Meditation is a much misunderstood tool that can be used to calm your life. However, when many people in the West think about meditation, they picture this eastern Indian looking guy in orange robes sitting in full lotus position. They think they need to sit in that position and to stop their mind from thinking. And if they can’t accomplish either or both of those tasks, they tell me, “I just can’t do it.” And I bring the message to you, that indeed you can meditate… you just might need a bit more information.
Meditation is an amazingly powerful practice where one can connect with one’s higher self. Yes… there is a peaceful wise self floating within each of us, seated in a full lotus position and ready to calmly address any question that might arise in your life. Do you connect with that part of yourself a lot? Haha… yeah, that’s the common answer.
In the West, most people think of their minds as who they are. The mind, busy chattering to us day in and day out, is not who we are but just a tool that we use. The mind is amazing, sorting out details and memories, lists and decisions. The mind gets you to the office in the morning, helps you remember what to pick up at the store on the way home and hopefully doesn’t let you forget the birthday of someone near and dear to you? We could not exist without this amazing wonder that lives in our skulls. But once we’re home, fed and sprawled out comfortably in bed, it’s time for the mind to shut off. And for some people this is a problem. They’ve left the mind in high gear so long, that they can’t quite find the “off” switch.
In meditation, we begin by learning that the brain is a tool and as such, we should be able to mentally place it on a shelf and distance ourselves from its chatter. Imagine you are standing by a lake, looking at the surface of the water. When a breeze comes up, the surface of the water is rippled and you can’t see past that busy disturbance. But when the breeze stops, and the ripples smooth, then you can see into the depths of the water and appreciate the beauty there. It’s like that when you can begin to calm and distance yourself a bit from the chattering mind, you can begin to look for and listen to your higher self… your soul… God… spirit… the voice of the Universe… however you prefer to view this. But somewhere within, there is a calm part of you that is wise and beautiful. Meditation can help you connect with this part of you that you may not have met with in a very long time.
So, how to proceed? That’s the fun of teaching meditation. There are so many ways to approach it. I have studied meditation since I was a teenager. I’ve studied with gurus, teachers, books and recordings. And from all that I’ve come to the conclusion that one doesn’t need a guru (a teacher) or a long visit in the ashram (retreat house.) All anyone needs is a bit of information.
Meditation styles can be explored until you find one that resonates with you. There is seated meditation and walking meditation. There are breathing practices, visualization practices, and chanting practices. You can repeat mantras or calmly study the soap bubbles while you do the dishes. There are eating meditations and counting meditations. There are physical positions (asanas) to place your body into while you relax and focus. You can become mindful of just about any practice that is calming to you. So if brushing the dog is very comforting to you, you might just use that time to calm your mind. A walk in nature is wonderfully meditative if you focus on the beauty around, or the variety of colors or textures that you encounter. The meditative nature of a walk is missed if you a busy worrying about how to pay the bills next week instead of listening to the glorious song of the birds overhead.
So being mindful of what is happening in the moment is a wonderful place to begin your meditative practice. In the beginning, the goal is calmness… then a bit of peace. As you progress in your meditative practice, you ‘ll find you can enjoy the meditation for longer periods of time. Eventually the mind quiets beautifully and you’ll find comfort in that peace. And in time, you’ll begin listening… and then you’ll hear. And the one who is speaking to you is that higher self we might have almost forgot existed.
Meditation… anyone can do it. And the practice can calm and bring peace to us. As each of us becomes more peaceful, then the world becomes more peaceful. Do your part today to help our world.