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⚑ November 25, 2017

How To Meditate. Really. πŸƒ

Botanical drawing of a poppy.

The dates on these entries are a little screwed up, off-by-a-day. So be it. Today is really and truly the 25th of November, and so the Thanksgiving entry spans two days. The second day of Thanksgiving is a day of resting, relaxing, and most important of all, reclining. Energy comes in spurts. Spurts really should be a name for something since it’s a nice word, seldom used.

I’ve sort of doomed any creative writing urges by announcing this daily thing, but I’m sticking with it because I remember the joy of doing it in the past while forgetting the pain. This human condition just creates pain for itself. Pain is always nearby, if not all over the body like an itchy sweater. Mental pain, on the other hand, is always self-inflicted and ironically, it’s also totally unnecessary and easily fixed. Just stop thinking bad thoughts.

I have found a foolproof system adapted from Thich Nhat Hanh for fidgety Western minds, and it works perfectly every time. It doesn’t really take much practice, and it will safely put you to sleep whenever you are tossing and turning. In addition, it will calm you down when you are nervous or otherwise unsettled. It just works.

How to Meditate. Foolproof.

You must follow -- to the letter -- the steps. It's a promise you make to yourself that you will trust yourself.

Botanical drawing of a poppy.

1. Pick out your mantra.

You now have two weeks to decide what your word or words will be, and once decided, you will never, ever be able to change it. So, take as much time as you need in the next two weeks to think about what words are important to you. What two or three words, said together, give you a certain feeling? It could be patriotism; it could be an early religious awe that you felt when you were younger. It could be words from poetry or song or chant or prayer … but think and think about the words that move you.

The reason you have to give this some thought is because you are going to be repeating your mantra in groups of three, for the rest of your conscious life. How many times? You will be shooting for a million, a billion, a big honking number … big enough to impress the gods of your afterlife if you believe in that sort of thing, and if you believe in nothing but this life, you will be shooting for a number that is unknowable and grand and bigger than your imagination.

When you are pretty sure you have your three words, commit to them. Wed them until the bitter end. When doubt blows in, just know that your Greater Self had a hand in picking them out and Greater knows you better than you know. Now, here’s the second rule.

Botanical drawing of a poppy.

2. Tell your mantra to no one, ever. Ever.

This has been hard for me because once I settled on mine and beat back the occasional trolls in my mind that mocked it, I wanted to brag a bit. My mantra is lifted from my Catholic missal, right off the tissue page when I was deep into the wooden pews of my youth. There was incense and mumblings in a foreign language and all the ladies wore hats. However, I have never told a soul, so this is a little secret that stays potent because it’s a secret. Keep your secret potent. Do not tell another soul.

Botanical drawing of a poppy.

3. Say your mantra.

This is the easy part, and the rest of the story. By taking a deep breath and saying your mantra three times, and then three times again, and if you’re still with me – three times after that … you will be cured of all your mental pain. Say it into your pillow as you are falling asleep, suggests Thich Nhat Hanh. He is a Vietnamese monk who taught this method to Berkeley kids in the ’60s. He says the manta is music to God’s ears. Let your last thoughts before drifting off be the words of your mantra, repeated clean as music, and your dreams should calm down.

Of course, experienced mantra-folk know that you won’t get through many groups of three without falling off the wagon. A flurry of thoughts will come and twirl you around, but go back to the mantra as soon as you notice you’ve stopped repeating it. You can tap each of your fingers or finger some beads for counting off groups of three, and pretty soon you’ll get the hang of it. Try repeating your mantra when you’re waiting in line or stuck in traffic or any kind of sticky situation. It’s your tool for tuning up your brain and turning down anger, misery, fear.

Here’s the miracle I’ve found, personally: The peace and calm of my pillow is actually somewhere within my brain, activated by the mantra and available whenever I need peace and/or calm. πŸ”