Ten years ago, in a magazine that had its time and now has ceased to be, this article was published. Revisiting my files, I found value to share it with you today.
Yes, I did say simply meditation. That title alone might make you say, “What is so SIMPLE about meditation?!” On one level you are right, since there seem to be as many types and methods of meditation as there are meditators. And with meditation becoming a buzz-word in the self-help circles there are quite a few different definitions as well. For some people meditation might be ‘quieting the mind;’ for others it might be ‘moving away from the mind;’ and for those attempting to practice meditation there is the inevitable experience of the ‘monster mind that terrorizes without end!’
Having said all of this, the conclusion might simply be that there is NOTHING SIMPLE about meditation.
This conclusion would be an unfortunate error, and could quite possibly lead you to give up, avoid, fear, mistrust, agonize over, dread or procrastinate opening the door to meditation….but meditation is as simple and joyful as spending time with your closest friend-you know, the one who really understands your head and heart.
Let’s begin by embracing a definition broad enough and deep enough to touch upon the many diverse explanations out there. Allow yourself to think of meditation in these or similar phrases:
‘A practice or opening to Awareness’
‘A coming home to your Self’
‘A communing in One-ness’
‘A dwelling in peace, truth or love’
Now, think back to a moment, recent or distant, in which you lost yourself in some unfolding beauty. Maybe it was a sunset or a special moment with a friend. Whatever the instant allow yourself to revisit it now. If you can, taste the harmony and the peace. In these deep moments we lose the boundaries our minds have created and we merge within ourselves and with everything around us. There is definitely a sense of timelessness, isn’t there? THIS is reality, or at least a fuller reality than the level on which most of us live each day. In this deeper reality is the fullness of wisdom, the source of all our power and the presence of unconditional love. Now REMEMBER- you have tasted it many times in your life, and most probably the experience was unplanned and instantaneous.
If you can think of one time you dwelt on this level, you can easily begin to live on this level more and more each day. Imagine living your day with energy and peace and joy regardless of your circumstances. Meditation is one of the most effective tools for this end. A commitment to some constant practice will, without fail, bear fruit in your life even if you don’t see it or feel it immediately. This will happen even if you give only
10-15 minutes a day. Every one of us has 10-15 minutes to give regardless of how busy we are.
Now that we have a working definition and a small commitment to the practice we can move to the challenges you may incur. This is the step that may lead you to say, ‘I just can’t meditate!’ and throw your arms up in frustration. This is a natural response and you are normal to think it, just don’t listen to the message!
Here are the two most common challenges I encounter as I work with others:
- Our minds absolutely, positively will not stop going on and on and on…
- Many feelings of anger, fear, judgment, etc…come out of nowhere
If these or other challenges happen to you, remember you are okay! You are not regressing, you are actually progressing. Following are a few helpful tips to bear in mind:
- ‘Don’t battle the mind with the mind’
I am not sure who said it that way first, but spiritual writers of all ages give us this advice. What does it mean? Our minds have set-up a construct of reality based upon our experiences and conclusions. Motivated largely by this construct, the inner dialogue reigns supreme as our minds continue to figure out what we need to do to achieve or safeguard our idea of reality and our place of safety in this reality. Once we open the door to a deeper consciousness our minds will either be afraid we are losing contact with reality and try to exert control…or just keep chattering because it doesn’t know how to stop.
If we try to force the mind to be quiet we are really acting on the level of our mind. What we want to do is shift our attention from our mind altogether, just don’t give it any fuel! I like to picture my mind as a wild medusa man or woman jumping outside my window. I let him/her do their thing while I focus on the warmth of my home. Laugh at your mind if you can since you are not losing reality but gaining a deeper reality. Deep within yourself is such amazing strength and love, you deserve to tap into the wealth already at your disposal. The last thing you want is your own mind to take you away from all that you deserve.
- Accept yourself unconditionally
Practices in meditation give our deeper selves the chance to exhale, which will begin to release all the hidden parts of this life or many lifetimes. When our hidden parts bubble to the surface-rejoice! The more that comes into your consciousness the more you can release and transform them. Ultimately all these hidden, perhaps shadow or dark, parts will serve to bless you. They are an important part of your journey into Wholeness. Embrace yourself and stop judging yourself. In doing this, you release the power deep within you that will lead you to healing and freedom. It is not easy to accept ourselves unconditionally but this is a non-negotiable step to live in abiding peace.
- Do what you can, not what you can’t
Learn what works for you. There are many types of meditation out there. Explore and note what works. A sign of what works is a growing in peace, an enjoyment of the time and a clearer mind. There is not one better way to practice meditation. Sound or chant, time in nature, imaginative meditation, breathing, and focusing are a few of the many types available to you. Join a group or choose a trained spiritual director to help you. I have had a spiritual director/companion for years and this has sped up my own growth tremendously. At times we encounter blocks, they need not become barriers for years, and a trained director can help you.
- Live consciously
Begin to make small choices to live in awareness throughout your day. You could do one task with attentiveness like washing dishes, folding laundry, or eating lunch. You could choose to be present to five people you meet each day. Another option is to take a five minute walk and let your eyes scan the earth as you walk to notice what is there. Once something strikes your fancy, let yourself stay with it for as long as it lasts. Begin to choose a healthy diet, or a little exercise, or even giving your body the amount of rest it needs at night. The choices are endless.
These are only a few beginning reflections on meditation. The practice has been integral to my own life since the age of five so I am a wholehearted advocate for its transformative power. We go through life largely unaware, though Life is continuously unfolding. In some small way, Life could be likened to a sunrise. The sun is going to rise whether we are present for it or not…its being remains an invitation, and such is Life. In our deepest sense of Self, we are becoming and unfolding with great power and beauty, whether we are present or not…why not accept the invitation to be present?