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Meditation leads to happiness

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I remember holding my baby on my hip, using a cloth diaper to wipe up spills on the floor with my foot and scrunching the telephone receiver between my neck and shoulder as I talked with my girlfriend about what we were reading. That was a long time ago and the beginning of what we now call multitasking.

The current thinking is that we all spend too much time on too many things and are not mindful about anything we think or do. I guess that is why I struggle to remember the title of the intriguing book I was describing to my friend Maria, or why I constantly search for my car keys.

I decided to try some yoga classes but was hesitant when I noticed that the instructor had his legs perfectly positioned in lotus pose. He stayed sitting there with his legs crossed for some untenable amount of time. I tried to follow along but my legs started to make popping sounds and then I dropped down on the mat in a most ungraceful manner. Would I have to ask the cute 25-year-old guy next to me help me to get up off the floor? How embarrassing! This was supposed to be relaxing? I left the class.

Then I saw an announcement of meditation classes through our parks and recreation department. I immediately signed up. My New Year’s resolve was to tame my scattering of papers, keys, lipsticks, so I can leave home in less than two hours. I could learn how to center myself.

When I got to class, I was very relieved to find out we would be sitting in chairs for the duration. Our instructor, Surja Tjahaja, was very welcoming. He invited us to share what we thought was the purpose of meditation. There was a variety of answers, such as relaxation, centering, concentration, mindfulness and calming. Surja told us that all of our answers were good but the purpose of meditation is to remove negative stress so that we could open ourselves to happiness. Happiness is the state of mind we work toward.

The “ahhhhh” or “oom” of life could be mine! I thought. I would learn how to gently push away the negative thoughts and stress about running late for my 8 a.m. walking group. I would remember that Suzy led a heart in the bridge game and store that in my bridge head to win the game. My life would become manageable. This would be my cure to my racing mind. And it would be hard work for me.

I have taken four classes and each time gets better. One of the methods I learned is to notice how I feel physically. I breathe in and relax my body. Is there a strain in my core, particularly my stomach? Could it be the coffee ice cream I ate an hour ago? I take a deep breath in and then release it and I focus on my breath instead of the sweet creamy ice cream and how good it tastes.

I started with 10 minutes of meditation in the beginning and sat for a 30-minute session the other day. Thanks to Surja, I have a new understanding of myself and others. I am mellowing out. I am not perfect and I still yell “move it!” to the car in front of me from time to time, but I am a bit more restrained.

My good friend Lois hums a lot. She is very calm and nothing seems to bother her. I am humming these days. Now I must face the stress of putting in a lining to a vest I am finishing after many weeks of work. The last time I lined anything was when I was working at home and that was a very long time ago. I will meditate first and then hum and sew my way through. Next class is tonight...ahhhhh.

Joan Waldron is a member of the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.