“Who cares if you can meditate in a closed room with the door closed and no distractions? Can you meditate in the middle of Times Square? If you can do that, then I’ll be impressed.” –Carolyn Myss
Years before I had children, I listened to an audio CD on energy-medicine and healing by one of my favorite authors and speakers, Carolyn Myss. The topic was meditation, and in her usual brash style, she was challenging the audience about their level of spiritual resilience. She reminded them that meditation was all well and good, but what did it matter iif you could only meditate behind closed doors? How could it help if you couldn’t bring it into your everyday life? The comments struck me, mainly because I meditated behind closed doors, in peace and quiet, and I thought that’s what I was supposed to do. I got distracted easily, and found any disturbance annoying. At the time, I was in my early twenties, did not have kids, and had recently started a seated meditation practice.
I began meditating at about the age of 21. I had graduated from college and developed a keen interest in healing and spirituality. All of the books I read were on those topics. I made it more of an intellectual hobby than anything else. Finally I found more time to explore my interests. I joined a small group of mostly over-60-year-old meditators in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh, a famous Buddhist Monk dedicated to the teachings of Mindfulness. I sat with the group for weekly meditations, and found time to sit by myself at home a few times a month. I went though spurts. Sometimes I would sit daily, sometimes not. I spent years wondering how long it would take for my mind to stop thinking while I was trying to meditate. It was very annoying.
While overhearing a conversation among some of the more senior meditators once at a gathering, I found out that even the experienced meditators had difficulty with their brains “talking to them” during meditation. I was pretty disappointed. I mean, I thought that was the point. To experience stillness. If they couldn’t do it, how was I ever going to?! But they also said that there were ways to be with this “monkey mind”, and it wasn’t about trying to control the thoughts, but about not attaching to them. So I continued. Learning tricks and tips. Sitting in silence. Waiting for my mind to shut up. Waiting for enlightenment.
It wasn’t until I began teaching meditation as part of my job that I made seated meditation a dedicated regular practice. Why? I had kids! As every meditator who has kids can attest, once you have kids, it becomes more difficult to practice. I, like most people, needed to be in a room with the door closed, silence and no interruptions in order to meditate. Without fail, whenever I tried to carve out time, something would happen. My first child was one of those babies that wouldn’t sleep. When she did fall asleep, it was on me, and any move woke her up. Now, being trained in mindfulness meditations, I attempted at every turn, to meditate with the baby in my arms, or during any routine activity, like doing the dishes, so that I could feel some sense of inner peace. The problem was, the sense of inner peace seemed to be in proportion to my feelings of frustration about not being able to really practice, really sit, really meditate in some peace and quiet! Siting just wasn’t working. When I started teaching meditation, I decided that I needed to stop trying to find time to meditate, and instead make time. So I began waking up an hour before everyone else, in order to have a solid half-hour to meditate and not be disturbed. Ahhh… peace. It was nice. My mind still wandered. And that comment about Times Square still haunted me.
Then life got hard. I thought taking care of kids, running a business and managing a house was hard. How about taking care of kids, running a business, managing a divorce, moving and picking up the pieces of a shattered reality? I knew meditation could help. In the middle of the chaos, although I tried to sit and meditate, I couldn’t. I had to move. I would sit to meditate and instead find myself standing up, moving spontaneously, crying, breathing, shaking, wiggling and punching the air. I didn’t know what I was doing, but whatever it was, it seemed to be saving my life.
A friend told me that I was doing Qigong. Qigong is the ancient Chinese wellness system, akin to Yoga in India. One of the principles of Qigong is movement, and spontaneous movement is a part of Qigong. I found it so powerful, and obviously meant to be in my life, that I had to learn more. I decided to become an instructor. At the training, I sat in a half-circle among 20 or so other people at Qigong training school. We all introduced ourselves with our names and an explanation of why we were there. All I could say was, “Hi. I’m Courtney. I’ve never taken Qigong, but it saved my life and I’m hear to learn more.”
I began doing Qigong for about an hour almost every day after coming home from the training. It wasn’t hard to make time to do it because I saw the effects so clearly. I was more patient with my children, happier and calmer. But the most miraculous thing that I experienced was inner stillness. During Qigong, I discovered that state within myself that I had been craving: Quiet! Inner Peace! I couldn’t seem to access it through seated meditation, but with the movement it was so easy. What was even better, I could be “disturbed” by my kids and it wouldn’t disturb my practice. I didn’t need quiet. In fact, I found that I was so in tuned with myself that it didn’t matter what was going on around me.
Today, I practice Qigong in the middle of Times Square for an hour every Saturday morning in the middle of my living room. I have two seven year-olds and a 5 year-old who live with me. They play, make noise, run around, and even talk to me (and I to them) during my practice, and I maintain focus and inner peace. I smile to myself at the number of times I had been enraged when disturbed during a seated meditation by a very cute, “Mama? Mama?”. I was like a target! When I was just sitting there, my children didn’t understand what I was doing and needed to make sure that I was still alive by poking me. Now, I do a moving meditation. They see me moving and understand that I’m engaged in an activity. They usually just let me be. Sometimes they join in. Don’t get me wrong- I think it is extremely necessary as a mother to have quiet time alone, and cultivate a practice, and take care of yourself. I do that too. However, for busy mothers who are looking for inner peace, Qigong can be not only a tool, but a a lifesaver.
[typography font=”Delius Swash Caps” size=”22″ size_format=”px”]Written by Courtney[/typography]
Courtney Anderson has been supporting conscious families in their pursuit of more abundant and stress free lives for over 12 years. She is co-owner of Ascent Wellness, a holistic rehabilitation and wellness company that specializes in the integration of modern therapeutic techniques and energetic bodymind practices. Courtney’s newest program, “The Enlightened Living Room”, provides mothers with the tools needed to discover the natural flow of abundance and vitality in their lives, empowering themselves as women, wives and mothers. Courtney can also be found in her newest location for bodyworking and classes at Yoga Roots on Shelbure Rd. in Shelburne, VT.