Meditation is listening."
Meditation was a hard thing for me to stick to until recently. It’s been nearly five months and I have only missed a handful of days. I believe it has changed me…my life, in several ways…physically, emotionally, spiritually. Perhaps even changed me on a cellular level, some say that’s entirely possible.
My first experience with meditation came at the end of yoga sessions, years ago. The mediation practice ended when the yoga class ended. My next experience came as a result of an intensive class in Mindfulness Training at the local university. That stuck for a while, at least long enough for me to get the hang of it. And then, I allowed life to interfere and lost the practice.
When I picked it up most recently I realized I was having a hard time “sitting” to meditate. A foot would cramp, my lower back pained me, and so on. Several books I was reading on Buddhism and meditation gave me permission to “not sit” but rather lie down for my meditation time. I lay at a 45 degree angle from my hips up, not totally flat. This position has made ALL the difference in how enjoyable the experience is and it has allowed me to relax into the meditation and not fuss about how my body is feeling. There would be many who would disagree with this method but I believe it’s better to do it this way than not at all.
I have now bored my friends and family with my enthusiasm for meditation. One person even accused me of proselytizing. I’m really not trying to convert anyone I am merely sharing my experience of peace and joy that has come from this practice.
I call what I do meditation but it goes by several names. One might call it prayer, contemplative prayer, introspection, whatever suits your sensibility and philosophy. It could be called plain old “Zoning Out”.
Some find this state through a quiet contemplative practice and others find it in walking, running, painting, singing, skiing or whatever activity that allows the practitioner to descend into that place of peace. It's a tradition that has survived in and out of religion in nearly every culture for thousands of years. Some use it for relaxation purposes, for others it's a spiritual practice. Mine's a bit of both.
It’s a very personal practice and over time mine has evolved to meet my needs. I follow a basic path but it could also change daily, depending on what is going on in my life. First I make myself comfortable, checking the temperature (covering myself or removing pieces of clothing if need be). I then consult with all parts of my body starting at the feet and going up, making sure all is well with each area, giving special attention to areas that hold tension or feel off. Next I become aware of my surroundings, light, temperature, sounds, smells.
After a couple of minutes of settling in I take five deep cleansing breaths to release tension and bad energy. First I open myself to the Universe for guidance, messages, and care. I use the word Universe as it encompasses so many possibilities for me. I then like to go through my gratitude list for the day blending it into my breathing pattern.
If possible at this point I empty my mind. I even say to myself, “Empty Head, Empty Head”. Some days it’s easier than others. Of course, this is the biggest challenge of any meditative practice. When thoughts come in, I observe them and bid them “fly away”. This image works for me.
If this emptying of the mind is causing frustration I go into another phase which is much like OM but I say, “I AM” and follow it with whatever POSITIVE comes to mind. On the intake of breath I say to myself, “I AM” and on the release of breath I will add a word or phrase such as: Well, Happy, Peaceful, Relaxed, Loved, Loving, Creative, etc., whatever speaks to me that day.
If I am to go to a deeper level, which doesn’t always happen, this is the time. This is when the cool stuff can happen (or not). I had more visual experiences when I first began this practice and they still happen but not as frequently. And as the title of this article suggests sometimes I drift off. There is a fine line between “getting in the zone” and light sleep. I believe both to be valuable. I quote the Dali Lama here…”Sleep is the best meditation.” If you need a few winks your body lets you know. That's why I set a timer.
I prefer to meditate once a day in the early to mid-afternoon, as that is when I am free and my household is the quietest. After years of dragging between 4:00 and 7:00 in the evening I now have energy to complete the day. Forty minutes is what I shoot for but if I can’t spare that much time I will set the timer to 30, 20 or even 10 minutes, whatever I can fit in. For me even a short time is better than no time. I sometimes find myself becoming Mindful or Meditative while sitting at a stop light, waiting in line at the market or sitting in a doctor’s office. It calms and centers me like nothing else. It doesn't have the full effect but it calms, soothes and patience comes more easily.
Okay, now perhaps I can let go of my enthusiastic “sharing” of this subject.
If you choose to give it try, find a good instructor or book to guide you. If you already practice I’d love to hear your experiences or ideas.
"Meditation is painful at the beginning but it bestows immortal bliss and supreme joy in the end."