“If you want to find God, hang out in the space between your thoughts.”
According to a brain imaging study done by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, mindfulness meditation alters regions of the brain associated with memory, awareness of self, and compassion. [i]
I am frequently asked about the positive impact meditation has had on my life. Although I am far from being an expert –far from the 10,000 hours of practice— in my experience this positive impact has come from the discipline of training my mind to be present. As it is with any practice, outcome is not seen session after session but over time; and its benefits come in the least expected moment. Throughout the years that I have been meditating, some periods have been intense and disciplined while others have been spaced out. Despite this fluctuation throughout time, I have never stopped. The experience I have when I sit down to meditate has been each time, more and more, one of coming home. “Stop the world, I want to get off!” Mafalda would say. For me the act of meditating is a good way for me to “stop the world.”
For me, the daily decision to sit down and meditate is about more than just becoming enlightened. It is also about developing a muscle. Similar to going to the gym, when I do abdominal repetitions my abdominal muscles strengthen; that’s all. When I meditate— when I put my attention on my breathing, letting my thoughts pass one by one— what I am doing is strengthening my attention muscle; that’s all.
Certainly, there have been moments in which I have had experiences beyond my physical body and experienced how I am a part of and close to that which some call Spirit; but beyond these experiences, meditation has also allowed me to respond better in complex situations than if I hadn’t trained my “coming home” muscle.
To sum it up, meditation for me has three main characteristics:
1. Meditation is as important and as insignificant as any other practice we might have – exercising, playing an instrument, cooking— because a practice is already a form of meditation.
2. Meditation is a space that makes me feel home. That small altar that over the years has been nurtured with sentimental valued objects; that cushion and that blanket I cover with, especially on those cold days; make it so my house is one where I can be alone and feel at home.
3. Meditation helps me go back to my center. Over time, continuously practicing going within; even though I still sometimes fall asleep, have my legs go numb, or have sessions where my thinking won’t slow down; being aware of my breathing and counting “one, two, three, four…” has helped me to not react and to detach from my thoughts and emotions enough to be present in myself.
To sit and count one to ten with each breath, going back to your center every time a thought arises, is a simple but rigorous method that I have practiced with good results.
For more resources visit: http://www.integralworld.net/meditation.html