After a breakup a few years back, a friend asked me, “Are you on Tinder?” I wasn’t. Dating apps were for those who couldn’t meet people in real life. I was above that.
But my friend is a charismatic, good-looking guy who’s dated many interesting, good-looking women. That he’d use Tinder made me reconsider my gut reaction.
Sometimes we need to see others doing something to give ourselves permission to do it too. Your parents, even if they loved you, might’ve discouraged your adventurous spirit when you were young. Our capitalist, patriarchal, white supremacist society might’ve (and in all likelihood has) beaten you down.
We’re not somebody who would do X because X seems weird or wrong or weak. But when we see someone who we admire do X, X suddenly becomes fair game.
And so it goes with my meditation practice, which is a hodgepodge of habits and skills I’ve picked up from others. I didn’t steal the idea to put my meditation cushion next to my bedroom window so that I can face the sunrise. It just took an old roommate of mine doing it first.
I can meditate every day and it doesn’t mean I’m some religious extremist or New Age hippie. Psychotherapist and meditation teacher Tara Brach taught me that. Her famous Wednesday night classes at a Unitarian Universalist church near Washington, D.C, are filled with “normal” people. There’s talk of divorces, deaths in the family, sickness, job losses—all kinds of everyday problems.
In fact, I can meditate almost any time I need to. Zen meditation teacher Cheri Huber taught me that. “When you’re suffering, take it as a sign that it’s time to sit and meditate,” she is quoted as saying in Sara Jenkins’s book “This Side of Nirvana.” A park bench, the bathroom, my car (while parked, of course)—I’ll meditate wherever, whenever.
I can take breaks when I’m overwhelmed by social situations. A meditation teacher friend of mine once told me that she takes a few deep breaths in the bathroom during parties. My discomfort had meant that I was introverted, shy, unusual, which might still be true. But, thanks to my friend, my experience is now workable rather than evidence that something is wrong with me.
I can slow down to move at a pace that’s comfortable. I once watched a revered meditation teacher stop on the side of a bustling city street to focus solely on drinking water from his water bottle.
I can prioritize meditation because it makes such a difference in my life. How could I not after watching an old roommate get up every morning at 4:30 a.m. to practice hours of yoga?
You’ve probably heard the line from entrepreneur Jim Rohn (who, by the way, was a pioneer of so-called “multilevel marketing,” also known as a pyramid scheme): “You’re the average of the five people you spend most of your time with.” But I like country singer Dolly Parton’s version better: “You’re known by the company you keep.”
Want to start meditating or meditate more often?
My ebook, How to Get Out of Your Head, will help you start or stick with a regular meditation practice. Get it for free here.
Listen to my podcast
On Meditation for the 99%, I take meditation out of faraway monasteries, expensive retreat centers, and Corporate America, and bring it to work, relationships, and, especially, politics. Listen everywhere podcasts are available.