Learning to Meditate (with Ping Pong Balls)

Woman_on_Cushion I don’t remember how I found the Shambhala Center in Boulder or why I started meditating. No one had recommended meditation or suggested I might benefit from mindfulness. I’m pretty certain I just wandered in one day.  All I remember is I found myself sitting in the Shamatha Shrine Room at a Monday Night Open Class listening to senior teacher Jim Yensen and wondering what the heck he was talking about.

But somehow whatever he said penetrated the confusion and pain of my mind and resonated with me. I was depressed—deeply, wondering, “Why?” Why exist? Why care? Why me? At the Center I found a sense of peace, not unlike that which I found doing yoga. But learning to meditate was different; it was definitely harder and scarier. I felt crazy sitting there with thoughts bouncing around my mind like a thousand spiked ping pong balls. But it was also compelling, somehow. So I started volunteering for Shambhala on Monday nights, and I started practicing regularly.

I never had illuminating or climactic moments … no bright lights, no great realizations. I just liked sitting. It wasn’t something I had ever really done before, being the Type A, hyper-athletic, workaholic I was. It gave me the opportunity to well … just sit. I don’t remember considering mindfulness or deepening my sense of self-awareness. I didn’t care about learning Buddhist principles like the Four Noble Truths or the Eightfold Path. I just liked focusing on my breath. Breathe in, focus lightly on the outbreath, breathe in, breathe out…

For many years I didn’t even notice whether or not meditation was “helping” me. I often found myself depressed and confused, and I continued to question: “Why, why, why?” But, my friends started to notice I was becoming calmer. And I started to notice I was becoming calmer. And the “why, why, why?” questions started to fade. After eight years I am more involved with Buddhism. I read Buddhist teachings, am a part of a community of practitioners, and I practice regularly. Can I tell you what learning to meditate has given me? I could try to put it in words, but you would have to know me to really see how meditation has positively affected me. Really, the only thing I can honestly tell you is that I smile more often, I love myself 99% of the time, and I feel immensely grateful to be alive.

Shambhala Mountain Center offers several retreats for those new to meditation. Click the links below to check out our most popular weekend meditation retreats:

Learn to Meditate
Shambhala Training Level I
Retreat And Renewal

Read another piece by Lizzy about Meditation in the Mountains.


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