First of all, happy new year to everyone! I hope 2012 brings you health, love, and happiness. Hopefully, the title to today’s blog has you a bit intrigued. Believe me, when I was asked to eat raisins and then told how much time had passed, I was shocked, too. So what was I doing?
You may recall my writing about my desire to bring meditation into my daily practice last year. I will lay it out on the table and tell you that, for whatever reason, I could not make it stick, even though I know all the benefits of this practice. Today, however, I got a reminder notice on my calendar that it is the first Tuesday of the month, a day where my gym offers a free hour of meditation led by an instructor who walks students through various meditation techniques. I decided to commit to attending regardless of what enticing things might distract me, and I am so thankful that I did. Where do the raisins come in? Don’t worry, I will get to that.
Our instructor walked us through three meditation techniques, each of which were designed to help us test how we react to them, perhaps guiding how we could bring a meditation practice into our daily lives. Technique One consisted of us sitting in a comfortable seated position and to breath. We started by putting one hand on our chest and the other on our belly, noticing what happened if we breathed only into our chest and then only into our belly. We then moved to using mantras, where one was said when we inhaled and the other during our exhale. An example would be, “(Inhale) I am calm. (Exhale) I am at peace.” I was shocked to learn this took 13 minutes. It felt like 5.
Technique Two was quite difficult for me. First, we were instructed to not be attached to anything but the breath. If we had an itch, or a noise bothered us, or we remembered an errand, we should simply acknowledge it, let it go, and then go back to the breath. During this exercise, she proceeded to move a wooden stick in a metal bowl and then hit the stick against the bowl, making a chime sound. The sound of the stick being moved in the metal bowl drove me crazy. It grated on me. Nonetheless, knowing this was a mediation “practice,” I did my best to not be attached.
And now we get to the raisins, Technique Three. Our instructor handed each of us a box of raisins and asked us to eat three. Those were the only instructions. I ate each, one at a time, reminding myself of how slowly I used to eat as a child and how incapable I seem to be of that these days. She asked us what we noticed about the raisins, and since most of us gobbled them down, we did not notice much. She then asked us to eat three more raisins and notice what it was like to eat each of them. We then put a raisin in our mouths, one at a time, trying to come up with various sensations. She then asked us to do this one more time, but provided more specific instructions: how did they feel, how did the taste, how many ridges were in each, did they all have a pit, what side of our mouth did we chew on and why, etc. Once this was over, she said 20 minutes had passed. What!? I ate only 9 raisins in 20 minutes? It usually takes me 5-10 minutes to eat my dinner! Trying the “raisin experiment” had me very curious as to what it would be like if I slowly chewed my food on a daily basis, appreciating every flavor and texture. Imagine!
I am so glad I attending this month’s “Monthly Meditation.” I learned about the types of meditation practices and how I could incorporate it into my life. One suggestion she gave, which works great for city folk, is to stop at the street corner when the light is flashing the “Don’t Walk” sign and just look it at and breath (rather than dart across the street trying to make it to the other side before the sign stops flashing and the cars start moving). She suggested this could be a good reminder to meditate.
What I also like about meditation, in general, is that there is no right or wrong. It’s just about the breath. Whether you set your clock for a 3 minute, 10 minute, or more meditation everyday or once per week, all we need to think about is “inhale, exhale.”
So go ahead. IIIINNNNNHHHHAAAALLLLLLLEEEEEE. EEEEEEXXXXXXXHHHHHHAAAAAALLLLLLEEEE.