My Attempts to Meditate

Are you considering meditation? Maybe you have heard or read about all the benefits associated with meditation. Maybe some of your friends meditate. Maybe someone has suggested meditation to you.

About two years ago, I took meditation instruction at a Buddhist Center near me. I chose to do so for several reasons. One, is that I am a high strung person with a very high anxiety level. I worry too much and stress over things that would not bother most people.

Furthermore,I am an insomniac. I have been diagnosed as having Primary Insomnia I which is a neurological problem. Any stress feeds my insomnia. I have suffered and continue to suffer greatly because of my insomnia.

I hoped that meditation might help me with my stress and anxiety as well as with my insomia. I was hoping to learn how to relax in my day to day life. I was hoping to find tools to better manage my insomnia and the symptoms of my insomnia. I was hoping against hope that learning how to meditate might help me sleep better.

It sometimes seems that “all” my friends either meditate or practice yoga. I know that that is not true. “All” my friends probably do not meditate or practice yoga but so many do that it seems like they all do. While some of these friends are new to either meditation or yoga, most have been meditating or practicing yoga for many years. They did not just begin. Over the years meditation has been suggested to me to help me relax.

About two years ago, I finally got around to visiting a Buddhist Center near me. This Buddhist Center offers free meditation instruction to the public and they also offer what is called public sits. A public sit is group meditation which is open to the public, persons like myself who are not Buddhists nor studying to become one.

Learning how to meditate was actually very easy. There are chairs available for older persons and those with health issue which do not allow them to sit on the cushions. Other persons sit on cushions. I sat in a chair. You sit upright with your hands placed face down on on your thighs. You look downward. Your eyes are slightly open. And you breathe in and out. You follow your breath. This is beginning meditation.

It was relatively easy to get into the correct position with eyes down, slightly open, and concentrate on my breathing. At first, it was also relaxing. But staying in this position was not so easy. In fact, it was very difficult. I got antsy. I got bored. I became very aware of my body and all its aches and pains along with other problems such as the itch on my nose.

But most difficult was stopping my thoughts. Until you try to stop thinking, you will not realize how difficult it is. It is very hard to stop thinking. And to make the situation worse, the thoughts that intrude are often negative thoughts. At least this was my experience. Unwanted thoughts popped up about things that persons had said or did that had really hurt me. I would begin to experience anger.

I was given a meditation instructor early on. There was no charge. She was there to guide me but she also became my friend and still is. We talked about my difficulties in practicing, as it is called. All persons new to meditation have the same problems. Even experienced meditators have problems with thoughts. You focus on your breath, in and out. I was taught when you realize that you are thinking, and you will think, you stop and say to yourself “thought”. You acknowledge the thought and then move on to focusing on the breath. The idea is to quiet the mind, ie, stop thinking. I could not.

I went to many public sits and other events and celebrations. Meditation always precedes a celebration or comes afterwards. Meditation is more important than anything else. Some of these persons meditate as long as four hours at a time. Most, if not all of the members of this community, have shrines in their homes.

In time, I found it too exhausting and stressful to continue. Interestingly, I went to this Buddhist Center to learn how to relax through meditation. Instead I found the meditation to add to my stress and my fatigue.

But for me, the greater problem was my insomnia. I often am very tired because I sleep so poorly. And trying to meditate with my eyes slightly open, looking down on the floor, caused me to become even more fatigued and tired. My impulse was to close my eyes.

Furthermore, I had hoped to learn meditation so that when I was having difficulty sleeping, I would be able to meditate lying in bed with eyes closed. But this particular sect does not meditate with eyes closed or lying down. You sit and you meditate with eyes slightly open. There is no adapting the technique that you are learning and expected to practice.

I was not getting what I had hoped to get. And in fact, it was adding to my stress and to my fatigue. I stopped going.

I really like the people at this center. They give freely of their time and of themselves. They are compassionate and caring persons. I am friends with my meditation instructor. I may still go to a celebration or event. And if so, there will be meditation before or afterwards. I will be glad to meditate with them.

I have learned a lot. I learned one type of meditation technique. I learned some about Buddhism. And I learned about this particular sect of Buddhism.

I would like to learn more about Buddhism. I would like to visit another Buddhist community and learn about other sects. I would also like to learn about other meditation techniques. I am looking for one where the eyes are closed. However, after searching on the web, I find that most Buddhist groups meditate with eyes slightly open. That does not mean that all do but most do.

If you are considering meditation, there is free meditation instruction easily available from many sources. You can do a search of meditation instruction in your own community. You should get results. There are meditation classes and instruction offered almost everywhere from very small to very large communities.

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