The Gifts I Received From Meditating
I have received many gifts from meditating. I’ve learned awareness, acceptance, discernment, and letting go from practicing daily meditation.
My friend Terry Hershey tells a story about a little boy who runs inside to see his mom. He elates, “Mommy! Mommy! Guess what I saw?” His mom is busy at her desk, and without looking up, she says, “Tell me, honey. What did you see?” “Mommy. Listen to me,” the boy pleads. She replies, “Honey, I am listening. I am also working.” The boy says, “Mommy, listen to me with your eyes.”
I first started meditating when my mentor Tony D’Souza told me it would change everything because it would teach me to see what was necessary for my life. In other words, I started to pay attention to my intrinsic wants, not just my surface feelings. At that time, I had been suffering from clinical depression for six months, my marriage was beginning to fail, and my business was failing. So, with those pressures ringing through my brain, I heard Tony say meditation would fix my life. Meditation didn’t fix my life. Instead, meditation gave me the tools I needed to change everything.
The gifts meditation gave me were a way to be present in my life and compassionate to myself. It taught me how to be aware of the conflicting emotions that I was experiencing, and it gave me the space to sort through them. Pleasantly, meditation also calmed my mind a little bit. Furthermore, a daily practice allowed me to see that accomplishing goals was not as important as experiencing life-satisfaction. Without knowing it, I was learning how to concentrate. And finally, again, without realizing it, in my morning meditation, I was practicing the skills I needed to navigate my daily life with the least amount of suffering. I learned awareness, acceptance, discernment, and letting go all without leaving my bed in the morning.
The gifts I received from meditation are incalculable to me. I feel incredibly grateful I learned this skill because, as Tony said, meditation profoundly changed everything.
Meditating Taught Me How to Be Present to My life
Meditation taught me how to be present in and to my life, not instantly, though. This transformation gradually increased as I practiced. We have extremely powerful autopilots running our day-to-day lives. There is nothing wrong with this brain skill. It’s helpful because it allows us to accomplish tasks with minimal effort. However, living on autopilot can also lull us into a stupor of repetition if we are not paying attention.
Unfortunately, once autopilot has dulled us down, we tend to grab and hold on to anything that breaks the monotony because it provides some momentary diversion from the monotonous repetition of autopilot. In that grasping, though, our brain rarely discerns how much meaning and fulfillment those distractions bring us. Instead, we tend to experience an instant burst of pleasure that quickly gets absorbed into our autopilot norms, and then we go searching for the next thrill.
I fell into that stupor and grasping before I started practicing meditation. I learned by watching my mind in meditation that autopilot, patterns, normal rob me of a lot of meaning in my life. Meditation also taught me how to discern which trends bring me lasting joy versus which give me quick relief from my boring patterns. With these new insights, I feel I am much more present and conscious of my life and choices.
Meditation Taught Me that Life Satisfaction is My Goal
I learned from my dad that productivity is critical for a self-employed person. He was a self-employed cabinet maker, and I helped him in his shop a lot while growing up. About fifteen minutes before we’d break for lunch, he would glue some cabinet parts together. Then we’d go eat, and he’d say, “To be productive, always have glue drying.”
I took this lesson to heart. I’ve been self-employed my whole adult life, and I see the wisdom in his words. However, I also allowed that belief to become a trap for me. I put so much effort into trying to keep several projects going using that same time-productive-glue-drying attitude, that I rarely enjoyed the pleasure of the work I was doing. The effort of relentlessly trying to be productive took the fun out of my career.
Meditation gave my brain the space to discern being productive wasn’t satisfying me. Instead, I began looking at my work as a way to create meaning for myself. Now I don’t make as much money because I’m not as productive, but I feel immensely more satisfied with my life. And ironically, I now have more money to spend because I’m not always buying the latest widget to try and create more productivity. I feel more purposeful because life-satisfaction is my goal. My time in mediation allowed me to see and reframe my goals for that satisfaction.
Meditation Taught Me How To Concentrate On One Thing At A Time
Meditation taught me how to concentrate on one thing at a time. For some people, this may seem apparent. For me, it wasn’t. I began meditating in the summer of 2009. Starting with my first meditation, I grew impatient with myself. That impatience grew with every meditation. Tony and Fr. Thomas Keating taught me how to meditate using Centering Prayer as the method. They always said meditation is a non-violent exercise. However, I ignored that point. In the beginning, I constantly tried to force my mind to be quiet or empty. When inevitably I failed to keep out the intruding thoughts, I grew impatient with myself. Eventually, I even felt angry at myself for “failing” at meditation.
