What Meditation Is To Me

Today was the ten year anniversary of 9/11. There was lots of material on the web to reacquaint myself with the events of that day. I looked the picture of an adorable, two-year-old Patricia Smith wearing the medal of honor awarded to her mother, a fallen NYPD police officer who lost her life evacuating the towers.

Listening to a voice mail that a woman on one of the planes left a family member sending love for the last time, made my heart hurt and had tears rolling down my cheeks.

When viewing a picture of a person jumping from a burning tower to their certain death, I imagined the sheer terror they must have felt. I had no plans to take part in a commemorative event, but I did want to honor and respect the day personally somehow extending compassion, gratitude, and loving energy to those who lost their lives, gave their lives helping others, and those left behind. I meditated on it.

In the spring of 2010, when the Deepwater Horizon gushed 4.9 million gallons of oil for over three months into the Gulf of Mexico devastating marine life and wildlife habitats and the Gulf’s fishing and tourism industries. I was terribly distraught by the countless pictures of the oil-soaked pelicans and the live, underwater video footage of huge amount of oil spilling into the ocean. I kept yelling at the video, telling the oil to “Stop! Stop!”  I meditated on it daily throughout the ordeal.

In March of 2011, the most powerful earthquake to ever hit Japan triggered a devastating tsunami killing around 17,000, injuring 6,000 more, and causing numerous nuclear disasters.  In horror, I watched the real-time footage of a colossal wall of the water lumbering over the land taking almost everything with it. With tremendous empathy for the bedraggled Japanese people, I felt guilty wondering if it was smart for me to go to California right then because some reports predicted the radioactive effects from the compromised nuclear power plant might be felt on the west coast of the U. S.  I meditated on it.

Meditation comes in many different flavors with exotic names like zazen, tonglen and vipassana or it can be as plain and simple as just focusing on your breath. Most meditation practices involve three essentials:

  1. Focusing on something simple and nonthought provoking like the breath or a single word or sound.
  2. Consciously relaxing the body.
  3. Exercising a passive awareness of the mind.

When I started meditating, I read countless “how to” guides, watched instructional videos, listened to guided meditations, and attended workshops. Practicing with eyes open and closed, staring at a candle flame, a single carpet thread, and about every other way imaginable, I tried hard to learn to meditate the “right” way. I’ve meditated with Gregorian chants, Tibetan chimes, classical and ambient music, native drumming, chirping birds, and white noise in the background.

After all of this variety, over time, I’ve come to the conclusion that, within reason, there’s really no right or wrong way to meditate.  What’s “right” is whatever works for me that day. At first, I did follow a more structured guide line while I got comfortable with the practice.  I also incorporated visualizations, affirmations, gratitude lists, and thought reframing into my sessions, at first, because I found that my mind needed to do something to do.  I couldn’t NOT think.  These somethings were better than finding myself thinking about the crud in the dog’s ear, I figured.

Eventually, I learned to be aware of and control my thoughts which evolved into true meditation.  To me, that’s what meditation is all about: learning to be aware of your thoughts and directing your mind.

Now, in my meditation sessions, I may dedicate a small amount of time to visualization and such practices or none at all.  If I feel the need, I may devote the meditation session to focusing compassion and healing on a global event or I may seek to express emotion and gain understanding and healing around a private, emotional issue or I may set the intent to tune into innate and universal wisdom for guidance for a specific topic.

Meditation calls on me to take the time to calm my mind and turn my focus inward.  It’s a tool which provides a healthy outlet to express emotions, question and analyze my thought processes and motivations, and try on different perspectives.  Meditation allows me to feel as if I am actively doing something in situations where I would otherwise feel powerless.  In reality, I am. I am consciously living and choosing my reactions to the events around me.

Meditation is an integral part of my life.  It is whatever I need it to be to meet my mental and emotional needs on that particular day.  The practice keeps me centered, balanced, motivated and appreciative.  It’s the only “happy pill” I have ever found, and I believe it can work magic for anyone. Whether you want to call it praying, meditating, reflecting, or visualizing, start turning inward and calming your mind for just ten minutes a day. 

image source:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/hckyso/

41 Comments

  1. Nicely expressed and explained, Debbie. And I agree. Any door that leads from the unquiet to the quiet mind is a valid one to pass through. Many doors go there.

