adventures in meditation, part one by Philippa Moore

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Every year, I've made a resolution to learn to meditate and start a meditation practice.

I've been making that resolution for about nine years, maybe longer.

The reason I kept trying? Because every interview with or profile of anyone I admire - whether they're a writer, a public figure, an entrepreneur, or just a generally enlightened and content person - usually mentions meditation in some way. That it is key to their creative practice, to balance, to keeping calm, to staying sane. That it opens the door between the person they are, or have to be in the world, and the person they want to be.

At the start of this year, a friend gifted me Danielle LaPorte's The Desire Map, a much-spoken of phenomena in the online world that gets a lot of traction around New Year, and with good reason - it's a pretty effective system for driving down into what you really want for your life.  One of the activities is 'Core Desired Feelings' and after much excavation and brainstorming, two of my four were 'calm' and 'wise'.

Much of the work in programmes like this centres very much around action and sovereignty when it comes to what you want to happen in your life. In other words, what do you have to do to feel the way you want to feel? What is something you can do, that is within your control, right now to get you closer to where you want to be?

The answer for those two particular desires I had identified in myself was.....meditate.

So, around the same time I did the Desire Map work, I began experimenting with meditation with the help of a wonderful (and free!) app I highly recommend called Insight Timer. This is the moment to tell you this is not a sponsored post, in any way, I just love this app! I think Laura might have recommended it to me too.

The app was great. But instantly I was reminded of why I had abandoned all previous attempts - because my mind was so manic, it wouldn't focus. I could barely get through 60 seconds.

"Just focus on your breath" - sounds easy, am I right? Wrong.  

After many months now, the trick that has helped me the most in learning to meditate has been thinking of my mind as a puppy in training. What do you say to a puppy when you're trying to teach it? 

"Stay."

So every time I notice my mind wandering in meditation, as it always does, I call it to heel like I would an adorable puppy. Hearing the word "stay" does jolt my mind back to the task at hand. A few breaths and it will stay, like a good mind. Then it wanders off again, and I gently grab it by the collar and lead it back. 

It's a nice metaphor, when it works! But my mind isn't always a cute puppy that comes back obediently when it's called. Sometimes meditation for me is like finding the puppy has destroyed the couch, chewed your favourite books and done its business everywhere. Moments like those, I set the timer for 2 minutes and that has to be enough. Miraculously, those 2 minutes do the trick. 

The benefits of meditation are seeping into other aspects of my life too. I find I'm calmer in general, able to let things go a lot faster than I used to. I get pissed off, of course but I allow myself to feel it, for five or ten minutes and then, frankly, I get bored and move on! I've also found I'm sleeping better thanks to meditation, even when I'm anxious. Even when I wake up for no reason and can't get back to sleep - the anger and panic at only being 5 hours away from the alarm going off, and then 4, and so on, has dissipated dramatically. I find that I can rest in those moments, even if I don't go back to sleep straight away. 

I meditated for 53 days straight over March and April, usually in the evenings, after work, before bed. It seemed to be working. I had gone from barely being able to do 5 minutes to doing guided meditations for half an hour or more. I was on a roll!

But then I lost my winning streak thanks to just one stressful and busy day at the end of April, where making time to meditate merely slipped my mind. Hardly a major crime. But over the next few days, I had one day on, one day off, and it just didn't work. Perhaps the practice hadn't been so carefully carved out as I thought. I found myself feeling really out of sorts and realised that meditation had come to be an essential part of my routine, like perfume, caffeine and morning pages. I didn't feel myself without it. Much like running

It didn't matter that I'd fallen off the wagon. In fact, there was no wagon. It's a practice. I just had to start again. 

Meditation has become part of my daily routine. My rule is "meditation before social media", which means I meditate as soon as I wake up, happily filling the space between being conscious and the coffee being ready.

I didn't expect it to change my life, but it really has. 

"Meditation is not a means to an end. It is both the means and the end." – Jiddu Krishnamurti

More on this subject to come, as I feel it will be quite an adventure, as the post title hints! 

Do you meditate regularly? How do you find it?

the writer's garden by Philippa Moore

"The soil is warming. We gardeners grow ever more watchful, sniffing the air as excitedly as beagles, peering into the vegetation to detect those first thrilling signs of life. Is that a distance haze of green? Wait: did you hear birdsong? At long long last, after months of enforced dormancy, we tell ourselves it might be time to begin." - Charlotte Mendelson, "Rhapsody in Green"


The last weekend in March, I planted early potatoes. A week later, the rhubarb we'd given up for dead did a Jesus and came back to life, the blueberry bush began sprouting green leaves and the cherry tree exploded in pink blossoms.

Tom and I went out for a run and came back to a generous bag of horse manure on the front step, gift of our mechanic, also a keen gardener who told me rhubarb loves horse manure and he had a reliable local source.

My packets of seeds have been out on the bench for the last few weekends, waiting for the right, ripe moment to sow as April marches into May.

As Charlotte Mendelson writes in her lovely book of essays, this is such a nice time of year to be a gardener - a time where hope triumphs over experience, where we sow and are thrilled by the potential, like applying for a job we really want - you send your CV off, put the seed in the ground, and for a while, anything can happen. It's a lovely feeling.

Today I planted french beans and courgettes (zucchini), and there is a tomato plant on my kitchen windowsill. The cherry blossoms are falling and fading, to make way for the green leaves and fruit. The potatoes are thriving. The rhubarb is Trump-like in its determination to beat all the odds and completely take over. 

I love my garden. I hope it will be an abundant year, in every sense.

art thrives on restrictions by Philippa Moore

“I think there’s something to be said for making movies faster, rather than slower. I think that the years that are now consumed in obtaining a green light and the funding for a movie, and the amount of rewriting that scripts undergo, overcooks them to the point where a lot of times spontaneousness and a sort-of short-order cooking is lost. Something happens that robs them of a certain spontaneity, and when we were writing at breakneck speed, and turning things around really fast there is a kind of energy and enthusiasm that I think is sometimes lost when you have too much time. Art thrives on restrictions, and it’s not just money that can be restricted to good effect, it’s also sometimes time and the fact that we didn’t have enough time to second-guess ourselves may have worked to the film’s advantage.”

- Nicholas Meyer, Writer/Director of Star Trek VI

departed australia by Philippa Moore

Ten years ago, I took the biggest leap of faith of my life.

In the lead up, I was permanently anxious, trembling inside, terrified of it all going wrong.

But I chose to push through that discomfort, for underneath it all was a wise, calm voice that told me I simply had to do this.  And I trusted that voice.

I couldn't have told you why. There was only a knowing that I had to listen, I had to trust. I couldn't explain it. Sounds dramatic, I know - it felt dramatic at the time. I was reeling from the breakdown of my marriage the year before, feeling restless and shaky-footed in Melbourne, like a baby giraffe learning to walk. Every step towards this dream felt so freaking hard. 

But healing is hard. Change is hard. Finding out who you really are is hard. Moving away from the familiar and into the unknown, alone, is hard. 

It didn't feel particularly brave at the time - it felt exhilarating, terrifying and a little bit reckless. I didn't know what I'd find on the other side. 

But I had to depart so I could arrive.

Whatever your dream, I hope you find a way to face your fears and make it happen. It's so very, very worth it. 

 

yes, and by Philippa Moore

Influence is a tricky thing. I think it starts with love, with resonance, with the exhilarating feeling that what you’ve read articulates something you’ve always felt but never had the words for. It’s reading something and jumping into the conversation to say, yes, it was this way for me too. Yes, and. The and is the writing. The and is the book that is your answer.
- Julie Buntin, from this article