Let’s Talk About Meditation…
Wikipedia Definition of Meditation:
Meditation is a practice where an individual operates or trains the mind or induces a mode of consciousness, either to realize some benefit or for the mind to simply acknowledge its content without becoming identified with that content, or as an end in itself.
For me, meditation and mindfulness is about arriving here in the present moment. It is about recognizing when I am in thought and when I am Being.
When we first begin meditation, we often are flooded with thoughts. As we sit, we can feel overwhelmed with those thoughts and then begin to think things like “I must be doing something wrong…I don’t see anything or feel anything…why am I still thinking…this isn’t working for me…why does everything I try, not work for me?” This is a common hurtle for beginners…and even for those of us that have practiced for years.
Let’s break it down this way. Your mind can only hold one thought at a time. It may seem like a quick succession of thoughts that overlap, but the reality is that it is only capable of having one thought at a time. Meditation is about learning to slow down the thoughts, suspend the thoughts or just watch them float on by…until we create gaps between the thoughts. It is in these gaps that our own inner authenticity and Soul can flow up and into our lives. Meditation is about creating space for clarity and also creating space for nothing at all.
When we look at emotion, as “energy-in-motion” (See blog post “What is E-motion?”) we understand that our thoughts determine how we feel. Our thoughts determine our actions. Thoughts are powerful, AND we get to choose them. I know that we are often conditioned as humans to think that we aren’t in control of our thoughts, that they push their way in – we can’t help but feel sad or lonely etc. Just imagine that your thoughts are like a buffet served to you on a conveyer belt. As they move by, you get to choose which ones you like and which ones you will enjoy and which ones you will let move on. The thoughts are drifting by you, and you get to choose which ones you engage in – which ones you make yours. This in itself can be really insightful information. If you are meditating and choosing to engage in the negative thoughts that are passing by, it is a great indication that your tendency is to self-sabotage by worrying about something that has happened in the past or stress about something that might happen in the future. If you are meditating and choosing to engage in the thoughts that are exciting and of things you have been dreaming about, it is a great indication that you are launching yourself forward to another moment. Both examples provide us with great awareness. Remember, why are you meditating? To be in the present moment…thoughts take us out of the moment. In the gaps, the space between the thoughts, there is nothingness. The absence of thoughts. The absence of emotion. The absence of action. And what a beautiful place to be.
You might ask, why would I want to think, feel, do nothing? To which I would respond, aren’t you tired? In the nothingness we can simply BE, with no judgements, pressures, stress or anxiety from the outside world. BEING is enough. And in those gaps of nothingness, our inner light emerges, our true self rejuvenates, our hormones balance out, our mind rests and recalibrates, our breath continues, and our health flows up. So, even when we are doing, feeling and thinking nothing…a lot is still happening. And when we enjoy these gaps of nothingness regularly, we are able to do the present moment really well…not only when we are in the gaps, but also when we are not. Meditation first, mindfulness a beautiful bi-product of heightened awareness in our everyday lives.
So where do we start?
It is best to meditate in the mornings or when you are well rested. I recommend starting with small increments of time to simply sit with the thoughts that are moving by you. Set a timer so you don’t torture and discourage yourself.
Start with 4 minutes. Studies show that even 4 minutes of mindful awareness will create physiological benefit to the body and mind. When you are ready, work up to 15-20 minutes, twice daily. You may find that more or less time will fit with your lifestyle. Do what works for you. Personally, 10 minutes every morning is my baseline and then I add in an afternoon/evening meditation as my life allows.
It is best to meditate sitting or lying down with your legs and arms uncrossed. Be comfortable, but not so comfortable that you fall asleep.
Play nature sounds, or use no sound at all. Music with words can be distracting and create thoughts attached to the words being sung. It can be counter- productive. Mantras can be helpful to induce trance and even focus, but I recommend working up to these. Learn to be comfortable with the silence, and your own body rhythms.
Observe the breath. Don’t deepen or change the breath, don’t manipulate it. Simple observe the breath. It will naturally deepen and slow without you focusing on it at all.
Set an intention. Positive thoughts will shift the frequency you carry into your practice. Something like “I give myself the gift of meditating and really enjoy the process of creating the gaps. I choose to stay in this quiet space for 4 minutes and when my time is up, I am willing to carry mindfulness into the rest of my day.” Or just picture something that makes you happy.
Just be. Let the thoughts float on by and become aware of the thoughts as they move. Have the awareness that the thought doesn’t have to be your thought, unless you choose it. Leave the thinking alone.
When I first started “organizing my thoughts”, I imagined it to be like a file cabinet. I trusted that they would file themselves away and I could choose to pick the file up again later if I needed it. I still start my meditation this way, especially if I am overwhelmed or overworked. I choose the thought of counting my natural breaths. Inhale 1, Exhale 2, Inhale 3, Exhale 4…all the way to 10 and then start again. When the thoughts push in, I continually bring my breath back to the number and when I lose count, I simply start back at 1. There is no judgement. It is a discipline and a practice, which means the more we do it, the more we master it.
Deepak Chopra teaches a meditative practice using “OM” or “SO HUM” (inhale SO, exhale HUM, mentally) This yogic mantra is a reflection of the sound of the breath and means “I am that” (so = “I am” and hum = “that” which refers to all of creation). This is a beautiful practice that I enjoy regularly, and even as a walking meditation too.
So, it may sound complicated, but meditation is as simple as breathing. Having the awareness of the breath. Having the awareness of the thoughts. And BEING in the present moment. And what a gift, this moment is.