Fun fact, I once accidentally shaved my head
For years I kept my hair pretty short. In fact, I used clippers to cut it myself, every six weeks or so.
That day, I’d actually finished cutting and was about to go out. At the last moment, I decided to make a final adjustment because the hair on top still seemed a bit long. Unfortunately, I didn’t re-attach the clipper guard and in a second, I’d shaved a two-inch stripe up the middle of my head. I didn’t need the mirror to see what I’d done because the evidence dropped to the floor in front of me.
Mortified, I had no choice but to quickly shave off the rest. I was rushing because, believe it or not, I was visiting a Zen Temple to try Zazen for the first time with some friends. As I took off my hat to give my friends their laughter moment, I knew that deep down they were impressed at my full-monty commitment to this monastic experience.
As crazy as it seems to me now, despite previous exposure to meditation like this Zazen trip, it was several years before I started meditating.
The difference between trying meditation, and meditating?
At a depth level I knew that starting the path, of which meditation is part, would be life-changing (as indeed it has been). I knew I couldn’t just meditate once a day and not change anything else. The first few times I tried it, then, it was too scary to my status quo. It would shine a light on how I was living my life and I wasn’t ready for that.
Questions for you: If you meditate, what made you start and keeps you going? And if you’ve been trying to start, what’s motivating you to go there?
It’s not just about time on the cushion
What I remembered writing this article is that my meditation didn’t start on the cushion. I had started by looking for a tool to use in my daily life, because I needed an immediate solution to a particular, pressing issue.
I’d been experiencing anger that felt like it was getting out of control. Anger tells us we need to change something, and it was surfacing because I’d held things down for too long.
More motivating for me, though, was the shame I felt about my behavior when the anger leaked out. Now, don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t hurting people or even being mean to friends. As a self-tyrant my stuff tends to manifest inwardly. Eventually, I was so embarrassed by a couple of childish reactions I had in public that I wanted to do something about my anger. I realized there must be a way to counteract, or replace these angry states. Being a modern kind of guy, I googled “antidote to anger”.
Where does your karma lead you?
My orientation has always been more to Eastern practices than, say, Christian ones. After viewing various resources then, I quickly settled on a half-page Buddhist prayer on loving kindness. “May you be well and happy, May you be free from suffering and the causes of suffering,” and so on.” I printed and memorized it and began reciting it as I walked around the busy city streets.
It sure felt better than the angry, unconscious states I’d been putting up with. And it signaled my choice to start making changes which, as expected, did alter my life. I went from meditating regularly at home and then doing a retreat, to meeting teachers, moving to a meditation center, and then sharing a house in Calgary that offers a space for others to find and follow the path.
For me then, the practices that have helped most have been mindfulness of the breath and body, doing mantras and Karma Yoga (service, or meditation in action of which this blog is an example). These can all be actively used as you go about your day to stay in better states.
What has worked for you? Comment below on how you found meditation and what it means for you.
Also, keep an eye out for some upcoming blogs from our sangha on why they started meditating.