September 22, 2010
In January of this year, I embarked on a journey to live more consciously. I decided I need to be more aware of what I put in my body, I need to pay more attention to how my lifestyle affects the environment, and that I need to do more to nourish my spirit. I have made a lot of changes in my life since I began this journey. I have adjusted my diet. I have switched virtually every single body product I was using, as they all contained various toxins. I developed a 3-bin system for dealing with waste in my home (landfill, recycle, & recycle for cash). I have switched our lightbulbs to CFLs. I unplug most (not all) of my electronics when they aren’t in use. I found a church that I really like (because it’s not at all like the conventional churches I’m used to) – the Center for Spiritual Awareness. I have watched several documentaries on our food system, and read many books and articles on health, food, body products, energy, attraction, and the power that lies within each of us. In all the books and articles that I’ve been reading, I’ve noticed a common thread – meditation.
Meditation is the practice of quieting the mind, or silencing the “monkey brain”. Meditation is about mindfulness, and getting in touch with the spiritual essence that resides in each of us. It essentially involves sitting in a quiet place, and emptying your mind of all thoughts. As thoughts arise, you examine them, feel them, and free them. Eventually you get to a point where your mind is so quiet, and you are so centered in the peace that resides within, that you are no longer distracted by thoughts. You simply rest in the quiet.
Meditation has been practiced in Eastern cultures for over 2,000 years. Taoists in China and Buddhists in India began to develop their meditative practices around 500-600 BC. Meditation was used as a path towards enlightenment and nirvana. Meditation didn’t reach the U.S. until the 1960’s and 70’s, and even then was practiced by very small parts of the population. Unless you grew up in a fairly progressive household, you may still not be practicing meditation here in the U.S., whereas in other parts of the world, it is practiced by the majority of the population. Some cultures meditate with chants and ringing bells, others with complete quiet. Yoga, prayer, and Tai Chi are also considered forms of mediation. As with most things in life, I believe it is all about finding what resonates with your spirit, and doing that. I do not think any one form of mediation has more value than another.
I figure there has to be some value in something that has been practiced by people all over the world, for over 2,000 years. If it didn’t work, it simply would not have lasted that long. It would have been a fad, that eventually disappeared. But it hasn’t. In fact, in addition to the benefits meditation brings to your spirit, scientific studies have also shown that meditation has numerous positive effects on the body, involving metabolism, heart rate, respiration, blood pressure, brain activation, and both pain and stress reduction. I think it’s time I check it out.
So today I decided I want to start meditating. In order for me to do that, I know I will need a space in my home that is designated for that. Some place I can go and have peace and quiet, and no distractions. Unfortunately, I live in a small apartment, so space is limited. Usually the only place I get privacy is in my bedroom, so I figured I’d start there. At the foot of my bed I have a long, storage chest of drawers, that I often sit on to put on my shoes. (I know, it’s very Mr. Rogers sounding.) Then right across from that piece is a TV stand, with a TV on it. The TV stand tucks nicely into a weird architectural space in my room. The only things that would fit there are a TV stand, or a dresser, or… a meditation space. If I get rid of the TV, then I can set up a meditation space on the TV stand, sit across from it on a pad on the storage chest, and there you go. Only I have to get rid of the TV. Oink.
I won’t lie. I like having a TV in my room. I like being able to watch a movie at night, while lying in my bed. I like that I can watch something in my room, while my daughter watches something else in the family room. Only… that’s been happening too much lately. And is that really how I want my family to be? Everyone at home, but in a different room, watching TV? Huuuuhhh (heavy sigh). That is not quality time. Is that the memory I want my daughter to have? No. And honestly, how many TVs do I really need in 850 sq ft of living space? Do we really need one in every room? Is TV that important? That it should get prime real estate in my home? No. And considering I just wrote about how TV rots your brain, is there really even a debate? I know what I have to do.
I have to make a choice. What do I really want my life to be like? How can I get my life from where it is, to the vision I have for it? I go back to a speaker that was at my church recently – Ester Nicholson. I remember when she talked about how she reached her goals, she said that your dreams have to be of high importance in your life. She even specifically said “they have to be more important than watching TV.” That totally struck me. So now is my chance to prove it. If I am serious about wanting certain things in my life, then I have to be willing to make space for those things in my life – even if it means sacrificing other things that don’t necessarily fit in my vision anymore. It’s time to walk the talk.
So today I hauled my TV down to Best Buy, and dropped it off in their recycle center. I came home, a bit in disbelief, but also proud of myself. I cleaned off the TV stand, and set up a meditation space – complete with incense, candles, pictures of Buddha, a prayer box, some of the affirmation cards I get at church – all the things I could think of that may help me get in that zone. I even found a cushion at GoodWill that matches the colors of my room, and fits perfectly on top of the storage chest – so the space is aesthetically pleasing too. 😉
I gotta say, I am proud of myself that I made the choice that my spirit is more important than entertainment. I created space in my life, for something I believe will bring true value to my life. Now it’s up to me to use it.
*I am proud to update that my daughter was so inspired by my action, that she asked me to get rid of the TV in her room as well, so she can convert that space into an art station. Gotta love a 12 yr old that chooses art over TV!
References:  Choudhury, P.C. Roy. (1956). Jainism in Bihar. Patna. & Bothra, Surendra. (1987). Ahimsa – The Science Of Peace.
 Newberg, A.B. & Iversen, J. (2003). “The neural basis of the complex mental task of meditation: Neurotransmitter and neurochemical considerations”. Medical Hypotheses. & Cahn, B. Rael & Polich, John. (2006). “Meditation states and traits: EEG, ERP, and neuroimaging studies”. Psychological Bulletin. & Kabat-Zinn, Jon; Lipworth, L. & Burney, R. (1985). “The clinical use of mindfulness meditation for the self-regulation of chronic pain”. Journal of Behavioral Medicine. & Davidson, Richard J.; Kabat-Zinn, Jon; Schumacher, Jessica; Rosenkrantz, Melissa; Muller, Daniel; Santorelli, Saki F.; Urbanowski, Ferris; Harrington, Anne; Bonus, Katherine; Sheridan, John F. (2003). “Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation”. Psychosomatic Medicine.