There was an article in the Sunday Times Style magazine that caught my attention this week. It was entitled "Meditation Generation" and was suggesting that the "Millennials" are turning to meditation where Generation X turned to Yoga. I am not sure I totally agree with this as many people have been meditating for many years, just they don't make a song and dance about it as much as is made these days.
Still I like the opening quote, which reads, "The model and actress Daisy Lowe started practicing transcendental meditation earlier this year. "I do it morning and evening, for 20 minutes, wherever I am. On the bed or the sofa; in the garden with my little Maltese, Monty, in cars, on trains or planes; and once in my friend Joseph Reuben's dressing room".
"It is powerful at first", she says. "So many people in my life fell away". I assume she means flaky showbiz chums and she laughs. "Some of those went, but I had the worst break up with a really old friend. Then people I hadn't seen for years started coming back into my life - people who don't drain me, who I have a balanced relationship with",
Of course this resonates with me too. Beginning a meditation practice was indeed quite a profound experience in terms of how it does change things on the outside, the more you sit with things on the inside. Your energy changes and people do drop away, but more than that, it is that word balance that comes into play. Not least in terms of balanced relationships as mentioned above, but more so balance to one's life.
People frequently tell me they would like to start meditating and do I know of a class they can join. Well I do, but of course going to a class does not make "meditation" any less challenging. Like everything in life you need to practice and yes of course, you can encourage some discipline in your practice by attending a class, but really you just need to get on with it.
I didn't really start practicing meditation in earnest until over a year ago now. I wasn't ready really. I mean I did meditate, I used to attend a class and of course I have attended many Yoga retreats which encouraged daily meditation and I have gone through spells where I have listened to guided meditations or undertaken a 40 day kundalini meditation plan, but I hadn't committed to a regular practice.
That all changed last year where we were faced with fertility issues and most of the holistic material I read suggested incorporating a daily meditation practice into your life. So this is what I did. I started sitting for 20 minutes each morning watching my breath, "I am breathing in, I am breathing out" and trying to catch myself when my mind started wandering and labelling such wandering "thinking" for that is exactly what it is. You do it without judgement, there is nothing wrong with thinking, the challenge is to catch the fact you are doing it, "awakening" to it therefore, and with that awakening comes present moment awareness, and in theory the more you practice that, the more present to you are in day to day life.
Not only that of course, meditation comes with many positive benefits including the prevention, treatment or even cure for many things including stress, chronic pain, depression, backache, colds, weight loss, insomnia, arthritis, eczema, loneliness, anxiety and of course learning to accept and deal with what is happening in each moment and encouraging, therefore, an ability to go with the flow and allow stuff to wash over you so you can maintain greater peace of mind and wellbeing.
While I only sit for 20 minutes a day, it can still be a challenge, but the more you do it, the more you will find you miss it if you don't do it. Taking twenty minutes out to sit in silence is indeed a joy in what is often a noisy and frenetic world we live in these days. I have no doubt that the meditation has played a powerful role in helping me to deal with the challenges that this last year or so has brought to me.
At 20 weeks I was diagnosed with placenta praevia, which affects 1 in 200 women. Basically this means that the placenta sits low in the uterus, which is far from ideal, as it can block the baby's natural exit into the world and result in extreme blood loss for the woman, which could lead to death. There are 4 grades to placenta praevia depending on where the placenta is sitting and I have the most extreme, which I believe takes me to odds of 1 in 1,000.
This was not an easy diagnosis to accept initially. I had planned on a home birth so I could tap into the spiritual energy of the whole natural birthing experience from the peace and quiet of my own home. In fact I was very passionate about it and read many books in preparation. So discovering that I have no choice but to go to the other end of the birthing spectrum and have a C-section in a very medical environment was far from ideal.
Still, as is always the case when life throws such challenges to me, it encouraged yet more time on my mat, to meditate and practice Yoga and just be with what is. I turned to the iching too, a wonderful book that helps one to deal with life's changes, so that you can develop a deeper understanding of what is going on for you. Of course there were tears for the loss of the much longed for and envisioned birth, but also there was an acceptance of the present moment and the fact that this is how clearly how it is meant to be and with that, no doubt many benefits.
