Secular meditation: Becoming one with yourself
I always thought of meditation as a “becoming one with G/god” type of practice, and even when I was semi- spiritual and/or religious, I didn’t enjoy meditation. (I’ve always struggled with the talking to myself internally thing—if big-g god is omniscient, he knows without me asking, right?) I also have trouble controlling my breathing, and until recently, even thinking about breathing makes it hard for me to breathe (it’s a terrible anxiety-ridden paradox that makes meditative exercises difficult and annoying at times).
I always felt like there was something better I could be doing with my time. You know what I ended up doing with my time instead? Sitting my butt on the couch and watching TV. Sleeping a few extra restless minutes. Aimless wandering around my kitchen looking for a snack that I didn’t need.
I might get some flak for this, but I’m going to lay it out bluntly and I’m very curious as to how many people will relate. Now, I’m an atheist so I don’t have a problem with the whole “you shalt not have any other gods before me” commandment, but if you’re of the religious sort, what I’m about to say might be a little blasphemous. But, realizing the following has completely opened my eyes to the world.
I am my own god. Now, most of you readers either know me or have read enough of my stuff to know that I am not this incredibly pompous, self-righteous, self-centered asshole who truly thinks I am god. But, even as a pseudo- or mildly religious person (in my older/becoming agnostic years), I absolved myself of loads of responsibility. I never quite bought into the whole predetermined fate spiel, but I certainly believed that everything happened for a reason and that big-g god had a certain plan for me. Life was going to work itself out one way or another, through big-g god’s love, guidance, and direction. I had no incentive to look inward for that motivation. It was externally present and seemingly successful.
When you start to think of yourself as your own god—your own motivator, the single controller of your own destiny, happiness, and success, your own scapegoat, and your own central driving principle, the axis tilts a little. Just as you would want to read the Bible, study gospel, pray, or meditate to become one with big-g god, you do so similarly as your own god. You want to study yourself, become omniscient and omnipotent in your own life, and become one with yourself. There are many ways to do this, and reflection isn’t completely mandatory (perhaps it’s just the psychologist in me), but meditation is a great way to tune in to your deeper self, to take the control from outward forces, and to really become one.
I’m not antitheist by any means; I do feel that religion lends some productivity to its followers. However, by finding religion in myself, I am able to do the same. So while I may be atheist, I’m not necessarily nonreligious. I just look inward instead of outward.
Meditation offers a regimented (yet personalized), structured or unstructured, effective way to communicate with one’s self. The great thing about meditation is that you can make it whatever you want. My primary focus in meditation is to become present. As Lao Tzu said, “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” I struggle greatly with being present.
Looking for more structured activities to infiltrate my daily life, I searched for secular daily devotionals. I can still remember the Christian children’s daily devotionals I did when I was younger; the ordered and organized way in which I could delve deeper into a greater purpose and meaning was exactly the kind of “homework” that keeps me from getting stale and bored with life. As I started to leave my religious background, poetry became my escape, and I funneled my thoughts, emotions, and attempts at self-reflection into numerous writings. But, I’ve always struggled with writing poetry when I’m “happy” and it’s always been my sad release; now that I am in a more stable and systematic adult life, I hardly have time to let the depression of my teenage years take over (instead, it’s a constant state of melancholy).
Unfortunately, there aren’t many secular daily devotionals, at least not with the focus that I intended. Instead, I’m going to read 365 Days of Wonder: Mr. Browne’s Book of Precepts by R. J. Palacio. I hope that it will give me just the kick in the pants that I need to find positivity and meaning in my daily life and to be aware and ever-present.
If you’re wary of meditation, I say give it a try. Try stretching. Try gentle music. Try journaling. Try reading. Try searching for positive quotes. Try massage. Try reflecting. Just do you. I’ll keep you updated as I try. My book comes in today. Yay!