06 October 2011

Meditation for (Distracted) Dummies (Like Me)

I am not a meditation purist.  I employ several different methods to help me slip into that peaceful, prayerful and meditative space that so nurtures and sustains me.  Perhaps it is due to the almost constant pain in my head. Perhaps it is simply what I was born with. Whatever the cause, my mind can often be so easily distracted, so quickly caught up in the flow of thought, that I have had to find other methods than the classic one (sit cross-legged on a small cushion and stay there for an hour or so with completely empty mind) to enter a meditative state.

As a follow-up to my previous post, I'll share these methods.

Thank God, bless Allah, praise Jehovah: there are people wiser and more centered than I who have recorded meditations that I can purchase and play on my portable CD player or my stereo.  Here are a few of my favorites, and you can go to Amazon.com to find any number of CDs to buy:

** Kelley Howell and Brain Sync profess to change one's brain.  I don't know about that, I just know that her guided meditations as well as her music CDs are very helpful for me.
** Stephen Cope has a 2-CD set called "Yoga for Emotional Flow" that I just love.
** Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's CD, "A Gift of Silence" consists of three guided meditations.
** Jon Kabot Zinn recorded a 5-CD set - "Guided Mindfulness Meditation" - that present a variety of ways to meditate.

I am not Catholic, but I did spend 30 days once in a retreat (the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius) at a Jesuit spiritual center in Pennsylvania.  That experience opened me to to rituals and practices of Catholicism, which, although I do not subscribe to Catholic beliefs or doctrine, have informed and deepened my prayerful and centering practices.  One of the things I learned to do was to use a rosary (a beaded necklace would do just as well) for centering.  There is something about the tactile, regular fingering of the beads that, combined with whispered, repeated phrases allows for peace of spirit and calming of mind.

Small things like the lighting of a candle, sounding of a singing bowl, or yoga assanas help center me and are a wonderful way to begin a prayer or meditation time.  I always use the breath for centering, something about which I have posted before (click on breathing in the LABELS section, to the right).

I recently discovered chanting, and do not have many resources yet, but learned from a CD, "Five Classic Meditations" by Shinzen Young.  I cannot find this CD, even on his website, but I saw a CD called, "Chant: Om Mani Padme Hum," and that is the chant I learned from the "Five Classic Meditations CD."

There are days when, despite my years of practicing centering prayer and meditation, there is something so pressing on my spirit that emptying the mind seems not only impossible, but not what I need.  Having learned from some visits to the Insight Meditation group in Washington, DC that there is a form of meditation that allows and even follows the thoughts arising from one's spirit, I now allow myself these times that clearly require reflection instead of meditation.  However, it's not simply a matter of plunking down in a chair and engaging in repetitive, compulsive thinking patterns that are anything but quiet and reflective.  I use music, simple ritual, and maybe a bit of chanting to help me center and relax before I begin reflecting.

There is more to share, but this migraine is worsening, so I will continue in another post.  May you allow yourself some moments of peace today and may these moments bless you and keep you close to God.
I would love to hear from you.  Please use the Comment link below (and note that I have been unable lately to comment on my own or any other blog, so will not be able to reply) or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com.


  1. Thanks for the great resources! This is an area of need for me :)

  2. Meditation should be accessible and available and appealing to all people! Love this post, friend!!!

    I've started a meditation group here at school! We meet 10 min twice a week. Only 2 people other than me so far, but sharing my passion for meditation with even those 2 other people makes me SO happy. Plus, tons of people come up to me at school and say "Oh, I have been meaning to come to your meditation group!" Hopefully those intentions will manifest into a 10 minute sit sometime in the near future. It would be good for all the overachiever save-the-world types at this school :).

    I'll be coming to town in December. Hopefully we can have tea if you're around.


  3. Free Guided Meditations are really helpful. It has really helped center me after a long day of work.

  4. Sam - thanks so much for this link! I'd never heard of it, so am looking forward to using it.


  5. Cristina -- I love it that you have a meditation group at school. Keep me posted on how it goes. And, yes, let's get together when you come to D.C.