For much of my adult life I’ve tried to meditate—and for most of that time, I struggled. I have a busy mind and while I genuinely wanted to quiet my mind, I never really succeeded. Mostly, I spent a lot of time telling my mind to stop thinking while sitting in an uncomfortable position. I rarely felt like I was achieving a sense of peace or connection, mostly I fought myself, the teacher, the voice on the audiotape, and my posture. I also frustrated myself—I’ve met so many people over the years who love their meditation, reap great benefits and genuinely seem to enjoy sitting, and I couldn’t get it.
So even though my experience with meditation has not been positive, I recently signed up to do a 21-day course that included a different approach to meditation. Jake Eagle ran the course, which had a lot to do with my willingness to try, plus it was free.
Thrilled to be Alive
The other compelling factor was that Jake called his group, “Thrilled to be Alive.” That alone didn’t sound like most meditations I’ve encountered—I don’t ever recall hearing a Zen master talk about being thrilled—mostly I heard words like stillness, quiet, patience, repetition and years of practice. So a meditation that involved practicing being thrilled to be alive sounded pretty enticing.
The first class was on a Monday evening, ten of us met with Jake online to learn this meditation that not only invited us to be thrilled with our lives but also proposed that we could eliminate many if not most of our daily “problems,” and free ourselves from our free-floating anxiety and angst. Well, with that carrot dangling ahead of me, I was more than eager to give this practice a go, and I was willing to follow directions.
The directions were pretty simple—we paired up into five sets of ‘buddies’ and once a day we were to email our buddy focusing on whether or not we were thrilled to be alive. Jake selected the word ‘thrilled’ for a reason, and the link to his explanation can be found here… The other part of the instruction was to sit comfortably once a day and elevate my consciousness into what Jake refers to as “Heart Consciousness. ” Once I’m in this other state of consciousness I take the time to truly notice and appreciate that I am alive, relatively healthy, have people who love me and whom I love deeply, and in general I have a pretty sweet and delicious life.
Once a week we met with our buddy online and dove a little deeper into our experiences, compared notes and became better acquainted. We also had the assignment to help each other out if we were feeling less than thrilled. The point was to recognize that we often slip back into old habits of negative thinking, repetitive stories and reverting to living on auto-pilot. We also began to notice that we habitually spend time feeling anxious, bored, listless, and not awake or fully present to the miracle of life. My buddy’s job was simple—he had a form I’d filled out at the beginning of the course detailing all the things I love and appreciate in my life—all the reasons I am thrilled to be alive. And when I would forget and lose myself in negative self-talk or stories about why I was unhappy, my buddy’s job was to remind me of all the things I had written on the form.
Weekly Online Meeting
And the final component of the course was a weekly online class with Jake that consisted of doing the heart consciousness meditation as a group, learning more about the other levels of consciousness, and time for questions and discussion regarding our experiences.
I can’t begin to describe how miraculous and profound the experience was for me and I think most of the other participants would agree that the meditation and the buddy system was a powerful combination that served to anchor the benefits of the experience. Many have decided to continue not only the meditation but to continue working with their buddy as well. And I think just about everyone discovered that they have old stories and baggage swirling around in their minds that they’d ignored or been unaware of for years. We learned a clever way to notice and make choices regarding our stories, did the stories serve us, did we want to keep them, or were we ready to let them go and create different stories that reflected how we want to be in the world.
The most powerful realization for me was identifying a story I have been carrying around for most of life that has nothing to do with how I experience myself. For most of my life I had a pretty low opinion of myself, and not only is it not how I feel about myself, but it is also a story I inherited. In the past, I would have felt that I needed to process this realization, spend time with a therapist or a coach and talk about who gave me the story, why I believed it and what do I need to do now to counteract that firmly embedded story.
How To Move Past Old Stories
But as a result of joining this class, now I have a different solution. Practicing the meditation and accessing heart consciousness, I have a different way of releasing that story. I meditate, spend time savoring and appreciating my life, being grateful for the gift of being alive, and when I’m in heart consciousness, I have no attachment to the story. When I finish the meditation, I feel renewed, re-energized and my attachment to and my belief in that story diminishes each time. After 21 days the story and its hold on me has shrunk considerably. Imagine how free I’ll be of old stories in 42 days? 63? 84?
Jake is offering more of these meditation groups—if you have the opportunity I encourage you to join. It was free when I did it because I was in what he called a “beta” group, kind of a test group. I don’t know if he’s offering more of those or charging for the group. Having done it, I’d pay to do it again. And if you want to spend a week getting really good at navigating the levels of consciousness, recognizing and releasing old stories and freeing yourself from habitual anxiety, frustration or unhappiness, I recommend signing up for the July retreat. I’ll be there and so will some of my pals from the 21-day course. It’ll be great to see you there.