Welcome to the blog @ourmeditationchannel!
I’m Pat Harada Linfoot, founder of this community. I am in awe of the inspiring meditators that you’re about to meet who support me and a committed community practice. Over the past year and a half, we have met on Zoom for weekly drop-in classes, workshops, and a 50-Hour Mindfulness Teacher Training. And for the past 51 weeks, a group of 50 of us have systematically cultivated compassion within a conscious model of mind training called Lojong. As Shunyru Sukuki, the Zen monk renowned for founding the first Buddhist monastery outside of Asia wrote: “We are all perfect and we can all use a little work.”
For the past 15 years I have almost exclusively meditated with my eyes closed. It’s what we see most people do when we look at others meditating or see photos. It’s what we’re often guided to do. For me, it’s also what’s most often felt like the right choice.
On that note though, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what the difference is between the right choice, the “good” choice and my most authentic, my most sovereign choice. I’m turning 40 in a few months and in keeping with that mid-life cliché I’ve been looking back at the life choices I’ve made and I am wondering how many have been truly mine. How many choices have I made that were completely in keeping with my authentic self versus the many facets of relationship I am in — with family, with friends, with society and culture?
“There is a huge difference between being authentic and being good.” This is what Dr. Shefali says in her new book Radical Awakening: Turn Pain into Power. Embrace Your Truth. Live Free.” In that book she also says. “The problem is that good is only a benign cover-up for something far more sinister.”
It’s only now, approaching 40, that I feel I really have an internal understanding of what that even means for me. Isn’t it best to sometimes make the choice that serves our community above ourselves? Serves others needs beyond our own? I’m not saying I know the answer to that but I have learned that choosing the good choice, over the most authentic one, has it’s own set of consequences and vice versa. I’m also learning that many times in the past I thought I was making an authentic choice when it might just have been the “good” choice disguised.
So how do I know what choice I am making as I move forward in my life?
This is where I have felt the call to find conscious space with my eyes open. It’s interesting how observing this now moment, observing the “outer world” from presence can help me tune in to my most authentic self. And here’s the thing, I aim to do this many times throughout the day. I mediate almost everyday. And I say almost to be completely transparent. If you read my last blog post then you know, I have two little boys I am with almost all the time, so finding quiet space by myself is sometimes a challenge. I also know it can be a challenge for many, in many different life circumstances. So throughout the day I also find moments to live with my eyes open, and sit “in meditation” here, to be present and make choices (if choices need to be made). This is my compass. This is my North.
And I feel in my truth that every human on this Earth has access to this, our most sovereign, or most authentic space. You can find it right now. Feel the soles of your feet while you read these words. Notice your next breath as it moves your body. Here you are.
For many years, I was never able to meditate. Every few months, I’d download another mindfulness app and give it a few tries. But sooner than later, I’d forget about the whole thing, convinced I was one of those people who just couldn’t meditate. I didn’t even know what I was supposed to do.
That all changed last summer. It was the middle of the pandemic. In Spain, we were just starting to emerge from a severe 3-month lockdown. We’d had one of the strictest confinements in the world, unable to go out even for short walks. It began to feel like a police state: every time I left the house, I scanned my surroundings constantly for cops, wondering if they would believe I was out for groceries, knowing they could easily give me a 600 euro fine for loitering even a few minutes outside.
As the world faced unprecedented uncertainty, I sank deeper and deeper into what seemed like an impenetrable feedback loop of anxiety, panic, and indecision. By June, I was willing to try anything to help myself. It was then that I found Pat’s 21-day meditation course on compassion. I didn’t have much hope, but I signed up.
For 21 consecutive nights, I surprised myself by showing up. I still didn’t know what I was doing, and the practice was as difficult as ever, but something about it felt right. After the course was over, I continued meditating on my own. Back then, even five minutes felt like an eternity, to say nothing of 10 or 15 or 20 minutes.
Meditating continued to be a puzzle I couldn’t figure out until I found another way in: writing. I’d spent the last couple years focused on my writing but would never have characterized my writing practice as meditative. If anything, it often felt like the opposite: it felt like a struggle.
But as I started to explore the intersection between meditation and writing, I began to see more similarities, more synergies. Perhaps because I mainly write deeply personal essays, writing became a way into my meditation, almost a meditation practice in itself in its sustained, deliberate contact with discomfort. Writing was also a way for me to process what happened when I meditated and understand meditation concepts, mainly through journaling – about the Lojong slogans, say, or the difficulties that would come up in my sits. In return, meditation helped me in my writing, cultivating my capacity to simply be with my flawed, imperfect self, and expose her through words.
These days, I am deeply interested in exploring further the way writing and meditation can inform each other, and will be experimenting with different ways writing and meditation can be used together effectively in my classes. I hope you’ll join me.
When I was first introduced to meditation, through yoga, it felt like coming home. I would heat my body through yoga to calm my mind and then sit — and every time, even when my emotions became a swirling storm or my thoughts felt like a race track, there would also always be a piece of me that just said yes. This place. Here. Soon I began to read about mediation and mindfulness and in my late 20s I found Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth. It changed my life.
I was a reluctant meditator. Actually, that isn’t accurate. I was resistant to meditation. I knew people that meditated. I read about the scientifically proven benefits of meditation. I had a regular yoga practice. But I somehow couldn’t get myself to the proverbial – or literal – cushion. Why? There were two main blocks for me. First, I felt like I didn’t know how to meditate. Once I sat down and closed my eyes what was I supposed to do? Which lead me to my other block. I feared the stillness and the silence. I came to meditation by way of my aforementioned yoga practice. With yoga I was drawn to the physicality of it – I love to move. There is no way I could just…..sit? However, after working with a health practitioner, I realized I had been living in a state of constant and heightened stress which meant my sympathetic nervous system was in overdrive. In other words, I was constantly in flight or fight mode and needed to engage in activities that would activate my para-sympathetic nervous system or the “rest and digest” function. It seems I couldn’t resist any longer.