Anyone who knows my father would never associate him with the word meditation. As a friend recently described him ‘he’s a real man’, whatever that is! A typical, straight-backed, deep-voiced German...he carries an air of authority, making people either feel amazed by his knowledge or intimidated by his convictions.
Growing up I assumed my father could do anything, there was no boulder in the garden that he couldn’t move, there was no problem with the car engine that he couldn’t fix, and there was no topic that he didn’t have at least some knowledge on.
So when he taught me how to practice meditation, it was just another thing my father knew. Something I assumed everyone knew and practiced. Of course, I didn’t know it was meditation at the time, to 6 year old me it was just what you did to help you get back to sleep after a nightmare. Or when you needed to get worries out of your head, you simply packaged them up in a box and placed them inside a hot air balloon, watching as they floated off into the sky.
It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I realized these were not techniques that everyone used. In fact, most people in the rural West of Ireland didn’t even know what meditation was at that time! Even now many people believe it’s something only badly dressed monks in far off countries do!
In more recent years it has become known as mindfulness, removing the stigmas and presumptions of meditation and opening it up to a whole new generation. On social media, we see inspirational quotes, in homes we see Buddha statues on shelves and in bookshops, we have a whole section dedicated to books on the subject.
If I'm honest, until recently I still attached the same stigmas to meditation as others did back in the ’80s. I presumed the only people practicing mindfulness were organic cotton wearing, incense sniffing hippies with dreadlocks! Not that I had any problem with those people, I just wasn’t one of them! I guess I figured I was too cool, too urban, and modern for all of that. Plus the idea of sitting cross-legged on a cushion for hours made my knees ache just thinking about it!
Then one day recently I was getting ready to go for my walk and when I pulled up my list of today’s Spotify Podcast episodes...what should appear but Deliciously Ella’s episode where she interviews meditation expert Gelong Thubten! While listening I started to realize that those methods my father had taught me as a child were exactly the same as the methods Gelong was talking about for practicing mindfulness.
I also realized that my father, the large statured, pillar of strength with callouses on his hands is, in fact, a perfect example of mindfulness in action. He has an amazing ability to rarely ever get stressed, if things don’t go according to plan, he just finds another way. If life is getting him down, he goes for a walk. If he needs some alone time he goes into the garden and enjoys the birds singing and the smell of the plants.
My plan going forward is to try to incorporate more mindfulness into my day, being more present in the moment and to learn to deal better with stress. And most importantly to teach my kids the same skills my father taught me...although I won’t be calling it meditation...they think I’m odd enough as it is!!