I am not going into much of the history on meditation. That is for another time. My focus here is on meditation itself. The advantages & some of the stumbling blocks. The mechanics of sitting in meditation and remedies for the dreaded “sleepyhead” syndrome associated with meditation.
Meditation can be taught and explained in as many ways as there are individuals out there teaching it. My explanation is only one variation. It is not, nor should it be, considered the only one.
Meditation can do many things for us with steady practice.
We can better understand:
· That our thoughts are not the enemy
· We can have a different relationship with our mind.
· How we relate to our surrounding environment
· How we relate to those around us
· The feeling of being a part of something larger
· Our motives. What drives us.
Somehow, things seem to sort themselves out over time. Seemingly disjointed, un-explainable situations right themselves or disappear altogether.
A thread of security becomes apparent and along with it the feeling of comfort & well being.
Much of this falls into place without realizing it. That’s the beauty of meditation. There’s seemingly no work out there. The work is in here!
Everything seems to right itself over time; with steady practice.
There are health claims associated with meditation. It lowers blood pressure. I believe it is a result of lowering the stress level of our minds & body’s. There are others too.
As we practice & these shifts in our thought process come to pass we realize that the course of our thoughts begins to change. As these thoughts change; we change. The direction in our life changes as well.
Deciding on a position
There are many positions you can use for meditation. We see pictures of guru’s setting in lotus pose so that is the pose people try to start in generally. Unfortunately that is extremely uncomfortable for us in the west used to sitting in chairs our whole life.
The key is to keep the spine straight. You can set Indian style on the floor, set on a short bench with your legs crossed in front of you. You can set on a pillow. You can set on a chair.
There are other types of meditation where you stand or walk. Those are for another article. Right now we’re just trying to get you meditating. Remember keep the spine straight.
Find quiet location
Find a room or corner you can get comfortable in. Somewhere quiet. Hopefully somewhere you can count on to be a quiet place every day.
Many people create a space just suited for them. A picture that motivates you in some way. Something relaxing. A candle maybe. A statue, flowers or a live plant. Just make it yours in whatever way you can. You want this to reflect a place of comfort for you; just you.
If your trousers are tight; unbutton them. If you wear a bra unhook it or take it off. Just get comfortable.
Try a different position every day. You will eventually find something that is comfortable for you.
I, personally, use a Zafu cushion. It is a round seat about 4–6” tall by 14–16” across. It is stuffed with rice hulls or some other natural stuffing. It is very comfortable for long sitting sessions.
Your meditation session
Some people find a timer useful so they don’t have to wonder how long they’ve been sitting. Others don’t. It is personal preference. I never use one. I mention it only because some people find themselves thinking about time. We are trying to “not think” about anything in particular; especially something as mundane as time.
There are other thoughts that come up that you can examine that will lead you further down the path of the meditation process.
Ok, so you are sitting and you are comfortable. Sit with your spine straight. Chin slightly down. Legs crossed with you hands in your lap facing upward; one on top of the other.
If you are sitting on the floor you can lie your hands upward; one on each knee. Just make sure your palms are facing upward. It is a universal sign of openness & acceptance.
You’ve found that comfortable place to sit. Your spine is erect; head tipped slightly forward to straighten the neck. Your hands are in the location that’s seems to work best for you.
None of this should be uncomfortable. If something is uncomfortable, review it & change it a bit so that it is comfortable. If you have someone that can observe your position or take a picture the first time it will help you see what you are doing that may be uncomfortable. Remember, meditation is a stress reliever not a source of stress!
Now close your eyes or relax them so they are nearly closed. Notice your breath. Feel the air entering the nostrils. Notice how it feels on your upper lip as you exhale. Your breathing will begin to change. It will slow down. Your heart rate will slow as well.
Thoughts will begin to play on the projector screen in your mind. Don’t fight it just watch them. Don’t judge them; don’t judge your relationship to them. You are not the thoughts; you are just the observer.
At some point you will notice how one thought plays itself out and another begins. This too is a normal sequence of events. The mind has a never ending source of this material for you to observe. You will, eventually, see that there are some things to be learned here in this state. Make note of them after your session. The mind can be a great teacher with the right attitude. This may go on for some time. Days or weeks. It may stop & resume again later.
Start out slow. Sit in meditation for just a few minutes the first time. Five to fifteen minutes. No longer. Let your body get used to all that is going on & all that is different about this new position you’re having it set in. Also you don’t want to get frustrated with the whole process by setting to long. As time goes by you will find yourself setting longer & longer depending on how much time you have available for yourself.
How do I know if I’m doing it right?
With practice you will know you are well on your way when it becomes a comfortable, relaxing activity for you. Others may begin to notice changes in your attitude. Work may become less of a grind. You may begin to feel more in tune with everything & everyone around you.
A Road Less Traveled
As you get comfortable with your practice & sit for longer periods of time you will notice that the thoughts begin to change. I am no scientist but I believe, when this begins to happen, you are entering a deeper part of the mind referred to as the subconscious mind. Here things are different. The thoughts come from a different place; almost like they are not your thoughts at all. Like they come from somewhere else.
Something else begins to happen here. The thoughts begin to have gaps between them. It is in these gaps where time & eternity meet. When one stops here, all bets are off as to how long you will stay there. In this place there are no explanations, there is no time, there is no you . . . there is nothing. . .
. . . all the sudden another thought appears again.
This is very hard to explain but I think if you find yourself there and with perseverance you will, you will know what I was trying to explain with mere words.
I have practiced meditation for over 20 years. There are ups & downs. I go through periods when I think I’m just sitting. I change something up a bit & continue. The rewards are many. The sense of peace is probably the most prevalent in my life.
There are other practices that go along with meditation. There are mudras (hand positions), Pranayama (breathing exercises), mantra (exercises of the voice or sound) & of course yoga (physical stretching exercises).
Yoga is the one most people find themselves familiar with. I think because the results are almost immediate.
I will delve into some of these other practices in other articles.