(light through trees photo copyright 2016 by Hannah Natzke)
Don’t you just love the medication ads on television that tell you how wonderful a drug is and then list a dozen or more ways it can make you sicker or kill you? I don’t know anyone who hopes to live heavily medicated. But I’m starting to realize that living my best life requires that I be heavily meditated.
The first thing Harvard psychologist Ronald Siegel said in a week-long training I attended on mindfulness meditation for therapists was: “Dose matters.” His point was that if we wanted just a small effect on our lives, we could meditate sporadically, maybe once or twice a week for a few minutes. But if we wanted a lot of effect on our lives, Siegel said, we would need to commit significant time daily to cultivating the state of mindfulness so that we could live more and more that way. I think in his way he was telling me and the one hundred other therapists present that we need to be heavily meditated.
When I am not heavily meditated, grace appears to be rare and stress seems abundant. When I am not heavily meditated my mind is a motherboard of reactive buttons just waiting for someone to push them. When I am not heavily meditated, culturally-driven ideas about money and success overtake the garden of my soul like virginia creeper dominates the garden outside my office window. (Unchecked, that stuff grows up the walls and halfway up the roof!)
When I am not heavily meditated, the closest people in my inner circle too often seem like irritants rather than the sacred, irreplaceable human beings they are. When I am not heavily meditated, childlike emotions such as awe and wonder seem to be distant remnants of my youth. When I am not heavily meditated, God seems like an abstract idea instead of an immanent presence. When I am not heavily meditated, fear spreads through my soul like the angel of death and love seems destined to lose its struggle with the dark forces of this world.
But maybe that’s just me. Do you need to be heavily meditated? Perhaps you’ll enjoy meditation from the beginning, but if not, please don’t give up on being heavily meditated. I’ve spent several years finding a personalized approach that really works for me. The process of finding a practice that fits who you are is really worth it! Turns out that unlike being heavily medicated, being heavily meditated has only positive side effects.