Why I Meditate
My spiritual journey officially began many years ago as a result of becoming involved in a Twelve- step program. Al-anon not only saved my life, my marriage, and my sanity. It also opened a door into a world of continuous excitement and discovery. The eleventh step of the Twelve Step Programs states: “Sought through prayer and meditation to increase my conscious contact with God, asking only for His will for me and the power to carry it out”. I had trouble relating to this “step”. I was brought up Catholic and the word meditation meant nothing to me. My “partying” buddy, Janice, and I were determined to find out what it was all about. We decided to spend a few days at the Himalayan Institute. We hoped this yoga ashram in the mountains would provide an opportunity to learn about meditation from an intellectual perspective and afford us the experience of trying something strange and unfamiliar in a supportive environment. We were two gregarious soccer moms in for a big surprise.
Although both of us were fed up with the stress and chaos in our lives we never could have imagined the impact these next few days of serenity would have on our daily existence. The magic started before we even arrived. Pulling off the thruway we realized that neither of us had gotten clear directions. We were feeling very intuitive and something led us to believe that we wouldn’t have a bit of trouble finding it. A fairytale like snow began to fall as we wound our way over hills and through farmland. Janice remarked that she felt like she had fallen into Candyland, a board game we both remember playing as children. But, as night began to descend, we experienced our first misgivings about our instincts. We realized that we really had no idea where we were. Just as we began to panic we crested a hill and an enormous well-lit complex came into view below us.
We giggled like nervous school girls waiting for someone to open the mammoth, richly carved, oak doors - the only thing dividing us from a whole new way of life. Walking through those doors and into an environment thick with peace and serenity a feeling oozed through me unlike anything I had previously experienced in this lifetime. The impact of total silence engulfed me with the sensation of being sucked into a black hole, leaving all but my conscious awareness behind. Floating down the cavernous halls after the brown-robed figure that welcomed us with nothing more than a Mona Lisa smile, I felt a warm tingling where my body used to be and knew at a cellular level that some part of me had come home. As the long weekend progressed, I learned techniques that allowed me to enhance this deeply felt connection to myself. Eventually I began to understand that the feeling was the direct result of silence. A silence that eclipsed my present life and allowed me a peak into “the whole” that I am a part of and gave me a glimpse at all that I was capable of becoming.
Back at home I was inspired to begin a daily meditation practice. A corner of my “yuppie living room was transformed into an eastern sanctuary complete with alter and a small statue of
Buddha. My family thought I had lost my mind, and at times I wonder where all of this was leading me. Some days I questioned if I was on the right path.
One Saturday morning about a month after my Himalayan adventure I went downstairs to meditate at 5:30 am. I was particularly agitated and couldn’t settle into the meditation. I realized that I was experiencing some guilt about this newfound serenity. Was it leading me “straight to hell”, as one well meaning Catholic friend warned? After all who was I to think that I could have this wonderful one-on-one relationship with the Divine? Surely, it was the devil playing games. How could my own body and mind hold the answers I was seeking? My daughter even questioned how I could differentiate between what God was telling me and what I was making up to suit my own desires.
I had learned to ask questions and trust that the silence would provide the answers I needed. That morning I didn’t have to wait for long. My question was, “How can this new spiritual practice that is giving me so much peace of mind, be integrated into my existing spiritual belief system, a system which includes a belief in Christ and his teachings?”
I closed my eyes and began the deep breathing exercises that allowed me to slip into an altered state of consciousness. Suddenly, I felt a strong urge to do a certain yoga posture called the eagle. With a great deal of reluctance, I stood up and faced out the window of my living room and assumed the posture. The sun was just beginning to seep through the branches of the trees and cast deep shadows on the swimming pool below. Immediately there appeared an image; an undeniable image of Christ’s face complete with the crown of thorns amidst the shadows of the tree branches in the pool. It wasn’t a faint image such as you might see in the clouds over head, but a distinct representation. Coming out of the yoga posture and peering anxiously into the pool, I hoped to gain an even clearer look, but the image disappeared. Of course I was sure it was my imagination playing tricks on me. I resumed my yoga posture, immediately the image became visible once again. I came out of the posture again only to be disappointed again that the image had vanished. I return to the yoga posture and the image reappeared. The entire experience lasted only a few moments - that is all it took to fill my heart with joy. I now knew there was no conflict between my newfound meditation and yoga practice and my love for Christ and his teachings. I indeed feel loved. This was the confirmation I needed to know that I was on a path to a deeper relationship with God.
Within a year I began teaching breath work and other methods of meditation to small groups in my spare time. Twenty years later I can attest to the fact that just fifteen minutes of meditation a day can change your life. Meditation has expanded my view of God, opened me to a myriad of pathways to the Divine, shifted my perspective of the world, and given me a serenity that permeates every cell in my body and informs every decision that I make. It has also strengthened my immune system and kept me extremely healthy. I like to ask my students, “You wouldn't leave your house in the morning without charging your cell phone would you? Why not spend fifteen minutes re-charging your own battery”. Since meditation has been scientifically proven to improve your immune system, reverse the effects of stress, and is being recommended by more physicians as a way to prevent, slow or at least control the pain of chronic diseases like heart conditions, cancer, and auto-immune diseases – the question becomes - why not learn to meditate? Next month I will expand on the health benefits of meditation and offer some simple meditation techniques.
Judy Milinowski is a holistic practitioner in Boothbay Harbor, Maine.