Several years ago, my older sister became extremely ill, subsequently passing away. She suffered all of her life from complications due to Type 1 Diabetes, which then ended her life after a long struggle with this illness. We were so close; the pain of her passing seemed unbearable and I was overwhelmed with sadness and depression after her passing. Working fulltime and married with two young children, I knew I had to get help with my depression. I recognized how unfair it was to my family to allow myself to be consumed by this negative emotion; I was not myself at work either.
Then one day, when I was at my doctor’s appointment, I must have appeared desperate. He asked if I would consider meditation to help me. I said yes, anything. He loaned me books and tapes on relaxation and meditation. He also showed me how to meditate. I went home, began a routine of meditation in the evening, and used the tapes to guide me into relaxation at bedtime. I would fall asleep peacefully. In the morning, I would get up and meditate for twenty minutes, which before long would get me through my days.
After a month or so, my doctor introduced me to a Zen Monk who took over teaching me meditation, breathing exercises and teaching me the Buddhist Traditions. I met with the monk to meditate privately for months; I felt I was not ready to be in a group meditation just yet. I went to the Zendo six days a week to meditate, and one evening a week for Study Group. I would go away from the Zendo after each session with such peace within me. The process of well-being was taking place.
Next, I learned to chant; this helped deepen my meditation experiences. He explained to me that when we meditate, we can then look inside ourselves and there is no hiding. Negative emotions and forgotten memories can begin to surface; (this does not happen to everyone). Not always are these pleasant nor easy to deal with. Facing what surfaces from within us is the way to work through the negative emotions.
I continued the arduous practice and each time, I would have emotional pain and begin to cry during meditation. The kind monk, in his soft-spoken voice said to me, “You can go and walk out the door and not return; however, what is surfacing emotionally will return and no one knows exactly how it will resurface later.” On the other hand, he said, “You can continue on this path and work through this.” It would not be easy or a quick process, but it would mean progress for my well-being.
I decided to take a week break from practicing, to clear my head so to speak. Nevertheless, I did return to continue my meditation, this time in a seated group setting, and worked through the emotions that surfaced. It has been many years since those days, and I have continued consistently on my path and have reaped the vast rewards. Meditation allowed me to experience the emotional pain I had been trying to suppress, yet now I am able to deal with it in a healthy way. A few months into my meditation practice, I began to get “myself” back. I felt renewed and on the road to emotional stability.
The monk invited me to attend a Zazenkai. This is a daylong session, in which the practitioners partake in seated meditation, walking meditation and working meditation. Also included in the daylong session is listening to Dharma talk and other Zen lectures. It may not sound like it, but it is extremely exhausting in a good way. I have attended several over the years, each time leaving with a newfound awareness of all that surrounds me.
Friends and family saw the progress I was making through meditation. Over the years I have sat with people, teaching meditation techniques for those who have requested this of me. The positive results are amazing. One does not have to have huge issues in life to meditate. Living day to day has its own struggles for all of us. By-products of meditation are, and not limited to, the ability to have a unique calmness during challenging times, restful sleep, to see situations and people in a clear light for what and who they really are, and being mindful. With this in mind, one is able to make better choices and decisions on their path through life.
You do not have to be or become Buddhist; people of all religions meditate. One does not have to belong to a Zen center either. Meditation can easily be done alone, in the privacy of your own home, if preferred. Here is a website that will cover all meditation postures; choose one that will be comfortable for you.
Find a quiet time of day where you will have no interruptions for approximately 20 minutes; (in the beginning you may want to only meditate for 10 minutes and work up to 20 minutes). Set a timer for 10 or 20 minutes when you begin your seated meditation. Choose the meditation position that is best suited for you, take a few deep breaths and begin to feel the calmness within. Eyes open looking down at the floor or eyes closed, now begin to concentrate on your breathing, counting each breath 1,2,3,4 then begin counting from 1 again. Take a deep breath in and then exhale out; this is 1. Continue each breath until you count to 4, then begin to count from 1 again. This will help to keep you focused and your mind from wondering. Mind wondering, also called “Monkey Mind”, is common during meditation. Acknowledge your thoughts and then continue to count as you breathe. Eventually, you will have less “Monkey Mind”, allowing your meditation to deepen. The more you fight topics that come into your mind, the tougher meditation will be; see it, then let it go. It is best to meditate everyday if possible, especially in the beginning. Meditation will become easier each time. When the timer goes off, this concludes your seated meditation session. You will begin to feel the calmness, and all that goes along with meditating daily. I have given you a brief guide to meditation; however, there are numerous books and CD’s online and at your local bookstores, to teach you how to meditate. There are even free videos you can watch as well.
“As more people achieve some degree of mental calm, insight, or the ability to transform negative emotions into positive ones, there will be a natural reinforcement of basic human values and consequently a greater chance for peace and happiness for all.”
– The Dalai Lama of Tibet
Back to Stories