No. 12, September 2007
by Lainey Rudolph
About 8 years ago, I began my ‘Quest’ in earnest. Up until that point, I lived my life fearing the ‘downs’ and wishing only for the ‘ups.’ I had dabbled in meditation in the 60’s, but gave up when enlightenment seemed unattainable for this busy mind.
In 1999 I attended an Omega workshop with Dr. Wayne Dyer. It was a transformative experience and provided me with the motivation I needed to begin again a daily meditation practice. At that time I began to practice Japa meditation with a guided CD produced by Dr. Dyer. I practiced this meditation daily for 20 minute sessions morning and evening for about 3 years. Through various readings I found myself attracted to the Eight Point program described by Eknath Easwaran and began to practice a daily meditation of 30 minutes on the St. Francis prayer. While I am still fond of these practices, I learned about Mindfulness meditation in 2004 and feel that I have found both a practical and spiritual method of practicing meditation as well as living life.
In practicing mindfulness, one seeks to maintain an alert, relaxed awareness of the breath for a period of 30 minutes or more. Quickly, it becomes apparent that this is no easy task! The mind, likened by some teachers, to an untrained puppy, has other plans and will take you on a ride of past and future events. So, the practice might better be termed “Begin again!” Over and over, one notices without condemnation, that the awareness is sneaking off to some juicy story or off planning the next shopping excursion, and one must firmly and gently bring it back to the breath.
For me, this process has been rich with insights about my own tendencies to stay with the comfortable and to negotiate or figure out how to rid my life of all that is uncomfortable or unpleasant. Simple examples are thoughts like, “… when I get the right job, then all will be well” or “when my son graduates from High School, College, etc.” then I can relax, or “when Mr. Right and I get married….” You get the picture!
One might ask, what does meditation have to do with life? Well, by choosing to be conscious throughout my day and practicing mindfulness intentionally, opportunities arise to change my habitual reactions to the everyday events of life. Mindfulness brings both the space and awareness so that in any given situation I can actually watch the feelings and thoughts arise and make a conscious choice on how I will respond this time. It is not a matter of squashing or repressing feelings - quite the opposite. By actually feeling the feelings, even those that are inconvenient, uncomfortable or politically incorrect, there is an opportunity to gently accept what is here right now and do so without judgment.
While mindfulness is gentle, it is also likened to a sword. It cuts through the baloney, to put it nicely. Mindfulness seems easier at times of ‘pleasant’ events when I wish to ‘savor’ the moment and more difficult during times of seemingly ‘unpleasant’ events. Perhaps ‘neutral’ or ‘boring’ times are the most difficult with the mind seeking to latch onto something… anything more interesting!
Mindfulness continues to offer me a path of growth, awareness, compassion, gratitude and balance in the midst of the roller coaster of life… when I choose to be present.
copyright 2007 by Lainey Rudolph
Choosing to Be Present