Fun fact, I once accidentally shaved my head
For years I kept my hair pretty short. In fact, I’d use clippers to cut it myself, every six weeks or so. That time, 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 too 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.
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. I’m sure that, deep down below their laughs, they were impressed at my commitment to the full-monty monastic experience.
I never went back to that temple, though, and didn’t start meditating until several years later.
The difference between trying meditation, and meditating?
If you meditate, what made you start? And if you’ve been trying to start, what’s motivating you?
My depth knew that starting the path, of which meditation is part, would be life-changing (as indeed it has). I knew I couldn’t just meditate once a day and not change anything else. So the first few times I tried it, I think it was too scary to my status quo.
There’s something slightly insane about clinging to the mediocre until we know there’s something better. Yet, it does seem to be a habit of mine.
It’s not just about time on the cushion
What I realized 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 – and it felt like it was getting out of control. Anger tells us we need to change something, and it was surfacing because I’d held something down for too long.
More importantly 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 anyone. It manifested inwardly, most obviously about public smoking, where I was actively hating people who subjected me to a little cigarette smoke. 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. So 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 streets of Tokyo.
It sure felt better than angry, unconscious states. And it signaled my choice to start making changes which, as expected, did change my life. From meditating regularly at home and then doing a retreat, to meeting teachers, moving to a meditation center, and this month moving into a house in Calgary that aims to create a space for others to find and follow the path.
For me then, the practices that have helped most have been mantras and Karma Yoga, which can 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.