Tuesday, December 18, 2018


At nearly every retreat I lead and meditation class I teach someone(s) will ask me "How do I meditate?" or comment that "meditation is really hard" and, you know, "just not working" for them.

"I tried it this one time...." they continue, "and my mind just wouldn't stop....is that normal?....maybe it's not for me....I'd like to try but I don't know how....is there an easy way?....what's your trick?...."

Sound familiar?

I've been there. Trust me. I'm there a good chunk of the time still.

I've begged my teachers for the formula. For the answer. For something! I was convinced they knew the secret that would take meditation from rip my hair out to, well, effortless. Let me rephrase. In asking for the easy way out I was asking them to help me hop, skip, jump over the rock-bottom work of meditation and deliver me queen-like in a struggle-proof carriage directly into the hands of enlightenment.

Essentially I was told dream on. And knock it off.

They wisely told me and remind me still - quoting from the Bhagavad Gita - that I am what I seek. Or Tvam Tat Asi - "Thou That Art".

It's taken me years, a lot of frustration, and what feels like many, many, many failed attempts to experience the wisdom in this statement. I am what I seek. I am what I seek. I am what I seek. And here's where I pause. Sorry. You have to do the work and sit with this one. Obligatory "leave you hangin" here as sometimes words simply fall short. Consider this incentive.

My oh-so-wise teachers also shared, with I swear a twinkle of mischievous enjoyment in their eyes, that it's all - the entire experience - meditation. And when they said all, they meant all. The batshit crazy voices blasting themselves into the walls of my mind. The mysterious pains that I never feel elsewhere but somehow become life and death on my cushion. The fact that my left foot passes out and then hammers itself with needles in its listless stupor when I shift position. The dreaded "who cares? does this matter? what am I doing? this is crap." that plays on repeat in the least opportune moments. The sliding from bed to floor, mala in hand, wondering what makes this more important than sleep. The falling asleep, hereto with mala in hand and the best of intentions of course. I've had every known disease and a few I discovered. I've come up with solutions to every world problem, with humility of course. I've committed numerous crimes, climbed many mountains, fixed my kids and husband and everyone else I know, and single-handedly secured world peace. All this without leaving my seat. All while the players of my mind charade - critic, scientist, creative, dreamer, victim, parent, teacher, good girl, bad girl, shamed girl, acclaimed girl, hurt girl, strong girl, little girl, grown girl - consistently show up uninvited and demand immediate attention.  Apparently they're all welcome. All of this really. All teachers. All part of the gig.

That being said, I'm only coming around to such wisdom because I stuck, and am sticking, with it - meditation that is. It takes sitting nearly every day. Every. Single. Day. Turns out there's a massive amount of trust and faith involved, a fair share of doubt (you know, just to keep it interesting), and absolutely no shortcut. None. Nada. Zilch. I've looked.

So here's the truth with no artificial sweetness: Meditation can be hard (really, really hard), especially at first. In fact, I'm more and more convinced difficulty has been hardwired in. You can thank the cosmic jokester(s?) for said insanity and (sense my grudging hesitation) - brilliance.

This brilliance in a nutshell? The challenge makes us want it.

What "it" is may be ambiguous for a long, long time. But that "it" keeps us going. More or less pulls  us forward, toward, into.

It's pretty sweet (albeit sometimes in a sour sort of way).

And difficulty is what actually delivers some of the gifts meditation has to offer.

Small things like discipline, desire, surrender, compassion, grace, connection, endurance, focus, selflessness, self-reflection, and peace. 

I love the way Elizabeth Gilbert's friend Richard puts it:

"You can't get to the castle if you don't swim the moat."

Yup. It's like that.

All that to say (thanks for humoring my chatter), I've distilled the process of meditation down to this:




That's it. That's my recipe for meditative success, if there is such thing, void of goal, ending, and public affirmation.  Oh and no promise of enlightenment though I can promise your efforts will not be wasted. It's like saving a million dollars one penny at a time. They only add up.

Of course there's a bit of shameless bait and switch happening here. Said recipe sounds simple (geez there she goes with another "s" word!) but, as you can and should expect, is far more deep than a surface glance reveals. Each of the three - Stop. Sit. Stay. - have layers to be peeled (blame quantum physics). So here we go. We begin to peel.


Meditation demands the first thing we do is stop. Stop the busyness of life - the tasks, the lists, the emails, the calls, the scrolling, the liking, the chatter, the doing, the outward interacting. It may mean stopping the alarm and stopping the sleep. We have to drop it all. It's in this moment that we make the choice: stop so we can sit or...not. To stop means turning things off, shutting things down, closing conversations and doors and saying no so we can say yes to this one thing. In the stop lies the gate. This is where we choose to enter through the smallest of doors into the secret garden of soul. For some it's the most difficult step. For some it may never happen. The pull of life is so strong. But for others who choose to enter through the stop, this - this - is where it all begins.


There's no trick here. I mean what I say - sit down. Sit on a chair, a cushion, a blanket, a ledge. Sit on the grass, the sand, a bench, or the floor. Sit in a closet, a class, or a park. Sit. Sit. Sit. Make yourself as comfortable as possible (no sense in fighting what can be adjusted) and then sit. Some may find it easier to come with a plan. Maybe a specific mantra or pranayama (breath) practice. Maybe it's a visualization or guided meditation. This can be really helpful at first as mental activity may be stuck in hyper mode for awhile. Essentially, dog meet bone. Give your mind something to play with. Then ask it to sit.

PS - You may find it helpful to set a timer. Olympians rarely wake up at the Olympics. Meditation is similar. Start small. Like a minute (you laugh now...). Build each day. I find it more helpful to build on my (perceived) success rather than resent my (perceived) failure. Set a timer then forget about time. Be in it for as long as you're in it.

Which leads me to...


Through it all - the discomfort, restlessness, loss of desire, immediacy of thoughts and feelings, tiredness, schedule change, anxiety, fear, lack of "progress", frustration - through it all, stay. Stay in your stopping and your sitting. Stay with your practice. Stay in it. Listen. Feel. Soften. Look in. Bring your mind back time and time again to the point of your focus (or the emptiness if that's what you're doing) and stay. Sense the millions of other people who are meditating around the world and stay. Sense those you love fiercely and stay. Sense the wiser you pulling you forward and stay. Sense the tradition, the teachers, the purpose, the depth and stay. Let the difficulty roll through you and over you and stay. Let the practice be whatever it is, whatever comes up, whatever does or doesn't happen and stay. Stay for you. Stay for us. Stay for the world. Stay because your practice does make a difference. I've come to believe that faith is the combination of discipline, resolve, and hope. Meditation takes tremendous faith. When you doubt, stay with it. When you believe, stay with it. When you don't care, stay with it. When you're bursting with love and connection, stay with it. When you're empty, stay. When you're full, stay. When you're the fullest kind of empty, stay. Stay with it and without fail it will stay with you.

So here it is my friends. My not-so-simple simplified recipe for meditation. Know that I cheer you on, I'm here if you have questions, and I have the deepest gratitude for the beautiful force you bring to the world through your meditation.

To the light within.


End Note: As always, please do not consider this a one-size-fits-all prescription. Each of us are different and
carry a variety of experiences within us. Some of those may be traumatic and painful. If this is you,
I urge you to talk with a qualified professional as you begin your meditation rhythm. This is especially
necessary if you find meditation draws forth experiences that create excessive fear, stress, and anxiety.
You’re not “doing it wrong.” Ask for help. Seek what you need so you find what you search for.

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