August 16, 2011
The Cheers theme song has been playing in my head today ever since meeting a podcast listener while doing my grocery shopping today.
“You wanna go where people know, people are all the same, You wanna go where everybody knows your name.”
When you have an online presence, or people hear your voice on a podcast or CD, they can imagine all sorts of things about you. The person I met today thought of me as a “celebrity”, “movie star of the meditation set”, someone larger than life. I’m sure that that all changed in our meeting! It was the most delightful, funny coming together of two people, and I wanted to share it with you.
I called out hello to Karen who studies hula with me. She said “Mary, do you have a minute? I have someone for you to meet.” I said I had a little minute, but it stretched out to many enjoyable minutes. I was introduced to Carol who has been listening to the podcast for over a year. She immediately held up her hands and said “Mary Maddux, I think of you as way up here, a movie start of meditation!” All three of us were soon laughing as Carol recounted how she had assumed I lived in New York or LA, and was amazed when Karen told her that I live in the same small town with her. Apparently yesterday, Karen spotted me walking on a local bike path and called Carol to say “You want to see Mary Maddux, move quickly — she’s walking on the bike path in pink!” Carol lamented that she was in another town and missed the great opportunity . The whole situation was so heart-warming and fun, we were soon laughing and hugging near the checkout aisles. I suppose for Carol this was an unusual “celebrity sighting”, in which it was revealed that the celebrity was woman much like herself. Hence the “people are all the same” line going in my mind.
It just so happens that tomorrow is our local guided meditation, and they will both join us. It feels like a coming full circle. My journey with teaching meditation and leading guided meditations was an “in-person” on for years. Reaching people through our podcast, CDs and apps has been an amazing and wonderful experience, but sometimes I miss the in-person part. This will be the second podcast listener to join our monthly meditation. At a time when our reach is growing so much that I have to cut back on answering emails, Facebook comments and so on, it’s wonderful to have this personal contact. It’s wonderful to be in a “place where everybody knows your name”.
September 8, 2009
Learning meditation is like learning ride a bicycle. Someone can demonstrate how to ride, tell you where to put your feet and hands and so on, but ultimately you have to get the hang of it yourself. A meditation teacher can give you a few pointers about how to start, how to focus your attention, how to handle thoughts and so on; but like bike riding, you ultimately discover how to meditate yourself.
Of course, there are many different kinds of meditation, and this might not be true for all of them. But this is true for meditation styles that induce a deeply relaxed, meditative state. It’s a natural state. It happens spontaneously at times. Perhaps you will initially follow some instructions, but then a time comes when you close your eyes and there you are. With repetition it can become automatic. A skillful “teacher” can only guide you to your own discovery.
Actually, I think it could be said that no one can teach you anything. When I was teaching in the healing arts, I was always amazed at how people heard and learned things that I never remembered saying or teaching. People learned what they were ready to learn, and I just provided a catalyst for that learning. If you are using our guided meditations or have taken our Online Course, it is because you were ready to discover something in your own awareness and these tools provided a catalyst.
A teacher is sometimes someone who passes on facts or know how. It might be tempting in that case to feel the teacher is actually teaching you, but you have to be able to absorb the information you are being given and access it when needed. You have your own understanding of the “facts”. You have to apply what you’ve learned in your own way. Two people using exactly the same recipe produce different results. It may seem like a paradox, but ultimately I’d say someone can learn, but no one can teach.
What do you think? Do you feel someone taught you to meditate (or play music, draw, cook or…)? Do you feel you learned it totally on your own? Or has your experience been something in between?
January 26, 2009
I came across a list of meditation myths on the web. Funny thing is some myths on that list are not myths to me, they are truths. It all depends on how you define “meditation”. There are hundreds of kinds of meditations. The question is, can you say that one meditation is “real” or “true” meditation? The person who created the list I read apparently thought so, because the term “real meditation” was used. I’m quite sure I’ve use that type of language myself — in fact I remember saying something about “true meditation” on a podcast. And yet, I feel it can be really misleading to say one meditation style is real or true.
Anytime anyone makes a generalization about meditation, they are referring to a particular style of meditation. It’s not like there’s a real meditation and the rest are somehow false. The person who wrote that list comes from a particular tradition. Within the understanding of that tradition, it makes sense to speak of real meditation. If you want to learn meditation within a tradition, then knowing what that tradition defines as right or real meditation will be important to you. That particular list of myths will have value for you. But if you are not so concerned about tradition, but more concerned about what works for you regardless of its origins, then you would approach a list of myths in a whole different way. You would look at it so see what made sense and what is useful for you.
It’s only through some reference to tradition that you could say a meditation style was real. Either you are saying the tradition is somehow an authority or that you yourself are the authority on what is real meditation. Sometimes people feel that a meditation that comes from a long tradition is more real and true than a contemporary form of meditation. It makes sense that something that has been tested through time may be trustworthy. But no matter how long a tradition has been along, you are ultimately relying on someone else’s interpretation of that tradition. Who is to say that the person teaching you now understands what was meant when the tradition was started centuries ago?
Everything a teacher says is coming from his or her understanding. The bottom line is that there are really no absolutes in meditation. To me, the bottom line is that what’s real and true is what you find to be real and true in your own experience. What a book or a teacher says can only be a catalyst for your own self-discovery.
March 26, 2007
I have meditated for most of my life, I’ve taught meditation, I lead guided meditations and yet I can no longer say what meditation is. Once upon a time I thought I knew a lot about it. I thought I knew the best way to meditate and what the most “worthy” goals for meditating were. I had lots of opinions about meditation, and those opinions were extremely important to me. And now I find myself happily free of all these notions. Meditation means so many different things to different people, and from my point of view, all those meanings are equally valid.
Sometimes people see me as an expert in meditation, and yet here I am unable to answer the simple question “what is meditation?”. My understanding of meditation constantly evolves. The idea of myself, or anyone else, being an expert in meditation is quite funny to me. Although it might serve my interests to pose as an expert (after I do make guided meditation CDs for sale), the idea seems absurd.
Each of us have such a unique journey on our spiritual path, and I can hardly pretend to be an expert on anyone else’s. Perhaps I seem like an expert to someone who is really happy with the experience they have with my guided meditations. It seems as if it is something about me or my words that brought about their good experience, but in actuality it is simply the unfolding of their own journey that coincided in this most delightful way with the unfolding of mine.
The real expert on your spiritual path is you. You are the one having your experiences, and even if a teacher in some way seems to help you along, it is you who find truth or meaning in the teacher’s words or actions. You are an expert on what meditation is for you. The teacher is your mirror.
Of course, we feel gratitude those who help us along the way. That we are ultimately our own authority does not diminish that. I feel tremendous gratitude for all of those teachers who have inspired me on my path. I also feel gratitude to those who thank me for what I have given them. Nothing is more fulfilling than feeling that we have helped another. We are walking this path together and our learning is mutual, and yet in this mysterious play of life we play the roles of teacher and student and the reward is love and gratitude.
What is meditation for you?