I am a very calm person. I tend to take my time and think a course of action out commit and follow through with contentment. I do not get road rage when someone cuts me off. I don’t usually get annoyed with my coworkers and I am infinitely patient with customers. I am a laid back and content soul. People, I have noticed, sometimes get annoyed with me and my attitude, I tend not to reciprocate. If they are someone that is important to me I try best to make them not annoyed with me, but otherwise I am indifferent to their annoyance.
But I was not always this way. I remember when I was a child, that I had a number of panic induced breakdowns, about everything from broken plans to overwhelming assignment in school. Then one day quite apart from the instruction of any adults, I discovered meditation. Now I had heard of meditation before from movies and television shows, but I thought that meditation was akin to magic; it was something that ninjas and jedi did, not kids. I called it “zoning out”. I can recall one a day that I had elected to skip school, in seventh grade, sitting in a clearing with a friend (the one who convinced me to cut school) and trying to explain this thing I did when I felt stressed. As I tried to form it into words the idea became more clear to me. I would sit in a comfortable position and find a spot, in this case a blade of grass, and then just let you focus go so that you are looking through the blade and seeing just color. The key is not to judge what you are seeing, I told him, just… see it. You don’t think about anything just let your mind wander but don’t let it rest on a particular train of thought.
He told me that this was meditation, being the kind of kid who would and did consider himself to be a shaman ( I never did find out if that was based on some sort of actual training or just some crap he thought would impress me, I am inclined to believe the latter), he assured me that this was no special activity. I took some slight offence, afterall I didn’t think I was a shaman, I just needed to “zone out” every once in awhile, I insisted that it was not meditation. You don’t even close your eyes, I told him. It was not for many years that I came to terms with the fact that, closed eyes or no, what I was doing was meditating.
What I learned to do that day was to seize control of my emotions. Too many times had they carried me away because I had been too invested in a specific goal or result. the phrase “go with the flow” came to define the way I lived my life. I tried to exude calm wherever I went. But as I was attending college I began to realize that this Zen attitude was not the ultimate goal; if you are never phased by a failure or a set back you will calmly watch you future crash before you. A better attitude is one of passion and level headedness mixed. You want to care where you are going and whether or not you get there, but you should be prepared to try again and in different way when you fail.
Unfortunately this last but about the proper attitude to adopt came a tad too late, and I was set back a year from graduation and then made the poor decision to “take a break” before attending grad school. So as is my nature I am accepting of these events, but I have resolved to make my situation better, I am considering this year, a year of training, where I will force myself to create whenever possible and improve my skills and abilities, so that things like Graduate School, and professional training will be available to me going forward.
Meditation is still something I do, though now that my life is slightly less stressful, I tend to use it in a more creative fashion. I sit and sometimes, weather permitting, I walk, sometime with music sometimes not, and I think… of nothing, for as long as I can. I visualize this as sort of like fermentation, so that only the most pressing of interesting ideas bubble to the surface. I it is a useful and productive thought I let it simmer, if not I brush it aside. The real trick in the nothing bit. The hardest thing in the world is to not think of something, the best way that I have found is to think of something else when you get stuck, and then something else, and so on, like a stone skipping on the water. the farther you can go without stopping on a specific train of thought the better the final thought will be.
There is one other thing I use meditation for, and it is slightly different. At the end of the day, and it could have been a busy day or a lazy day, when you go to bed you are not always ready to sleep, you harass yourself with thoughts of yesterday or tomorrow planning the events you think will be important, “getting a jump” it seems to you in that moment. But the fact is the only thing you should be “getting a jump on” is sleep. So to turn my brain off, I meditate, however I do not need to think of nothing until the best something arrives, after all by the time that happens I will be asleep anyways, so what I do instead is think of something specific, that is of no importance and has no trail to walk. I picture a circle with a notch at the top and as I trace the circle with my eyes it lights dimly. I start at the notch and when I have gone full way round I go back the other way. I repeat this cycle in time with my breathing lighting the circle as I inhale and turning it out as I exhale. the goal is to extend the cycle as long as possible until I fall asleep, or at least until I have forgotten about whatever was troubling my sleep to being with.
For whatever purpose you use meditation to achieve it is an excellent way to take control of your mind and keep it for carrying you away with the situation at hand.
And that’s my take on meditation.