Tag Archives: beginner

Learning to Live in the Moment

Michelle ChevalierI had read about the healthful benefits of meditation for several years, but it always seemed so foreign to me. I also didn’t know of any place locally to learn more. I have always preferred human connection to internet chat rooms, so I never sought out support or information online.

About a year ago I saw a Facebook ad about CENLA Meditation Group and was pleasantly surprised to find there was an active group in my proverbial “backyard.” I really had no idea what to expect, but I had a desire to try and balance my life, so I decided to see what it was all about.

Everyone was very kind and welcoming, and as I took a seat on the back cushions I felt a nervous kind of excitement to be trying something new. I found the relaxed environment very comfortable and, as someone who had never “sat” before, I was happy to hear it was okay to fidget, lie down, or shift positions if needed. Some visitors even sat in chairs if they were physically unable to get on the floor.

What I have gained from coming each month is a supportive community, free of judgment, whose desire is to learn more about themselves and help others. I am forever grateful for the new friends and practices I have learned that help me live in the moment & enjoy my life to the fullest.

Michelle Chevallier

Michelle is a social worker (MSW, LCSW) with a local hospice, wife, and mother of a sweet little boy. They live in Pineville, LA.

Finding your balance on the cushion

Some rights reserved by Beautiful Insanity PhotographySiddhartha Gautama was born a prince and lived in luxury. His father the King sheltered him from religious influences and the realities of poverty and suffering outside the palaces. Later in his life when he finally saw the enormity of suffering present in the world he left the privilege of royalty and became an ascetic monk.

In addition to discovering higher states of concentration he also adapted the ascetic practices of self-mortification and rejection of all worldly comforts, even to the point of living on a grain of rice or one nut per day. Upon his awakening Buddha realized that there is a Middle Way between indulgence and depravity.

The book of Ecclesiastes teaches, “Don’t be overrighteous. Don’t be overwicked. The man who fears God avoids all extremes,” (7:16-18). Religion and politics can both be loony or dangerous when practiced at the extremes. Contemplative practice of all kinds has pitfalls at the polarities, but a life of balance and moderation is where happiness, contentment, and well-being can be realized.

Most people who come to meditation are all too familiar with living on autopilot in this fast paced rat race we call Western life. We have come to know that having more stuff doesn’t satisfy, but the antidote is not found in rejecting our lives and replacing them with Eastern imitations. If you’re new to meditation practice, you can commit to sitting for hours everyday for the rest of your life, but it’s very unrealistic that you will be able to live up to that goal, especially when the realities of work and family interrupt the new spiritual life you’ve planned. There has to be a balance between spiritual ambition and apathy.

Buddha used the illustration of a stringed instrument. He told his student that if you tighten the string too much it will break. If you make it too loose, it will not make music, but if you tune it somewhere in between, the string will sound just right. Whether in our meditation practice, our yoga practice, or our work and family life, we need balance. Take it serious, but not too serious.

It would be better to start out small and slow than to blow your engine out at the starting line. The tortoise proved to the hare that “slow and steady wins the race.” If you’re just starting out, why not make a small commitment to spend just 5 minutes a day in meditation or whatever your practice is. In time you can increase it when you’re ready. It’s best to find a healthy balance between what is challenging and what is realistic. Yoga instructor Travis Eliot tells his students that “full effort always equals full benefit.” How we engage our practice is the key to finding the middle way in every other area of our lives.