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7 strangely beautiful lessons meditation has taught me

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1. Life is not that serious

When you take the time to sit and look closely at your own thoughts, emotions and actions, you begin to see just how changeable we are as humans. What you think of as your personality is a collection of thoughts - that create emotions - that drive you to behave in a certain way. Once you realize that you can stop, or change, a thought, and thus change the emotion and then the action, life becomes a game of “who do I want to be”?

One thought, one idea, one choice can change your future. Now, instead of taking myself, and my life, so very seriously, it becomes a playground to explore. I get to enjoy 24 new hours every day. Each day holds numerous possibilities and opportunities to begin again. Of course I still have goals and need to work to feed myself and have a roof over my head, but how much fun can I have doing it? What thoughts and emotions do I want to experience? What actions am I willing to take to move me toward my goals? Life is no longer a serious endeavor, instead it is an opportunity for playful exploration.

2. I have many bodies

The yogis have a philosophical way of looking at the human in terms of smaller parts that make up the whole. Like the Russian stacking dolls that fit into each other. The Koshas are thought of as energetic layers that fit over or inside the human body to complete the human experience. While in meditation I can clearly see the different parts of my person. My physical body, I can see and feel. My mental body is made up of my thoughts, opinions, judgements and everything that my mind conceives. My emotional body is all of my feelings and emotions. Then there is another body, the one that perceives all of these “other” bodies. I call her the watcher. She can sit in meditation and watch thoughts, emotions, sounds and sensations come and go and be unaffected by them. The yogis call this the bliss body. So you see, I have many bodies and they all make up the whole of who I am.

3. I time travel every day

Anapanasati is a practice that was taught by the Buddha, and involves mindful attention to your breath. It uses the breath as an anchor between the body and the mind. By focusing your mind on your inhale and exhale, you bring your thoughts back to the present moment. Anxiety resides in anticipation of the future. Depression lives in repeated thoughts of the past. These states are momentarily neutralized when we connect our thoughts to the breath and thus the present moment. Meditation has taught me just how often I travel away from the present moment each day. I still time travel, because well….I’m human, but I appreciate the brief moments that I remember to come back to my body, my breath and the present.

4. There are no meditation experts……

only people who never stop practicing. Experts are people who are at the top of their game, they know their field that they specialize in; and people look to them for guidance. There are however no real experts in meditation that can teach you the ultimate, fastest or best way to meditate. The best teachers are those who teach you how to approach meditation with an open mind and no expectations. Meditation is such an individual practice. What works for one, will not do for another. The best advice in one sentence is….Start today, try many different practices, approach each session with a curious and open mind, and don’t stop.

5. Home lies inside of me

The first time I experienced what is often referred to as the state of connection or oneness, I was overwhelmed by the feeling. I had no point of reference to make sense of it. The only word that came to mind was HOME. It felt like I had arrived home. Like being back in a place that was so familiar and so comfortable and yet, it was so completely foreign to me. No one place has ever felt that familiar and peaceful. There is a quote by the peace activist Mahatma Gandhi that I often use in teaching meditation.

"Each one has to find his peace from within. And peace to be real must be unaffected by outside circumstances."

This peaceful, connected space that feels like home never leaves me. I just need to remember to come back to it.

6. I am not who I think I am, and neither are you

The mind is a powerful tool that allows us to make sense of what we see and experience through our physical body. The mind however, is also a construct of the body’s experience and its own interpretations of that experience. So, the mind is this always evolving part of who you are. We think our personalities are fixed and yet, every experience, and thought about that experience, changes how you think, and thus who you are! Which means I am never who I think I am in the moment, I am who I thought I was moments ago. If I am ever changing, then so are you!

7. Life is a paradoxical puzzle

Meditation is very simple, but by no means easy. To sit in meditation every day requires dedication and a desire to do so. One should also approach every meditation session with no expectations; and yet, why meditate if you are not to expect any result? These are all such beautiful paradoxes that only make sense when you start to meditate regularly. Life has no shortage of paradoxes. The Taoist are the best at finding life’s paradoxical nature. Everything seems to contradict itself, but without opposites life loses its depth. What is light, but we can compare it to dark? What is long if we do not understand short. Here are a few of life’s other beautiful paradoxes:

The only constant in life is change.

We always want what we don't have.

The more you try to impress people, the less impressed they become.

The more you fail, the more likely you are to succeed.

The more afraid you are of death, the less you’re able to enjoy life.

The more you learn, the more you realize how little you know.

The more available something is, the less you want it.

The more honest you are about your faults, the less others focus on them.

The more choices you have, the less satisfied you are with each one.

The more convinced someone is that they’re right, the less they probably know.

The only certainty is that nothing is ever certain.

The biggest lesson I have learned from meditating is that meditation is indeed my best teacher.

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