Here’s a detailed description of what my practice looks like after two years. I’d love to hear your thoughts or questions if you have any!
My more “formal” practice is in the morning, as first-thing as I can. The time I specifically set aside in the morning helps me informally practice staying present and connected throughout the day. When things are hairy or I’m really struggling, I know I have to carve out an additional chunk of time – before and after an emotionally taxing event, for example. The last thing I do before I fall asleep is another check-in, so my day is book-ended (and interspersed) with moments of meeting God in the present moment.
(My dream is for all my moments to be spent in the awareness of His presence, to truly “walk with Him” at all times, a sort of Heaven on earth. For now, I’m trying to be patient as I gradually transition from the basically zero moments where I started and just enjoy more and more each day.)
Hahaha, I just went back and re-read the last couple of paragraphs. My life and practice is not at all the way I think that might have sounded! The reality of it is actually messy and ungraceful and interrupted and kind of ugly as I struggle to move aside the layers of garbage weighing me down to glimpse a few shimmers of sunlight. There’s a lot of frustration and mindless rummaging through the refuse, and I’m side-tracked more than I’m actually present. It’s not pretty. But it’s progress!
In practical terms, my morning practice is usually after I take my shower and make tea, but before breakfast. I have a rule never to listen to podcasts/audiobooks or get into the news or social media before I meditate, because those things (for me) are counter-productive to finding stillness. (More on my daily morning routine here.)
Anywhere will do. Most days I’m in my living room, facing out the patio doors. I like to be looking out on creation. I like to see the sky – if it’s cloudy, I remember that the blue sky is always there behind the clouds. Just like God is always there no matter what life circumstances are darkening my door. If I can’t really see nature, I just take a minute to connect with my appreciation for the physical objects around me; they’re all from the same Source as nature, after all.
I find that quiet places are more conducive to finding stillness, but sometimes that just means noise-cancelling headphones with soothing music turned up high. If I’m comfortable, I find it easier to stay focused rather than thinking about being cold or stiff.
To get present, I start by finding out where I am in space. I’m on my living room rug, in my house, in my neighbourhood. Here I am. Or I’m on a log overlooking a lake in the wilderness. Or in an airport waiting for my flight to board. In my car, in the parking lot, before this important appointment. I am here. Here I am.
For me, that only gets the thinking part of me anchored in space. An old pattern for me is “being in my head”. I maybe used to escape to there, or I tried to make sense of my surroundings there, I tried to find a way for it not to be so broken and painful. I don’t always remember that I’m in my body, and my body is in this place where I am. To connect everything together, I take some long, deep breaths – in through the nose and out through the mouth. I find that this connects the thinking part of my consciousness with my physical body in space.
Next, I take note of my senses. Smells, sounds, maybe tastes, maybe sense of touch. This helps me ground my body in the present, but also I find that when I take a sec to notice a sound, I won’t try and fight it. I note the traffic or the noise someone is making and I accept that it’s there. It just is. This way, it doesn’t come back later in my meditation to annoy me or cause my thoughts to wander off and get stuck somewhere.
The final part of my preparation is a body scan. The idea is for this to take half a minute or so, but lately I’m noticing that I get stuck here. So stuck that I wrote a whole blog post about it. The idea is the same as checking in with the physical surroundings, to kind of accept the current state of things so they don’t distract me later. It’s also helpful to notice where I’m holding tension so I can let go of it by relaxing those muscles.
The final part of my body scan is to connect, once again, with the breath. For me, this is an acknowledgement that every breath comes from God. And I’m not sure I can put this into words exactly, but something about the Spirit of God in me, flowing through me. This is a moment of gratitude for the guidance of the Spirit and of God’s constant presence with me.
The rest of the meditation practice is about staying present with God. What does this mean? I’m not sure. I’m exploring that. I think briefly about how He is always there with me, just like the blue sky is always behind the clouds. I try and relax into His presence, the way you relax when you’re around someone who makes you feel safe and loved. Sometimes this is a struggle because of where I am that day, and I need to acknowledge that and give it over to Him.
Some days it’s easier to find that place of quiet stillness, the muscles around my eyes are relaxed so that the maximum amount of sunlight comes to me. It makes me smile to think about letting Him in – receiving the gifts He has given, feeling His influence in my surroundings. Some days I ask questions and I’m still enough to hear the answers.
A lot of days I’m out of sorts, struggling, my mind wandering. Worrying, resenting, self-pitying. All these emotions that get in the way of being with Him. I guess that’s what is meant by having idols – things that we give our attention to instead of giving it to God. Makes it hard for Him to lead me, for sure. Hard to me to hear His voice, that is.
When I catch myself daydreaming (approximately a zillion times per practice), I try and come back to the breath He gives me. Reconnecting with the present moment, where He is, and where I can be with Him.
I think of my meditation practice as a form of prayer. Sometimes I can just sit and be open to receiving, whereas other times the best I can do is notice what I’m struggling with and release it to Him. Notice and release, notice and release. And cry out to Him when what I’m noticing is really, really painful.
It’s always evolving. Sometimes plateauing or going through rough patches, but definitely trending into a deeper and more fulfilling time in His presence.