I’m new to meditation. I typically choose a muscle-blasting HIIT class like kettlebells or another strength challenge to melt away my stress and get focused. Recently I added meditation to my days while at The Ranch. These interludes now serve as welcome breaks, grounding me and refocusing my intention. I check in with myself, and essentially give a giant satisfying exhale that clears my mind and gently sweeps stress away.
I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to attend a class with visiting Zen Master Bon Jacques-Pierre Cole in Oak Tree Pavilion. It was an amazing blend of storytelling and experimenting with different types of meditation; breathing, mental journaling, and relaxed guidance.
“Meditation is a reminder to be present,” Jacques-Pierre said. “To be awake to the human experience. Most people have mundane habits and sleepwalk through life. They’re not really experiencing life at its fullest and becoming the best version of themselves. Being awake benefits everyone. Meditation keeps us present in the moment — to appreciate it and get the most out of it.”
In the past, I’d been turned off to meditation by pictures of someone sitting with a stiff and straight back. Jacques-Pierre put us at ease. He invited us to sit anywhere or lay on a blanket to get comfortable. “Sometimes a pose will help you focus more of your energy to overcome any sensations you might feel,” Jacques-Pierre told me later, “but for the average person, it’s not necessary. It can be another distraction from being in the moment, which can be hard enough in the first place. As you develop your practice more you will start to clean up your poses, so until your practice starts to mature, just meditate and don’t worry about it.”
What a relief! He allowed me to participate without being self-conscious about my inability to hold a pose.
We started with what Jacques-Pierre calls mental journaling.
“Think about something you secretly love about yourself,” he asked us. A few chuckles broke the silence as we all relaxed. “A great mental journaling question,” Jacques-Pierre added, “is one you can’t answer easily. It asks you to think and be present.”
As the week went on, word spread about his techniques of discovering the self. More and more guests attended his morning meditations.
“One of the joys of teaching is being able to witness everyone in their moment,” Jacques-Pierre told me later. “It’s amazing to see people deep in their space. Early in the week people were shuffling, trying to get settled. Then, by Wednesday, people were more settled in their space, their moment.”
OK, great. It’s incredible how good this feels while at The Ranch, but how do I take this home and practice it?
“The greatest impact I can have,” Jacques-Pierre said, “is for people to have ‘mirror points.’ When you’re brushing your teeth in front of the mirror, and reflecting on something, you may have an aha moment. Meditation isn’t about sitting uncomfortably. When you’re making coffee, you can meditate. Focus and pay attention to each movement. As you’re making coffee, grind the beans, add water, wait, pour a cup, and think about how far that coffee has traveled to be with you. That’s a meditation you can do each day, every morning. Or when you wash dishes, wash them as if you’re washing a baby. Instead of clinking the dishes and rushing, be methodical and mindful. Meditation doesn’t have to happen in a special room. It can be anywhere while doing anything. Integrating meditation into your day is easy. You’ll find the days a lot calmer and your reaction to things subtle and settled when you’ve been coming back to the moment.”
“Have fun and learn from experience,” said Jacques Pierre. “It’s not unusual for some people to laugh and some may cry and let out their emotions! It’s a safe place.”