Do you think animals meditate? How about reptiles?
It never crossed my mind until a few years ago on a visit to the local nature center. After we entered the reptile room my little boy and I stood stone still for a long time. Side by side, our feet almost touched the wall of the glass atrium.
Lessons from a Giant Lizard
Were we mesmerized? Or was the Giant Lizard on the other side of the glass in a “meditative state of consciousness?”
He seemed scary (and scaly!) with his massive crocodile-like body. Until we spotted something familiar—a big bowl of green salad. This creature was a vegetarian like us…cool!
But this wasn’t the only way he was like us. In fact, this lizard taught me a surprising lesson about mindful parenting and meditation that I want to share with you.
Enchanted by how long this lizard could go without moving or blinking his open eyelids, we moved even closer. Our breath steamed up the thin glass wall. We were just 6 inches from his face, but the giant lizard didn’t budge!
He was in a deep and peaceful state and as a long time meditation practitioner, strangely, I recognized this.
Life Off The Cushion
It wasn’t until I was in my thirties and having children that I started to make the connection between daily meditation practice and life “off the cushion.” Before nursing my four kids, the night was my time to go inward—to sleep and rise before the sun to meditate.
But as all parents know, “my time” morphed into “our time” and remained that way for many years. Thankfully, I continued to meditate while nursing, albeit less frequently.
During this time, I learned an important lesson about meditation and mindful parenting. Knowing how to spontaneously “tune in” to mindful awareness at any moment is the long-term benefit of a strong meditation practice. And eventually, I discovered that there is a fountain of peace in each and every one of us (Giant Lizards included!).
Now that my children sleep soundly, I have resumed my regular nighttime joy. In the wee hours of the morning, I look forward to meditating and plugging into my deeper pulse. And I am lucky. Over the past 27 years, several meditation teachers have given me life-altering instruction, guiding me to the deeper ground of my being.
The Benefits of Daily Practice
Although daily meditation practice requires commitment, just like a marriage or a career, the payoff is priceless. I have found that the benefit of knowing and accessing your deepest self, free from the mind’s busy thoughts, is incredibly useful for daily life.
Here are a few examples I have experienced directly. Tapping into your source can bring peace to moments of passage (i.e. birth & death); give you distance from drama and disaster; and in the case of the Giant Lizard above, create inner freedom when you are physically confined! Can you relate?
Have you ever felt you were observing the mind’s chatter from a separate place, even for a few moments? If so, that’s important. It means that you found the portal to what I like to call, the ‘secret treasure,’ otherwise known as meditation.
If you are interested in this experience, here is a simple meditation practice you can try in the very early morning or late evening when everyone is sleeping and your home is silent and still.
1. Sit up with your back straight on a chair, or cross-legged in your bed against the wall. (Important: you MUST have your spine erect—ancient yogic reasons.)
2. Get comfortable. You can place a pillow under your bottom and wrap a blanket/shawl around your shoulders for warmth and security.
3. Dim the lights and close your eyes (there is no right way, just close them).
4. Take a few deep breaths (there is no right way, breathe freely).
5. Start to notice that your mind is thinking lots of thoughts (incessant chatter—this is what the mind does, this is the mind’s function).
6. Have no concern about what the “mind” says.
7. Notice You are listening to the mind.
8. Notice You are separate from the mind.
9. Breathe into the space of You Divine
10. Repeat steps 3–9, over and over. You are now “practicing” a basic meditation (10 minutes a day, every day, is a great start!).
By Betsi Iris Mufson