I have meditated on and off since high school. I think the times I was meditating I was more awake.
(it may seem like it is harder to live our lives awake until we think through the alternative : we are asleep and life wakes us up - not like a mother who whispers "rise and shine sweetie" - this mother throws open the blinds and yanks the blanket, tumbling us out of bed and on to the cold hardwood floor, she doesn't even offer up a boo-boo kiss, she just strides out of the room - life is one tough love mama ... ouch)
My usual pattern is I get busy with work and outer stuff (trying to control the stuff I can't control, but I seem firmly committed to not understanding this) and stop meditating. I lose my connection to the big picture. I lose my connection with myself (which is the same thing). Then something happens to wake me up - something challenging happens. Almost always something that slows me down; sometimes something that stops me in my tracks.
Then like the prodigal son I come back.
Meditation is a practice. It's not something that works for other people, but not for us. It's like exercise - it can't work for us if we don't practice, but if we do practice it can't not work for us.
Stillness connects us to our higher self/the Universe/God/the Goddess (pick your comfort zone) - not that we are ever not connected, but sometimes the connection gets foggy.
I also find that stillness allows me to let go of refined flours and sugars. This sounds like a physical thing (and it is partly), but it’s really about vibration. Nothing fogs things up so fast as white flour and white sugar. The first thing that happens to me when I fall off the wagon and stop meditating is I start eating this crap again. I am sure this is a fear reaction to life requiring more of me. It is easier to just play small.
Over the holidays, I was listening to Decisive - the Chip and Dan Heath book about better decision making. It was very good, but made me wonder if they would have come to a different conclusion about the true value of intuition if they had been working with people who meditate regularly.
This is not hard stuff. It is not easy stuff either.
Dr. Wilder Penfield (is this the best name ever?!) is a famous Canadian neurosurgeon. His research discovered the brain's sensory and motor cortex and more. During his studies he found the area in our brains where decisions are carried out. He got very excited. He thought he would next discover the part of our brain where decisions are made. He never found it. Instead, he found there is no part of our brain where decisions are made.
So, how is this possible? We know we make decisions every day, every minute of every day in fact. Apparently our brain and our body are amazing tools for executing decisions, but not making them.
There must be a nonphysical "us" that does the decision making (this is a really powerful thing to know if we beat ourselves up over taking the 'wrong' action and if we are continually searching for that magical set of actions that will make everything work) - this is the part of us we get to meet when we meditate.
Get yourself a timer/stopwatch app for your phone or Kindle, an egg timer or just set your oven timer (start with 5 minutes in the morning and work up to 20 minutes once a day or 15 minutes twice a day - by the time you are up to 15 minutes, you will want to do this twice a day, trust me).
Dedicate a space to this. It's a practice and you need room to practice. Get yourself a yoga mat or sit in a special chair. Make the practice a ritual. Light a candle, darken the room. I have a space in my bedroom and I open the bedroom window while I make the bed to bring in some fresh air. Then I close the window, light the candle and just do it. When you get centered every animal in your house will be climbing all over you - ignore them. If you have young children, you will have to get up before them or they will be drawn to your stillness like a magnet (or a magnetic locket - warning shameless plug ahead - have you seen this).
I think you can do the Chopra 21 Day Challenge anytime or go to Hayhouse and find a guided meditation you like or go to YouTube and click around until you find something you like. If you are already meditating there is a great 7 Steps to Rebirth meditation by Doris Eliana Cohen.
Most days I just start with relaxing my toes and work my way up to my head - saying to myself "my toes are relaxed", "my ankles are relaxed", etc ending with "I am relaxed" then focus on my breathing until my timer goes off. When thoughts intrude I just let them float away. Some days I do guided meditations.
The more we practice the better we get at listening to our gut and instincts. We will fool ourselves into doing things that make us feel badly much less often because we will be more in tune with our beliefs, our true nature and how we really feel.
We won't be saying stuff like "I don't know what I want to do when I grow up" or "I could have what I want if I could only figure out what I want", anymore. This kind of foggy energy will not be available to us - we will start getting clear (the clarity may not immediately or ever really answer these questions, this is a practice and a process after all, but the thing we should be doing right now will become clear and that's all we need anyway).
So, we are telling our stories in the best way possible, we are focused on how we want to feel, we are meditating ....
next up Part IV - the value of celebrating