For example I quickly realised how judging I had been towards women who chose a more medical birthing route, and how limiting I had been in considering that one can only tap into the spiritual nature of childbirth from the comfort of one's own home. So if anything, the fact I have had to go through this process has been transforming on many levels. Not least in letting go and going with the flow, but also in terms of realising that every moment offers an opportunity for spiritual growth.
It sounds obvious I know. But I also now know it to be true. As is always the case at times like this, people and books come into your life to help to learn more about whatever it is you are going through. And I don't mean in my case, learning more about the condition, but more so about how to live more in touch with what is going on. In the past I would opt to run away from anything too painful to deal with in the moment, be that literally going away, or be that consuming that extra glass of wine to numb the pain. Being pregnant meant I could neither run away nor drown my sorrows, so that has been a hugely liberating experience, for it has proven to me that there is another way and that other way does involve just sitting with it and making peace on the inside.
It doesn't mean it is always easy, there have been days of self pity, but at the end of the day, we choose our experiences. And meditation, I believe, helps us to catch ourselves when we are choosing an experience that does not compliment our higher self, that does not do us any favours. Of course we are bound to stumble along the way and mistakes will be made, for how else do we learn and grow, but with practice and time, well, I don't know, stuff just changes, we transform. And then the challenge is stepping into that transformation and realising we are not the same person we were a few months earlier, if anything, we are becoming more and more true to ourselves as the "rubbish" drops away.
The whole pregnancy journey has been an incredibly humbling experience and I wouldn't change any aspect of it. So I have to have a C-section, but it could be worse, it can always be worse, and no doubt there is a bigger picture to all this that I am only now beginning to glimpse - I am a great believer that things happen for a reason.
It is like that wonderful quote from Jack Kornfield:
..." Occasionally we get to choose the cycles we work with, such as choosing to get married or beginning a career. At these times it is helpful to meditate, to reflect on which direction will bring us closer to our path with heart, which will offer the spiritual lesson that it is time for in our life. More often we don't get to choose. The great cycles of our life wash over us, presenting us with challenges and difficult rites of passage much bigger than our ideas of where we are going. Midlife crisis, threats of divorce, personal illness, sickness of our children, money problems, or just running yet again into our own insecurity or unfulfilled ambition can seem like difficult yet mundane parts of life to get over with so we can become peaceful and do our spiritual practice. But when we bring to them attention and respect, each of those tasks has a spiritual lesson in them. It may be a lesson of staying centred through great confusion, or a lesson of forbearance, developing a forgiving heart with someone who has caused us pain. It may be a lesson of acceptance or a lesson of courage, finding the strength of heart to stand our ground and live from our deepest values...Difficult cycles are everyone's practice".
Time and time again, if we are indeed following a spiritual path, then we will be given many opportunities for growth and transformation. You could say it is answered prayers, for prayers do get answered but perhaps just not in the way we expect. For example if I pray to be of service, to be a better Yoga teacher, then no doubt life will present me with many an opportunity to delve that little bit deeper, to develop my sense of compassion, or awareness of healing or perhaps my experience of certain situations so that I can have more empathy towards others. There is always work to be done. But the key perhaps is to just get on with living, to let go, let go and let go again, and remember to keep your feet on the ground, smile and laugh and have fun!! Oh and of course, sit and meditate a little every day if you can as you never know what may happen! Which leads me to a final quote from Jack Kornfield:
"Every spiritual life entails a succession of difficulties because every ordinary life also involves a succession of difficulties, what the Buddha described as the inevitable sufferings of existence. In a spiritually informed life, however, these inevitable difficulties can be the source of our awakening, of deepening wisdom, patience and compassion. Without this perspective, we simply bear our sufferings like an ox or a foot soldier under a heavy load. Like the young maiden in the fairy tale "Rumpelstiltskin" who is locked in a room of straw, we often do not realize that the straw all around us is gold in disguise. The basic principle of spiritual life is that our problems become the very place to discover wisdom and love".
It is all so true. Life is full of magic even in the midst of all the madness...or perhaps even more so in the midst of all the madness!