Friday, November 20, 2009


My class ends next week, and I am not sure what will happen afterward. I would like to think I'll continue to integrate meditation into my life on a daily basis... maybe even attend temple services or try something out closer to home.

Yet despite how easy it is to sit down in one spot and breathe - I mean, really, what could be simpler... sitting and breathing - meditation at times feels daunting and difficult. It's common to start beating oneself up for thinking too much, to feel like a "bad meditator," or to simply decide there is not enough time to fit it in.

I have done all three of these; the last, most commonly. And it's sort of silly (and embarrassing to admit) that I actually decide on some days I cannot find even five minutes to sit down, and breathe.

I have noticed some changes, however. I am able to stop thinking more often. To bring my thoughts back to the present more quickly when my mind starts to wander away. And to experience a form of happiness - simple, calm, anchored happiness - heretofore unknown to me.

There have been many studies on the affects of meditation: its benefits and potential uses with health issues, ways it can improve mental health and functioning, even how it can increase empathy and alter one's experience of others.

My husband recently told me meditation actually alters your brain chemistry. Apparently, the book he is currently reading describes how the left and right brain become more equally balanced and cohesively aligned through meditation.

In other words, our biological dual natures (the very real split of left and right brain, which translates into yin vs. yang, ego vs. id, little "i" vs. big "I," thinking vs. feeling, logical vs. chaotic, etc.) move toward equilibrium via meditation. So much so, in fact, that our brain chemistry and physical makeup become permanently altered by the practice of sitting.

Sort of incredible to think something so simple could have such profound ramifications—scientific and physical as well as spiritual or metaphysical. Interesting, too, to note how Buddhism, being nontheistic and more of a philosophy than a proscribed dogma, works within any context of faith, religious background, or spiritual leaning.

I am unsure, at this point, whether I will continue looking into Buddhism as a spiritual home. I miss the pluralistic and all-encompassing approach of the religious education program at the Unitarian Universalist fellowship we used to attend. I think it's important to be exposed to and aware of as many different faiths and ways of interpreting our human and higher selves as possible (including atheism and agnosticism).

But something about it definitely fits so far. And the process and commitment of mindfulness has been incredibly powerful - something I intend to carry forward with me.

May you experience at least five minutes of peacefulness today. May you remember to breathe and know you are here.

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