, get myself to work….”

 

Maybe I just needed a guided meditation? I checked out what I call the “Oprah Chopra Show” – Ms. Winfrey and Dr. Chopra often run free 21-day intros to meditation. Hmmm. Not bad, making a little progress…but I would often fall asleep because let’s be honest, Dr. Chopra’s voice is just that soothing and delicious.

 

I also checked out two meditation/mindfulness apps for my phone – Calm and Mindfulness Daily. Better – I could listen to the guided meditations as I drove to and from work, as I cooled down from workouts, as I got ready for bed. And suddenly, I was looking forward to these moments sprinkled throughout my day – five minutes, ten minutes when I could “go inside” and yet be completely aware of everything around me (good thing, since sometimes I was driving, huh?) and then come back out and be a more centered person.

 

Over the course of my integrative nutrition training, I was introduced to a book called May Cause Miracles by Gabrielle Bernstein, and I came across ThichNhatHanh’s Savor, Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth  and The Power of Now, and Jon Mundy’s Living a Course in Miracles. While these aren’t books on meditation per se, they do teach us to become present in a deeply mindful way, which I think is really what meditation is about – becoming so present that we can feel our breath, our mind, and our hearts vibrate in sync with the vibrations of the universe.

 

To my surprise, what I discovered was that when I align my breath and my mind and my heart with these universal pulses throughout the day, there are no more coincidences, only synchronicity. Suddenly everything feels not only possible but probable – a sort of “ask and you shall receive.” Putting an intention out into the universe inevitably brings a response – we just have to be present enough to hear it, see it, or feel it.

 

An example: I recently cut back at my job in order to grow my health coaching practice – something I would never have done without a plan B, which in this case was to teach cooking classes at a local commercial kitchen. Perfect, I thought: “kitchen coaching” – helping clients reclaim their health by rediscovering their kitchens and learning to cook from scratch – is a large part of my business and the income will make up for what I’m losing. But the timing was not right, and I ended up dropping ten hours of work and picking up 24, not exactly conducive to building my practice.

 

The more I pondered the question, the heavier pushing the rock up the hill felt, and last week, as I was shoveling snow – yes, even that is conducive to meditation! – I suddenly realized that I was done, that the rock was just going to have to slide back down and stay there. Slightly terrified, I broke the news to my collaborator and to my family, but the moment it was done, I felt an almost unbearable lightness bubbling up.

 

That feeling in itself was reward enough, but no more than 30 minutes later, I got an email from a friend of mine who is a life coach: “I just wanted you to know how impressed I am by the quality of your newsletter (great tips, very user-friendly and important) and your marketing in general. You’re doing all the right things. Just keep doing what you’re doing.”

 

Five years ago, I would never have taken this plunge. Five years ago, those two events – quitting an activity that wasn’t serving me and getting an encouraging email – would have seemed completely unrelated. But now? Now they seem inextricably tied together, and any fear I have about “making it” as a health coach is mitigated by the feeling that setting my intentions and meditating on them brings success, perhaps equally as much as the work that needs to be done.

 

I tell my clients that meditation can be many things, and just as with diet, no one format works for everyone: you need to find what works for you – sitting motionless on a pillow? combining meditation with yoga? prayer? And what works may change over time: just as one diet worked when you were 20 but suddenly stopped being the healthiest way to eat in your 40s, your meditation practice will evolve over time – let it! Don’t cling to one form because it worked in the past; rather, let it be fluid, let it meet you where you are at this time in your life.

 

Most importantly, remember that like yoga, meditation is a practice. It’s not about perfection or an end – it’s about the practice and the process.

 

Last week I had my annual physical – and besides (because of?) giving me an A+ in all areas of my health, my physician asked me for a handful of business cards in order to make referrals to me. “I’d be delighted,” I said, “because you know, a lot of that A+ started with a recommendation you once gave me to meditate….”

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