As some of you may know, meditation has played a big part in managing my mental well-being and chronic pain in the last year and a half.
Today I thought I would give you guys a brief history of my experience in meditation and how it has helped me.
I was first introduced to Buddhist meditation practices during my freshman year of college in Ithaca. Ithaca, New York, is the home of the Namgyal Monastery, the only United States branch of the Namgyal monasteries, which are patronized by the Dalai Lama (he visited Ithaca while I was there!). The monks there practiced tantric meditation and offered free evening sessions three days a week. Two of my friends and I went fairly regularly. The practice involved about ten minutes of chanting, 40 minutes of silent meditation, and five minutes of prayer. It was a great introduction into the world of Buddhist meditation. I borrowed some books from the monastery during that year to learn more about it.
At the end of my freshman year I took a leave of absence and worked full-time. Meditation didn’t play a role in my life again for quite a while.
Two and a half years ago I started experiencing pain symptoms, and my full approach to the problem was to “fix” it. When it became clear that it wasn’t going away, I began turning to other sources to help me deal with things. One doctor I was seeing suggested meditation. At that point I was weary of all forms of treatment, but I decided to give it a try.
I worked once a week, one-on-one with a teacher who focused on mindfulness meditation as well as visualizations. Honestly, I hated it at first! I would get so frustrated because I felt like it was impossible for me to take my mind off of the pain. But my teacher was patient and talked with me through my negativity, which looking back I think is what allowed me to stick with it. Soon it became the most helpful resource I had in dealing with my health.
At college, I practice and attend a weekly class in Samatha meditation, which means “calm abiding”. This type of Buddhist meditation involves mindful breathing and concentration on a particular object or idea. A common area of concentration is the breath. It’s different from mindfulness meditation, but I find it to be helpful in a different way.
It’s still very early in my practice and I have a lot to learn, but I’m so grateful to have these “tools” in my pocket. Meditation has helped me in not only living with chronic pain, but it has brought much comfort and wisdom into my life. One thing I’d like to reiterate is that it is work, and it takes practice. But please don’t let that discourage you from trying it, even if you get frustrated the first few times like I did! The mind is a funny thing and some days it is harder to quiet, but I know if I keep it up my practice will strengthen. The brain is a muscle after all!
Whew! I hope you made it through this lengthy post and found it somewhat interesting! This is a topic that I’ve been meaning to write about for a while so I’m happy to share it with you.
Love to all,
Jam of the day: Feist “Comfort Me”