The Passion Planner made its way to me like most really good things do: by word of mouth. Read More »
So much of what I find myself doing and not doing revolves around fear. I’m not talking about the healthy keep-you-from-getting-run-over fear that keeps you from walking in the middle of traffic or jumping off of cliffs. I’m talking about the tiny gnawing fears: what will they think of me? Who will find out? What are they going to say?
Last week I traveled to Buffalo, NY, to visit friends from high school. These ladies were not those I considered my best friends for much of high school. We didn’t have a ton of classes together and we didn’t engage in a lot of activities after school together, either.
What made these relationships different was that when we went away later in life, to college, to jobs, to other cities, we always found ways to make time for one another.
So now, 15 (yup, that long!) years since we graduated high school, we still make time for one another at least once a year. I live in Nashville and my ladies live in Buffalo, but they come down here or I fly up there. My parents no longer live in Rochester, where we all went to high school, so that makes visits more difficult because we don’t have the holidays to share with one another.
When I started this post–two weeks ago as I was thinking about my journey to Buffalo–I was thinking about how the time and resource investment is what makes these relationships special. There are friends of mine from that same period in my life that are visiting Nashville this week, but although we were close then and follow one another on social media now, we haven’t made the requisite time investment to see one another recently.
This is what changes people in your life from acquaintances to friends and from friends to family: the amount of time you invest into your relationships. Your Significant Other becomes the most important person in your life, and eventually a member of your family (if you’re lucky) because the two of you invest time in building your relationship. Remember that “best friend” you had once upon a time? You spent all that time together and really connected because you spent that time together. There may have been some initial chemistry in any of these relationships, but the investment is really what will carry them through.
When people say “Relationships are work,” sometimes they mean that one has to make compromises and do things one doesn’t want to do, but more than that, on a basic level, relationships require investments of time and attention. What do you invest your time in, and in whom do you invest? Contemplating (and actually answering!) these sorts of questions are a path to happiness.
So: who and what?!
Whenever I share with others that I meditate, which is not often, I get one of a few responses:
a. meditation saved my life
b. I can’t sit still/quiet my mind for that long
c. huh (disinterested glazed-over look)
d. I wish I could do that, but I don’t have the time/the energy/the patience
I used to try to convince those who showed interest that meditation really was a wonderful thing, that it has saved my life, that it has made me a better, more patient and forgiving person, that it was easy, that it was worth the time spent, and that they could do it, too.
And then, one day, I remembered that I don’t like to be preached to. I don’t like anyone else telling me about their conversion experiences. Real change must find its own way to you. It took me three years of therapy and lots of missteps to actually commit to sitting down on the mat (or pillow, or chair, or whatever) and trying to do nothing for just a little while.
So, if it’s just not worked before or you’ve just been too scared/tired/busy to try, here’s some advice I’ve gathered over the years:
1. If you can sit quietly for one minute, then you can meditate. Start small. Don’t expect too much from yourself. No one’s ever been the world’s best meditator, so really, do not put so much pressure on yourself!
2. Try a bunch of different types of meditation: guided, counting, breathing, walking. Also, try different body positions: sitting, standing, laying down, working with props. One of these will be your favorite, your baseline. Others you’ll use for those days you feel wonky or weird. Try them all, it’s good to have a bunch of tools at your disposal. Don’t expect that your brand of bliss is going to look like mine.
3. Read as much as you can on the subject. It’s good to know that other people are having just as much trouble (and success) as you are! It may also give you great ideas for mantras or intentions to guide your practice.
4. Not every time you sit on the mat is going to be life-changing. Sometimes, you’re going to get up before your timer is done. Sometimes you are going to chase your thoughts. Sometimes you are going to feel icky and bad. Remember, meditation is a practice. It is what makes every other part of your life (the game!) a little bit better.
5. Meditation is not about clearing the mind (h/t theyogadoer). You are going to have thoughts. You are human! Meditation is the time to say “Yup, there that thought is. I think that sometimes,” and then, in the immortal words of Elsa, “Let It Go!”
6. Have a focus in mind when you sit down.The focus is that place you snap back to when you realize you’ve been making the grocery list or thinking about what your hair would look like another color or how you’re going to deal with that guy at work. Some people find that just following the flow of their breathing is helpful. Others find that repeating a mantra with their breath (“I’m Okay” is a favorite suggestion from my long-time friend and life coach Meg Cline) helps to focus their practice. If you’re working in a guided meditation, follow the leader’s prompts.
No pressure, though.
I have an app on my phone called “Buddha.” All it does is give me sage little nuggets of advice, proverbs and aphorisms that I think about during my day. I had one recently that I can’t get out of my head:
A jug fills drop by drop.
Ok. So, depending on whether you’re a half-full or half-empty kind of kid, or maybe somewhere in between, this can feel like a boost or a weight.
The way I see it is that your jug, your life, is filled with drops. Sometimes there is a steady stream of them and sometimes they come slowly. Some of these drops are sweet and some are bitter, but eventually they’re going to fill that jug.
I don’t have much to add except for a question: What is in your jug?