‘Meditation’ seems to have become a buzzword of sorts lately. Countless apps, blogs, articles, pages upon pages talk and teach about how to meditate, why meditate. We are overwhelmed with information on the subject. It’s only logical that one should take a closer look at all this information, trying to find a unified truth, a simple guide that would shows us, in words plain and simple to follow, how and why we should engage in this practice, as old as humanity itself.
I’m not going to list the countless benefits of daily meditation, I leave that to you to explore. But what I’ll try to do, is give you something useful, something you can take and use on a daily basis, together with a brief explanation of what meditation really is and why it works.
Looking at all the available information out there, I can’t help but notice something that, well… quite frankly bugs me. There seem to be two very different ideas about meditation floating around. A lot of people see it as a tool for relaxation, something to do at the end of a long stressful day so they can take the edge off and calm down just a bit. Or sleep better. Or even brag about, using it as a tool in a competition for ‘most enlightened in the neighbourhood’. And while any reason to get a person to meditate is in itself a good thing, this way of thinking gets people to miss what meditation is really all about.
Which is the second way of seeing it – the purpose of meditation is to bring awakening, awareness, enlightenment and spiritual growth. And that, my dear friends, is a life’s work. It’s not a quick fix, not a pill you can take whenever life gets a bit tougher. It’s a way of life, a way of seeing life, a way of being in life. And like all lifelong pursuits, it’s done one day at a time. One meditation at a time. One breath at a time.
So at this point I can almost hear you asking – Yeah, yeah, enough with the theory. How do we actually do it? The answer is “Be still and be quiet”. It is in stillness and in silence that we let go of the world around us, and we turn inward, where peace and light exist. Meditation will not help you find inner peace, for you never lost it in the first place. It will rather help you remember that you’ve had it in you all along. All you have to do is let it shine. And that you do in stillness and silence.
Noise exists everywhere. In the room or home around us, but also in our own heads. The endless stream of thoughts that never seems to quiet down is just as distracting as the neighbour upstairs, playing with his power drill on Sunday morning. Learning to quiet one’s own mind is probably the biggest challenge you will face. That is the bad news. The good news is that with time and practice, you can become the master of your mind. Believe me, it’s possible. And once you do, you gonna take this whole game to a totally new level.
Begin small, and let it build up in duration and depth. Choose a time when you won’t be disturbed. Go to the quietest room in the house. Switch off your phone, TV, stereo. Create a bubble of silence. Wear loose, comfortable clothes. Sit with your spine straight, your hands in your lap, palms on top of each other facing up. Close your eyes. Notice all noises and distractions around you. Acknowledge them, then mark them irrelevant and let them go. And bring your focus to yourself.
At first all you need is to relax. Start at the top of your body, with your face muscles, jaw, neck. Focus on each body part and feel it relax, one after the other. Shoulders, arms, down to the fingertips. Chest, abdomen, legs, toes. Visualise all the tension and discomfort in your body draining out of you into a puddle on the floor. And for a few moments just sit there and breathe. Bring all your attention and awareness to your breath. Watch it, don’t force it or try to control it. Just observe your body moving with your breath, your chest going up and down, the feeling of air at the tip of your nostrils.
Now see inside your body, in the centre of your chest, a cloud of dark smoke. It’s the sum of everything negative and out-of-balance in you – anger, sadness, fear, doubts, stress, worry, illness and pain. See it coming out of every cell of your body and concentrating into that cloud around your heart. Feel the weight and the pressure it puts on your chest.
And now, one breath at the time, watch yourself slowly exhaling that dark smoke. Let yourself draw a breath, and as you let it out, see a small puff of dark smoke leave your body. And as it does, see the cloud in your chest become just a touch smaller. Without strain or tension, continue to breathe, and count your breaths on their way out. Until all the black smoke has left your chest, until you are left clean and fresh. And feel the lightness on your chest, feel the energy in your body flowing freely, now that you have freed it from this heavy burden. Smile at yourself, congratulate yourself.
When you first start out, your mind will wander. You will get distracted, thoughts will pop into your head. Don’t stress, it’s quite normal. With more practice it will happen less and less. Just notice that thought, mark it irrelevant, and let it go saying to yourself – I see you, and I will deal with you later. For your first meditation commit to a certain number of breaths, say 50 or 70. And make sure that at the last breath you count, you’ve let go of all the smoke. As you progress with the practice, let the count go higher. Increase by 5 or 10 every day. Soon you will get to a point where the smoke is all gone, but you can’t bring yourself to stop, that’s how peaceful and quiet it is here.
After you’re done, do not jump off your seat. Gently open your eyes and slowly bring your awareness to the world around you. Get up slowly, stay quiet if it feels ok. And take that feeling of peace into your day, or sleep. Until the next time.
Take this as a starting point and try to do it every morning and every evening. It’s ok if you miss a session, do not feel guilty that you’ve ‘broken the chain’. Just make an effort next time. Soon it will stop being something you make yourself do, but it will rather become something that is part of your life and part of who you are.
In upcoming post I will write about different meditation techniques that you can use to keep the practice more varied. But I will also spend a little more time on the subject of why it’s good to meditate, how it works in the long run and what’s the purpose of it all anyway.
Until then, happy meditating!