About a year and a half ago I attended my first official meditation retreat. It was with Deepak Chopra and The Chopra Center. Prior to this, I was what would be described as a “crisis meditator” tapping into the practice at the most expected of times (i.e., New Year’s resolution) or the most desperate times (i.e., overly stressed, overwhelmed, etc). My decision to attend the retreat was poorly timed and illogical given all of my other commitments, but there was a feeling, an indescribable guidance that was beyond me, and I knew I simply had to go. I now know, that feeling was my spirit, my higher self, G-d, (I’m still not quite sure how to describe this presence, but I’m certain it is there) and as I reflect on my breast cancer journey this past year, I can see that was the guiding force that I’m pretty sure saved my life.
I remember the first day of the retreat, we were given our own personalized mantra and then told to go meditate for 20 minutes. What? What do you mean? Just start meditating? I needed more information. I needed to be guided. I needed someone to do it for me. But as I quickly learned, meditation is not about the moments of enlightenment, but the discomfort of the unknown. It’s taking that first sitting of 20 minutes and repeating the mantra. It’s continuing to peek one eye open and see how much longer. It’s recognizing the chaos of our thoughts. Once we start to become AWARE of the chaos of our psyche, that’s when you introduce the mantra, repeatedly, over and over and over. And sure enough, the 20 minutes are complete. Over time, that 20 minutes becomes 30, 40, 50 — sometimes twice a day. Other times, it is just a few minutes.
The gifts of meditation are not necessarily in those moments of sitting, but through the discipline of the practice. What seems to happen is that however chaotic it may feel during the sitting, we become more present for the rest of the moments in our day. We begin to take more pauses, we begin to notice our reactive nature, we may begin to act with more patience, more compassion, more love. Or at the very least, we are simply more aware and from awareness breeds change.
There has not been one day that has passed over the course of my cancer treatment this past year that I have not meditated. Even if it was for just a few moments, I looked to my mantra as my grounding, my centering. I explored different types of mediation (i.e., visualization, metta, mindfulness, etc). Regardless, I am convinced it was my discipline leading up to my diagnosis and then embracing the practice even in the most dire moments that has simply been my saving grace and provided the sense of awareness to listen to my body, to hear the whisper of my spirit, and to surrender. Simply surrender.
As I try to make sense of what just happened over this past year, I find myself recalling the words of Deepak Chopra from a question and answer session during that retreat a year and half ago. Ironically, I remember a woman who was actually a breast cancer survivor got up and expressed her frustration over not feeling the peaceful and enlightened moments during her meditation that she expected. What was she DOING wrong? What could she DO to change the nature of her practice? What could Deepak DO to help her?
And with his iconic glasses and his present nature, Deepak simply shared with the woman that you recognize your thoughts of DOING and then you BE with them. You DO and then you BE. You DO BE DO BE DO. And then the most delightful giggle emerged from this wise modern day guru.
I’m reminded of this frequently lately and using it as my daily mantra as I continue to step more fully into myself everyday — moment by moment.