The Right Way to Meditate

Martha is easily one of my favourite people in the meditation class. She turned to me midway through the second session and whispered “I have no idea what the hell is going on here.” – and I knew instantly we’d be kindred spirits.

She’s brash, outspoken, quick to laugh and definitely the most skeptical person in the bunch. And as soon as we lie on our yoga mats to meditate, she inevitably drifts off and snores like a truck driver.

In the hushed and focused environment of our gatherings, she often makes me smile with her brutal honesty. “Well I wanted no part of that meditation,” she admitted after a guided reflection where we were encouraged to imagine ourselves floating underwater. “I can’t even friggin’ swim so I just sat here and made my grocery list!”

It’s not that the class isn’t amazing. It is. I am learning a ton and breathing and trusting the process and I can see that perhaps the skyscraper of worries I’ve meticulously built up over the years is starting to crack and shift just a little tiny bit.Or maybe I’m viewing it differently. Either way – I feel better.

Just last week we were led through a half-hour seated meditation. When it came time to share our experience, Martha blurted out “I’m not doing it right! My mind wanders endlessly or I fall asleep. I keep thinking about what I have to do and what happened yesterday and when I should book my next nail appointment. And you people all look so smugly blissful. What am I doing wrong? How come you are getting it and I can’t?!”

Our leader simply smiled peacefully and said “By a show of hands – who else in the class doesn’t feel like they are meditating the right way?” All 18 of us raised our hands. And Martha started to cry.

“The answer is that there is no right way to meditate.” our teacher shared. “You come to the practice and observe what happens. So you fall asleep. That’s ok. So your mind wanders. That’s ok. Everyone will have a unique experience that is right for them. Just keep coming back to your breath. And please be gentle with yourself.”

Isn’t that just the perfect metaphor for life?  It’s so darn easy to look around and think that everyone else has their shit together. Look at that perfect family, that gorgeous couple, those well-behaved kids, the beautiful house, her amazing career, his killer body – that zenned-out person meditating across the room. And we think- what am I doing wrong? Why isn’t this working out for me? It’s frustrating and depressing and makes us feel really alone.

But the truth is we all have messy parts to our lives if you scratch just beneath the surface. We all struggle. Sometimes the dog drags his butt across the freshly washed floor, or you rip the crotch out of your jeans while  volunteering in a kindergarten class, and sometimes you flip out at your kids and threaten to move to California! (or is that just me??)

We all wonder if we are doing things right. Martha just had the guts to say it out loud.

After class I walked to my car with Martha.  Her eyes were still red from crying and I gave her a hug as we parted ways. “Thanks for saying what you did tonight,” I said. “It was really brave.” Her face broke into a wide grin. “I really feel so much better knowing the rest of you are just as shitty as I am at this whole meditating thing.” 

Then she drove off before I could tell her that I have no idea what the hell is going on most of the time either : )

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