Today marks a kind of a milestone for me. Five years ago, I decided to give meditation a whirl. Actually, I’d be giving it a second whirl.
A million years ago, I took a religion class in college called Mysticism. It was a very popular class. I was lucky to get in. It was taught by a young rabbi who drove weekly from Winnipeg to teach it. We would spend the first 20 minutes of each class period in group meditation. If it sounds a little “Sixties,” it was.
What with one thing or another — graduation, the Army, my first real job, my first real job firing and my second real job —somewhere along the line I had given up meditation.
But one day years later, I was lucky enough to land a satellite television interview with ABC News anchor Dan Harris who had just written a book called “10% Happier.” As a skeptical religion reporter for the network, by then he had reported on all things spiritual, from fad religions to fake faith healers.
However, after reporting on meditation and being impressed that it was being taught and accepted all kinds of people, from business leaders to Navy Seals, he decided to take up meditation himself. It took. Later, he wrote “10% Happier,” and still later, “Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics,” about his experience with the practice.
Now, back to me. Instead of “giving up” something for Lent that year, I decided to try meditation again myself. Yes, I know, I was a day late for Lent. (Also, a dollar short, but that’s something else again.)
In an exchange of text messages, Harris even offered me his encouragement from the set of “Good Morning America.” Pretty cool!
For once, I made a good choice. Since then, I have meditated every day of my life. If my journalistic math is correct, that would be 1,825 consecutive days. There must be something else I’ve been as consistent with in my life, but I can’t think of anything right now.
I have meditated on planes and on cruise ships. I haven’t meditated in a car, but I wouldn’t rule it out. Not while driving, however. I have meditated in hotel rooms and, of course, at home.
Usually, if he doesn’t sit on my lap, Desi will sit near me when I meditate. (Desi is a cat.) He likes to eat right after we meditate. That might have something to do with it.
So, what are the benefits? For me, I feel I can focus just a little better than I used to. Years ago, I would try to “multitask,” a word I still hate. Today, if I try to do one thing at a time, I find I can sometimes accomplish just as much or more. Not always but sometimes.
These days, I’m a bit more focused when I read, unlike years ago when my mind would wander for pages at a time. Recently, I’ve re-read a couple of books I’ve read before. Today, it’s like reading them for the first time, especially fiction. I know the characters, but the plot seems entirely new to me.
Now, instead of yelling and gesturing at someone who cuts me off in traffic, I gently honk my horn. It’s a start.
I’ve noticed a few other benefits. For one, I’m sick less often. When I am, it’s relatively minor.
Meditation is no magic bullet. But for me, it works. I intend to continue. Not because meditation has changed my life, but because it is changing my life, ever so gradually and ever so gently.
Feel free to check back in with me in another five years to see how I’m doing.