How not to meditate

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Back when I was teaching meditation, I used to give my students the following advice on establishing a meditation practice:

  • Find a quiet, private place where you won’t be interrupted during your meditation time
  • Try to avoid meditating in the comfy chair or couch – those places seem to be more conducive for naps or watching TV than for keeping the alert, focused mind needed for meditation. Optimally, you should sit on the floor on a cushion.

I’ve never been particular good at following directions, not even my own.

My meditation practice waxes and wanes depending on what time I wake up and when I have to be to work. Morning meetings wreak havoc on my practice. And when I do my morning meditation, I probably do not choose the optimal conditions, but I doubt I would have it any other way.

This morning I had enough time to meditate. So, after I had my cup of coffee (otherwise I can’t focus worth a crap) I wandered into the sun-room and plopped myself down in the comfy chair that overlooks the avocado & peach trees. Wrapping myself in my slanket, I check my posture and start to settle in. Within a couple of minutes, here comes Alaska. He jumps up and for a minute or two stands awkwardly on my lap and then finally settles down. Being such a fragile old chap these days, he is so light that his presence doesn’t really disturb what concentration I have been able to muster.

Breathing in, breathing out, watching my mind as it starts to wander away, bored with the breath. Come back here you silly mind, settle down. Breathing in, breathing out, ah that’s better . . . th-thunk!

Sasquatch has an amazing ability to know when I am trying to meditate. After the characteristic th-thunk! of him jumping off the bed, there will follow the sound of 29 pounds of cat trundling towards my chair. I am braced for his leap onto the arm of the chair and his eventually settling in with his upper body on my chest. He and Alaska greet each other as brothers with a nice head lick and then jostle for position. Eventually we are all still again. Breathing in, breathing out (but a little less fully with 40 pounds of feline on top of me) , the mind once again starts to settle and . . . OUCH! Mr. Binkles! The rabbit has decided he wants in on the action and starts scratching at my leg for attention.

Both cats give up and jump down. Apparently my lack of concentration is disturbing their meditation. And with the cats gone, Mr. Binkles goes about his business and leaves me alone. Taking a quick glance at my clock, I see I have to wrap it up. So, I recite the Heart Sutra, do my dedications and I’m out of there.

Did I have a nice, deep meditation or profound spiritual experience. No, not really. But, I do get to practice patience and love, and there ain’t nothin’ wrong with that. It’s a lovely way to start a day.

12 responses »

  1. Thanks for sharing that. You’ve given me another reason not to get a cat, which I periodically consider than dismiss.

  2. I read the header ‘How not to meditate’… I donno, meditation doesn’t strike me as a very exciting topic, but this was fun to read. And I loved the ending.

    Have you ever read ‘Eat Pray Love’ by Elizabeth Gilbert? This reminded me of a few parts vividly. You might enjoy it.

  3. Ron – It is possible to have a cat, or even two and still have a meditation practice. I just have problems setting boundaries with them. Besides, they are such good little teachers.

    Amurin – you are the third person who has implied that I may very well enjoy that book. Perhaps I will finally take the hint and pick up a copy.

    Stevo – yes, some people let animals teach them about patience, and others have children. Either way, it’s a good lesson to learn.

  4. Patience and love, I have a lot of one and the other comes in spurts. I must practice patience.

    Indeed a lovely start to your day.

  5. Mmmmmm. I’ve had cats. I think it’s they who set the boundaries. We just kid ourselves that we’re the ones in control.

  6. I was just talking with someone the other day about furry bodhisattvas, specifically the feline kind and how mine is teaching me with extreme lessons on patience. If I ever get my video cam working again, I’ll do a little vid of all the stuff in my sacred space and share with everyone.

  7. That sounded like the most wonderful heart-opening way to start a day: all that love pulled into you by osmosis while you are sitting there open and able to breath it in. I wish I could remember to start my days (and end my days) with such a team. :-)
    Shu

  8. It seems to me that most pets have a knack for knowing when we are trying to do something other than pay attention to them. They also have a knack for making sure they are involved in whatever it is we are trying to not have them involved in. Would we have it any other way? I think not

  9. I’ve decided I meditate better in motion than I do when sitting still. I think this is technically illegal, but it works a lot better for me. I walk, and practice counted breathing. Sometimes I even calm down for half a second.

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