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Thank you much! I think you are so right. Meditation is, oftentimes, made to seem very “woo woo” and very complicated. It does not have to be. The door to the mind can be opened with many keys The point is to open it!

  2. Debbie – thanks for sharing the many ways meditation improves your life. I’ve found focus, clarity and meditation to be the most important benefits I’ve found in meditation.

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      I originally started meditating to relieve the extremely high alpha waves, which in this case were indicative of anxiety, exhibited in the brain map after my brain injury. It worked. It has also helped me to recover from my brain injury with improved concentration, memory and focus. If it can do this for my brain,imagine what it can do for the non injured brain!

  3. Thank you for sharing your amazing story about using meditation to help heal your brain injury. You certainly have a beautiful story to share.

    I enjoy meditation too and would try to allocate time on a daily basis for it. I get into altered states quite easily and feel very peaceful from the experience.

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Thank you for your kind words, Evelyn. Meditation is something that is so simple and beneficial and it is portable and free. This should be taught to our children in school It is not about religion. It is about health, mental and physical. Everyone would benefit from it in some way. What a different world this would be if doctors would first prescribe this and lifestyle alterations before a pill or some expensive medical intervention.

  4. Stephen Gemmell Reply

    Thanks Debbie, and I Believe You absolutey. I had a TIA (transient ischemic attack) or warning stroke about 4 years ago (in my mid forties) and 2 similar but undiagnosed episodes before that . I was back at the doctor yesterday because I was struggling to shake off a bug and I need to be careful since my TIA (which was a blog clot, picked up when it ‘chose’ to travel across my left eye and I coudn’t see for about 10 minutes). Sorry for the ramble, but the point is that the doctor and I both agreed that the route of my problem is that I do too much, I’m always on the go…. and I realised then that the best solution for me was to meditate, pray, whatever and that way find stillness, peace of mind and contentment. Your post could not have arrived at a better time. Thank you, Stephen

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Stephen, I am so glad that you are being extra vigilant about your brain health. I truly do believe that with lifestyle factors like diet and exercise and meditation you can really improve this. While your TIA is certainly no joking matter, I had to chuckle at the typo “blog clot.” How appropriate!

      • Stephen Gemmell Reply

        Oops, and here’s me looking for signs of what I should focus on 😉 Take care, Stephen

  5. Thank you for sharing such insightful thoughts of meditation Debbie. I tend to feel unbalance if I go a day or two without meditating. It is really a helpful tool.

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Abimael, thank you for stopping by and commenting. I feel the same way. I very rarely go a day without meditating….even if only for 10 minutes, but I love it when I have more time and can really get into it. When I do not at all, I can tell.

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  7. I love the post. Meditation is a powerful tool, no matter how it is practiced. I have found that open-eye meditation is just as important as closed-eye. I use closed-eye meditation to relive stress and quiet my mind and also to remind me to use open-eye meditation during the day when things get a bit hectic and my mind runs out-of-control. I have also found that open-eye meditation is a great way to give thanks for all the grace that is showered on me by the Universe. Can’t wait til your next post. Tony

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      What a good idea for the eyes opened and closed meditations. I tend to do this also, but I guess, but not had not realized it. Throughout the day, several times I become conscious of my breath for a 10 count and become aware of the moment. For instance, if I am watering the flowers, I will tune into my breath while feeling the sun on my face and being aware of the smells and sounds. While petting a cat, I tune into my breath and become conscious of the texture of their fur, the feel of their purr, and the beating of their heart. I will also several times a day stop and pause and find something in the scene before me or in my life for which grateful. Thank you for helping me see that I do, indeed, do meditation with my eyes open. I just never thought of it that way.

  8. Debbie,
    Your post makes me feel better! For so long I tried to meditate quietly, reflectively, and using all the books and tools that were put before me. I discovered running after learning about “walking meditations.” I find that moving my body calms my brain and allows for creative energy to flow, hence allowing me to “meditate” in a way that works for me.

    Interestingly enough, it also has helped me quiet myself and focus on breathing for short periods of time too.

