by MaryBeth Madonia
I have always wanted to have a daily meditation practice. I am a certified yoga instructor. A graduate of Namaste’s yoga teacher training program. I have been practicing yoga for ten years. I should have a solid meditation practice. Alas, I did not. Not until COVID-19.
I have to come clean. Selfishly, the order by our Governor in March to stay at home, locked in and shut down, came as a relief to me. Having lost my husband sixteen months ago, and living alone for the last seven of those months, COVID-19 meant that my adult children would be moving home from their respective universities and living with me again. It meant that I could shut out the rest of the world for a little while and enjoy their company.
A stay-at-home order also meant I could address those long sought after projects (the dreaded photo project) and, among other things, finally set up a meditation space and time. Why it took a global pandemic for me to set aside this time, I have no idea, but whatever works, right? So, I set up the space, set up an altar and got down to business. But first, I had to re-read the books, research online, pick just the right time, download just the right app, yada, yada, yada. Three days in, I had still not actually begun. Not until, that is, my son shamed me by asking me how my meditation practice was going. He had started one as well. He was crushing it. Sheepishly, I had to admit that I had not started yet. He told me about a book he was reading. When you want to get started at something, he said, just “do the next thing”. So I did.
Apparently, it takes 66 days to create a habit. (That was from my son’s book as well.) So, I downloaded a blank calendar and got to work. I already had all of the tools I really needed. A blanket. A pretty window with a pretty view. A quiet private area…
Meditation means different things to different people. For me, meditation means quieting the body and the mind. Sitting or lying peacefully and just breathing. I have allowed myself to experiment. Some days I listen to music with headphones. Some days I listen to guided meditation. Some days I just listen to myself breathe. Sometimes I pray the rosary. I find that relaxing the “rules”, allows me the freedom to just sit. I have discovered that I like the sound of water, gentle lake water, not ocean waves. I like soft classical music rather than “yoga” music. I like to sit up on a block with a blanket over it instead of with my legs crossed in front of me. I like a chime to congratulate me when I am done, often surprising me when I hear it. Sometimes, I sit long after the chime because I feel comforted by the silence.
Meditation is a practice, like anything else. But if you let go of the pressure to be “good” at it, you will be rewarded. I have been meditating early each morning for 43 days as of the writing of this article. That’s 43 check marks on the ‘ole calendar. Not quite 66, but I am confident that I will get there. And if I miss a day – that is ok. At this point, I enjoy it too much as a morning ritual, like my warm lemon water, to stop doing it entirely.
So, thank you COVID-19 – and thank you Michael – for helping me to realize that if you are waiting for the perfect conditions to align themselves, you will be waiting an awfully long time. Just do the next thing. If you want to start a meditation practice, start a meditation practice. There is no magic to it. There is no right or wrong way to do it. There is no perfect place for it. It is not rocket science.
Peace. And good luck. I would love to hear how you are doing.
P.S. By the way – I have accomplished quite a bit in the last few weeks, but not the dreaded photo project. That will have to wait for the next global pandemic.