I have been meditating for almost 20 years. I got into it not because of some epiphany or resonance with a Buddhist tradition, but because I felt like a fraud. I was teaching a Pain Management and Stress-Reduction Program for people with life-threatening illnesses and chronic, debilitating pain. We had been teaching various approaches to stress management and were about to start leading meditation. Only, I had never meditated before. In the interest of not being a phony, I started to meditate.
The very first thing that happened hooked me for life. It’s not that it was all that earth shattering, though for me at the time it was. Up until that time I would get this debilitating neck pain several times a year that made it impossible to drive, to sleep or to think. I would be locked up for days, downing all the aspirin I could handle and begging for appointments with my chiropractor. From the moment I first sat in meditation, it was immediately obvious to me that I held one shoulder higher than the other, the same shoulder below the side of the neck pain. From that moment on, I began working to bring that part of me into balance. It took almost two years. But all these years later, I have never had that experience of pain again. That alone has been worth the price of admission.
More than anything, meditation has given me a way of noticing and with it, a reduction in “pain.” What I have learned to notice are the ways I judge, worry, carry my body, fear, need, and the list goes on and on. It is said that awareness is the Mother of all change. That makes meditation the Mother of the Mother because of the way it helps to give birth to awareness. This birthing creates a most powerful possibility in our lives. So, if you have ever been curious, start with what you can commit to. Maybe that is just one minute of sitting, or five. Sit however you are comfortable. Do not worry that the ordinary mind talks on and on and on. Just commit yourself to sitting and breathing and noticing. Who knows what simple yet extraordinary thing might happen for you.
As for me, I consider myself a blue collar meditator. I do not belong to a tradition. I do not transcend into other realms. I do not think I am necessarily even that “good” as a meditator in the traditional sense. None of that matters though, for just the act of choosing to sit day in and day out has slowly and surely changed my life, without me “doing” anything other than learning to sit with myself. Through this process, I have become far less reactive and far more easy going. I notice so many things about myself so quickly that they don’t have much time to turn into a problem. Even my “worst” meditations are often my best. Why? Because even though my mind might have been all over the place, I leave my cushion aware of my agitated state, putting me in a position to own my thoughts and emotions which helps me to tread lightly with myself and others. What a gift! For it is surely our troubled, chaotic minds that create the disharmony in our lives and in the world. Can you imagine how your life might change if you had a little more insight into what drives you? Talk about pain reduction; no medication necessary!