    I like that you give credence to all the different ways we can meditate that work for US as individuals!
    Nice to read your blog, and I look forward to reading more!
    In Harmony,
    Jen

  9. Hi Debbie,
    This is such a worthwhile topic. I started meditating as a teenager. I was desperately seeking some peace of mind. I taught myself by reading any books I could get my hands on. As a young adult I took several workshops and seminars. Later, I became a meditation instructor. I take every opportunity I can to spout the benefits of meditation. It doesn’t matter if you focus on the breath or a mantra, what matters is that you learn how to halt the mind chatter, if even for a few seconds. We are on hyper-drive in our digital culture. Our minds are so overused and we’re disconnected from nature. It’s no wonder we wreak havoc on our environment. We’re no longer quiet long enough to tune into the “One” life force running through the natural world and humans that is screaming for our attention. I do believe we should be teaching meditation in our public schools and that if we were we’d ultimately create a new society that values the interconnectedness of all life. Can you tell I’m a bit passionate about this? (this is one of the chapters in my book) Thanks for letting me vent here.

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Angela, I can feel your passion! I, too, am passionate about this now. It can benefit all people in so many ways. It has totally transformed me and my life for the better.

      How astute of you to start meditating at such a young age. My brother, lived in India and was a monk for a period. While I did think his life was interesting and intriguing, I mostly thought it was weird in a neat kind of way. I totally did not understand his journey. I think, the predominant Western mindset is similar to what mine used to be. It is my goal to spread the word about meditation and to somehow simplify the process and the benefits so that it does not seem as “far out” and complicated to the average person.

  10. Hi Debbie,
    Reading your words here was like visiting with a friend who sees eye-to-eye with no explanation. Our meditation journeys are quite similar and my sentiments agree with yours.

    Debbie, I adore your style and approach to life. You allow change where need be and allow your methods to drift and flow with what your body and mind needs. This post is a wonderful addition to your cornucopia of thoughts to better one’s health and a live with peaceful heart and mind. Well done, Debbie!

    Much love to you, my friend. Namasté, ~Lori

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      So good to hear from you, Soul Sister! Thank you for your oh so kind words. They make my heart smile. See ya at the waterfall!

  11. Hi Debbie,
    With all of the things that happen in our world that is out of our control, I have found that regular meditation has really helped me to feel in control of myself.

    I do not meditate everyday but when I am feeling stressed or worried about something out of my control I always go back to meditation.

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Justin, thank you for stopping by and for commenting. I guess this falls into the relieving anxiety and tension benefit of meditation. I have not read anything specifically which advocates using meditation for specific events although there are group and universal, online meditations for particular events. I am with you. It makes me feel in control, at least, of myself, in an out of control world. Glad you found it!

  12. Debbie,

    I’m delighted to see all the benefits you have experienced through meditation. Yes, there are many different methods of meditation. The main things is to choose one and get started. Meditation is the the way to bring our mind home and experience our mind and life in an entirely different way.

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Sandra, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I think the idea of meditating is intimidating and unnecessarily complicated to the person not familiar with it. I know that, to me, it used to seem terribly mysterious and unobtainable from the outside looking in. I does not have to be. I want to dispel that myth. It can be whatever anyone wants/needs it to be. As you say, the main thing is just to do it.

  13. Debbie,

    I am so happy to watch your blog grow and take on a life of its own. I love this post. I have been on a journey of getting my mind under control and stopping that silly little voice in my head from poising my mind!

    Susan

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Thanks so much for your kind words and your support. The little voice in your head can be a big help or hindrance. I prefer help!

  14. I’ve tried guided meditations recently. I didn’t think I’d like them but actually it’s one of the best meditations I’ve ever had!

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Too funny…We are all over each other posts today! I think guided meditations are an easy and relaxing way to meditate. Takes any “work” out of it for me and gives the responsibility to the guided meditation. Nice every once and a while

  15. As you very rightly point out, meditation means different things to people and there is no one thing that applies to all definitions. However, you mention zazen and then go on to list 3 characteristics. None of these define Soto zazen. Soto zazen is a physical practice: If you are aren’t in the correct posture, you aren’t doing it, anymore than someone lying on their sofa can claim to be doing pushups. Focussing on breath and so on is not taught at all.
    This is claimed to be the original method and I’m not going to touch that subject. Just adding to the piece.

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Ed, thank you for your comment. It was not my intent to define zazen…just to list some common themes among most meditations. I changed the “all” to “most.”

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