Just be shabby with it.

Posted Aug 4th, 2014 by Elliot Polinsky

I smoked several cigarettes before my first meditation. I was alone in another country, appalled by a series of ruined plans, low on cash and rife with anxiety. Maybe this condition jostled me enough to remove whatever opposition I usually feel toward externally originated, traditionally passed down mental practice— because I’ve always felt that my mind is my own, and meditation seemed like a weird stillness fetish. For whatever reason I sat on the big orange tile floor, let my eyes mostly close, and focused as best I could on inhaling, and exhaling. During the next twenty minutes I tried to not-care what I thought. At the end, of course, nothing had massively changed; but the moment had drained a lot of anxiety and helped me to re-orient without the annoying presence of (as) many imagined demons.

My meditation practice is sporadic, impelled by self-serving motivations. I pretty much sit when a) that same need to suddenly ground myself in an acute manner arises or b) I need to release something in particular that’s been taking up too much space or c) I get the feeling that meditation will help me to be more skilled at a specific endeavor by being more calm. Probably a dedicated practice, spurred by ego-less-ness, or at least general wellness, would feel more legitimate. I would like to meditate more with my heart than my head. In the meantime: who cares? I’ve decided it’s fine to meditate however I can manage, and if that ‘however’ is sometimes more, and sometimes less rigorous, then I’ll just be shabby with it. Regardless of why or when I sit, in the end, meditation creates a feeling of openness, as if the world had settled and come into itself. After a sit I follow thoughts more clearly since they don’t double and triple knot themselves while amplifying various terrible contingencies. Which feels like a positive thing, wherever it comes from.

If you’re interested in starting a meditation practice but don’t know how to begin, or want to resume a once engaged practice, just do it and see what you find. Nothing has to be formal. Lie in bed and stare at the ceiling like when you were little. Slump over a floor cushion and listen to your breathing. Or find a spine-straight posture, relax the shoulders, let the chin tuck slightly, and follow the breath as it enters and exits your nostrils. Maybe something difficult, or beautiful, or disturbing, or sad, or exciting, or all of those at once will pass through your mind while you do so; or maybe not; and the challenge is to let those thoughts and feelings and lacks of thoughts and feelings happen— let them keep happening— and hold true to the moment of breathing. Trust that nothing will go missing. Try not to grip at anything. This alone is your practice.

Elliot teaches an All Levels Flow Thursdays at 5:15pm and Fridays at noon.

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