For several years now, I, Anna Lefler—conventional briefcase-toter, reflexive shirt-tucker and habitual thank-you-note-writer—have been on a metaphysical quest: to find a spiritual practice that solves life's big mysteries, provides comfort in trying times and illuminates the path toward becoming an all-around better person.
Is that too much to ask?
In this new, occasional column, I share with you what I've learned so far.
The Uptight Spiritualist - Volume 1
How to Meditate
How to Meditate
First, find a quiet location where you can sit comfortably for 20 minutes without interruption. Before settling in, remove your shoes and turn off your cell phone and any other device that might distract your untrained, novice mind.
Now, sit with your hands loose in your lap. Taking a deep breath, close your eyes. Allow your shoulders to relax and fall away from your earlobes. Visualize your mind as an elevator gliding down your spine, dropping lower and lower into yourself.
During this descent, realize that you have forgotten your mantra. Yes, the personal, customized mantra that was bestowed on you and you alone by the nice lady from the Transcendental Meditation Center with the Harpo Marx hairdo.
You've already called her once because you forgot it, and if you call again, she'll know you haven't meditated since last week, when you're supposed to be doing it morning and night. Nope, you can't call her again.
Keeping your eyes closed, scrunch up your face and concentrate. Think back to the moment the TM lady gave you your special word. It reminded you of something, didn't it? Yes, that's right. When you first heard it, you thought of a name. But whose name? Wait, it was someone famous – a sports figure. You've almost got it. NBA? Yes!
Wait, is that it? "Kareem?" Grimace harder and dig deep. Nope, Kareem is all you've got. You're going with it.
Back in the elevator, continue your descent. Your destination is the base of the spine, also known as your dirt chakra. No, make that root – your root chakra. Chastise yourself for this mistake and continue your deep breathing.
By now you have arrived at a spiritual destination deep within yourself, as indicated by two factors: you feel spiritual and/or deep and, no matter how many times you push the button, your elevator will go no lower.
Now, then. Empty your mind.
That's right – drain it like a sink of dirty dishwater. Right now.
As you perform this super-easy task, enjoy the spastic thought-flurries that leap from your mind like flying fish ahead of a tourist cruise to Catalina.
Is that my car alarm?
That salesgirl was totally lying; these yoga pants do give me Kardashian butt.
How come the NBA guys stopped wearing those tiny shorts, anyway?
I bet I could lift a motorcycle if I tried.
Fight the urge to peek at the clock to see how many of the 20 minutes are remaining. Remind yourself that the five minutes you spent trying to remember your mantra don't count. Nor do the two minutes you spent trying to crack your neck.
All right, empty your mind again and this time put your back into it.
Your mind is an aquarium. Thoughts swim by like tiny fishes but do not disturb you. They merely move past you on their way to investigate the plastic treasure chest in the bottom of the tank. See how the lid opens and closes. Is there a battery in there or what? Because I don't see a cord.
Consider the possibility that meditation would be easy if you 1) were vegan 2) listened to more Cat Stevens 3) hadn't mocked the TM lady's velvet fanny pack to your work friends.
Spend the next five minutes trying to think of something you're actually good at. [Optional: fall asleep.]
It is now time to begin your ascent and return to your everyday level of consciousness as indicated by the elevator button marked "PH" or "penthouse." When you discover that your elevator does not list a penthouse, become anxious and attempt to exit at the plaza level.
Open your eyes, staying attuned to any shifts in feeling or perception as a result of your recent meditative state. Recognize that you feel relaxed. Also, you could go for a snack.
Four minutes later, as you're standing in your pantry eating a handful of tortilla chips, recall your correct mantra.
Huge Thanks To...
...trail-blazing Creative Alliance '10 organizers Lee Vandeman, Jessica Bern and Andrea Fellman for a truly unforgettable, inspirational weekend.
...Ann Imig, whose Listen to Your Mother Salon took our collective breath away (while benefiting OPCC's Sojourn Program for battered women).
...creative Jedi Lisa Page Rosenberg, who made presenting our session a delightful experience.
...all of the warm, generous women who attended (what a privilege to be in your company!).
...the fantastic event sponsors: Moji, Paper Culture, Ciao Bella Gellato and CalNaturale.
It was an honor to be a part of this inaugural happening. I'm ready for next year!