Repeatedly, both of my mentors had said, when thoughts come into your mind, notice them, and gently go back to focusing on your sacred word or breath. There was no need for anger, frustration, irritation, judgment, or impatience. Thoughts are automatic; redirecting your mind is a skill. I learned that skill by persistently going back to my point of focus. It turns out the skill of refocusing is what builds concentration.
Meditation Calms My Mind
Meditation Calms My Mind. Meditation is noticing my thoughts and distractions and returning my concentration to my breath or my point of focus. It is that simple, …and also that difficult. There are still constant thoughts going through my mind while I meditate each morning. So, I notice them and redirect my concentration. I see them and gently shift my attention.
Once I let go of the constant effort to control my thoughts or silence my brain, my mind started to rest. It stopped fighting itself and instead eased into the discipline of concentration. The battle for silence and control of my automatic thoughts was torturous. Accepting that thoughts arise and letting go of the need to stop them and then refocusing on my breath created a restful space in my mind where I can recharge. Meditation is similar to tuning out the noise in a loud restaurant, so I can focus on the conversation I’m in. The letting go that I do in meditation creates the calm abiding that I experience inside.
Meditation is Practice for My Daily Life
Several years ago, my idea of Superman, my dad, had a stroke. While I was growing up, my dad seemed invincible. I believed anything he set his mind to he could do. He was also a mental and emotional anchor in my life. As a child, when the emotions were too great for me to handle, I’d run into my dad’s shop, and he’d give me a big hug that made me feel secure. As an adult, he was my best friend. He was there to support me emotionally and offer advice. Then he had a stroke, and Superman faded away during the following two years.
The stroke led to a month of intensive care, four months of recovery care after brain surgery, and almost another year of long term care and physical therapy before my dad could go home. Once he was home, I could fully see how much Superman had disappeared. I watched my mom struggle to find her footing as the caretaker of an almost helpless man. And I watched my dad battle to do simple tasks that had been effortless for him before.
The results of my meditation practice became profoundly clear during those first two years after my dad’s stroke. I could not stop the suffering that my parents were experiencing. I could let go of my desire to “fix” an unchangeable reality. Noticing my wish to change reality, I more easily let go of the negative thoughts and feelings wrapped around the loss of my Superman and watching my mom struggle to adjust. Instead of dwelling on what I could not change, I accepted the ways things were. I focused on what is essential now, giving my mom a break and my dad some enjoyment through long lunches and good conversation.
Meditation is the skill of noticing and redirecting my attention to my breath, and practicing that skill every morning translates into living that skill in my life. Because of my daily meditation, I learned to let go of the trauma even though I felt sad, and I grieved losing my Superman dad. Meditation didn’t take away my negative feelings. Instead, meditation helped me to accept reality and work through the changes compassionately.
I think the most important skills that I have learned from meditation are awareness, acceptance, discernment, and letting go. These are tools I use daily to navigate my life, so I accomplish the most life-satisfaction with the least amount of suffering. Meditation has taught me how to be present in my daily life and respond consciously. I can be more intentional in my decisions, more present for my wife and loved ones, and I can focus on creating life-satisfaction and a feeling that I have a purpose.
Tony D’Souza told me meditation would change everything because it would teach me to see the essential parts of life. That is what I have learned practicing meditation. Now, I invite you to discover the benefits of meditation for yourself. If you would like to learn more about meditation, please write to me. Together, let’s create more meaningful and happy lives for ourselves.
I will be teaching a live Zoom class about how meditation rewires our brain for Joy, Peace, and Contentment. Will you please join me on Saturday, Oct. 10th, from 9 am-12 noon mountain time. You can register for this class at CenteringPrayer.net. I’ll put the link in the description. Additionally, please go to my website and join my newsletter list. I invite you to join me as we both create an easier, happier life for ourselves.
The organizers of this class have postponed it until early next year. I want to offer you the possibility of taking this class sooner. So, if you would like to participate in a class this fall or in a private class with me, please write to me here.
Thank you for watching this video. I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you next time. May you have a peaceful day.