So, I have been straying from my path, not going to satsang at my local meditation center, wondering what the point of the chants and the gatherings are, feeling disconnected. I have let that question “why should I go?” rattle around in my head for a little while, and I just rediscovered the answer.
Tonight, when I sat down for meditation, I noticed a few extra soundtracks playing in my head: the music I had been listening to in the car when I went to get groceries, the football game my husband watched as I plinked around on the computer next to him, the grandiose or pessimistic fantasy du jour, and my usual planning channel, full of to-dos and shoulds and schedules and stress. When I closed my eyes and that’s all I heard, I had to reconsider how I was filling my time, filling my mind. That’s the gift of meditation – the chance to notice my patterns and to choose to maintain them or to let them go.
When I was more dedicated to the discipline of chants at the center, the set of “radio stations” broadcasting in my head held a few other items. Yes, I had the planning/stress channel, memories of whatever I’d heard said or sung, and my very own daydream channel, but I also could tune back into a beautiful chant to set me right again.
Going to a chant or sitting for meditation is an investment. Long after the chant or meditation finish, the stillness keeps unfolding, the chant keeps on going, joyfully, in my head and heart. Unexpectedly, I have found I can draw upon past “deposits”: in a moment of stress before giving a talk, visualizing my meditation space returns to me that current of stillness I sowed. Although I never expected them to last, those moments in meditation are readily available to me.
Tonight I rediscovered the casual return on investment as well. As I have to keep relearning, my brain absorbs whatever I give it and then plays it back to me. Whatever I practice will become a set pattern, so what would I prefer it replay? Stress and worry? The Kansas-Missouri football game? I can displace mundane or even negative things with the chant or with the stillness of meditation. And then, the stillness and the chant linger in my consciousness, continuing to improve my well-being.
Being mindful about how I condition my mind, my thoughts, and my own mood pays dividends. As they say, practice makes permanent.