When I’m not running… I meditate

I picked up a new activity recently: meditation. It started accidentally in late April while I took a hiatus from running training, after completing the half marathon. During the break, I decided to visit Land of the Medicine Buddha in Santa Cruz as I was searching for some spiritual guidance. Actually, that sounded more worldly than it really was. Something was bugging me with work so I wanted to take a day to reflect and be away from all of it. I decided to go to LMB since it was very much out of character for me. I tended to use exercise to “take out” any stress/frustration (hello, running!) Going the quiet, spiritual type of search was certainly out-of-my-element (Or maybe I finally reached the age for needing wisdom, ha!)

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In any event, it has been about a month now. Between running training and practicing meditation, my down time is very much filled, happily I should add. Of course, like running, there is up and down with meditation. I’d say mostly “up’s” as I find myself more in tune with myself and taking each day more at face value and not “add” too much “story” to it.

I practice at a Buddhist center near my place. It happens to be in the same tradition as LMB (although I still have not looked into what exactly this branch is) To me, that is what attracts me in the first place. The Buddhist center is obviously Buddhist, but the folks there are diverse and open-minded, including the teachers. My favorite teacher is an ordained American nun and she explains things in a practical matter (not always referring to Buddhist principles) It is very easy to relate to. Who can’t relate to “constantly grabbing the iPhone and checking e-mails/facebook?” That transcends across culture and religion divide.

With meditation, I’m learning (slowly) what ticks for me. Each meditation is 30 minutes and in silence. I’ve done guided meditation and that is easier to adjust to as the mind can focus on the guidance. In silent meditation, however, the room is sometimes so quiet (even with 30 members!) that I can hear different breathing rhythm. Boy, the mind is then racing, jumping, and freaking out in dealing with that kind of stand-still. I’m so used to constantly in motion or in some kind of chatter that silence is very disturbing at first. I notice that I’d get restless around 15 minutes into the quietness. Then, I would open my eyes, stare at people/the wall/the teacher; anything but meditate!

It finally asked the teacher of my restlessness this week. She wisely told me that if I was restless on the cushion, then I was likely restless in life. That was simply but profound! I never pictured myself as restless (I coded it as “go-getter”, hahaha!) but I could start seeing my habits of checking my iPhone for e-mails/messages/facebook was stemming from that restlessness. My teacher said to observe my daily actions and try to find what trigger the restlessness. She said it could be stress, an emotion, an action, or a person. The key was to be mindful and eventually with time and practice, I would learn to let it go. So far, I haven’t had any progress in pin point the trigger, but at least I am more mindful when the desire to reach for the phone showed up. I would stop and ask “do I need to check Facebook while waiting in line?” I’m teaching myself to stay in the present, even if it’s waiting in line to check out grocery.

I’m not sure where this new “hobby” will take me. One thing for sure is that with meditation, I’m more at ease,  more calm, and more centered. So far so good!

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