Meditating in Winter along California’s North Coast

Meditation is a lifelong gift. It’s something you can call on at any time. – Paul McCartney

 Why meditate?

I led a meditation gathering recently at the Ratna Ling Retreat Center in a very beautiful area near the coast of northern California. Usually I include some guided contemplation at the end of a yoga class during the restorative asana of Savasana, but this hour was unique in that it was dedicated just to meditation.    

Innumerable studies show that we receive an array of benefits from just sitting and focusing on our breathing for a few minutes each day. The list includes everything from stress reduction to improved overall emotional health to kindness generation, improved sleep and lots more.

In our class we had beginners and advanced students. We went around a circle and each person talked about their impressions regarding what meditation was. We eventually agreed that it is a practice to focus on the present moment. I asked if everyone would be willing to sit on the nice cushions provided and watch their breath go in and out for ten minutes, knowing that we will no doubt be interrupted by random thoughts. And when that happens, understand it’s normal and just go back to focusing on the next breath. 

I remember in 1967 when I was twelve years old hearing that The Beatles were learning how to meditate, and I thought that was a bit strange. I hoped it wouldn’t hurt their music. Paul McCartney said, “It was very interesting. It was very calming and it seemed like something that was worth trying.” 

 After our ten minutes of practice at the retreat center I asked if anyone would be willing to talk about how it went. Each person shared their experience. It seems we’re all alike when it comes to meditation. We start out counting breaths and before you know it we’re time travelers,  thinking randomly about something that happened at work ten years ago or maybe even what we want for lunch later today, etc. But then by going back to  our breath we are building focus.

I suggested that when hiking or just walking the grounds of the retreat center later why not continue this breath awareness practice? There’s no question it’s easier to meditate here among the peaceful and pleasant surroundings. And when you throw in the generally pleasant weather of a coastal California winter it seems to be the right thing to do. 

Over 50 years later, Paul McCartney continues to practice meditation. “In moments of madness, meditation has helped me find moments of serenity — and I would like to think that it would help provide young people a quiet haven in a not-so-quiet world.” 

Do we always need to be sitting to practice mindfulness? We can also focus on other things we do during our day. When cooking, for example, which has been often for me at Ratna Ling. I think – and hope – it helps me offer better meals for our guests and staff.

Also, when we hike and just get out in our remarkable natural surroundings mindfulness and appreciation provides so many benefits.  Thích Nhất Hạnh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist who writes about this. “When we recognize the virtues, the talent, the beauty of Mother Earth, something is born in us, some kind of connection, love is born.”

Ratna Ling will offer other yoga and meditation retreats in 2019. Hope you can join us. Learn more at http://ratnaling.org.

So I stand corrected. It looks like meditation did not hurt Paul McCartney’s ability to create music, but rather it has no doubt helped him. Here is one of Paul McCartney’s greatest songs. Enjoy!

Love and Peace,

Dave

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