March 28, 2013
Good, lovely Spring morning to you! Let's chat a bit about meditation. Any questions or comments right now? (you can share these at any time)
In the last few weeks I have mentioned how useful it is to take the time to set things up nicely for your formal meditation times... to make the space nice, to clean the body, to keep your space clean and special, to use incense and/or a singing bowl and/or ring some bells, to do some pranayama, etc. All of this is truly useful, really great.... if you can take the time to do it. But... don't let all of that keep you from your meditation times. Sometimes you may have only a few minutes to sit, or you might only be able to take a minute. Do that! It is fine to simply sit, adjust the posture to get comfortable (I will share a few tips on this today, too), take a breath or two to get both the body and mind comfortable and still, and then focus on whatever your object of meditation is - the breathe, a mantra, an affirmation something upon which you gaze, etc.
Even just a minute or two will pay off in big ways. It will transform your whole day.
Here is a thought.. What you don't do and what you do are not meditation, though they can play a big role in your meditation experience. Meditation is simply being. You've heard it before... Be here now. By "what you don't do" I mean all those things that that you have to let go of to take the time to do your meditation practice. You are not watching TV. You are not visiting with friends or talking on the phone. You are not doing your business projects. You are not working in your garden (though you can actually make this your meditation practice). You are not exercising. You are not doing your chores. There are lots of things you will note that you are not doing when you sit to meditate.
By "what you do" I mean your meditation practice techniques. You may be managing the breath. Might be repeating your mantra for a mala or two - which means you are counting or using mala beads. You could be adjusting your posture and making sure that your body isn't holding tension. You could be gazing at the flame, and keeping your attention upon that. You might be focusing attention on the tip of your nose, or at the third eye in the center of the head, or searching for the inner light or the inner humming. There is a lot you might be doing.
This not-doing and doing is very important. These are the things that ripen us so that we can actually come into the meditative state. But they are not meditating. While doing these things (or not doing) we often find great benefit, insight, inspiration, develop useful habits and take on healthy qualities. We may have delightful sensations or visions. All good, but not really meditation.
When we move into the meditative state, we have come to a transcendental consciousness. We are in the now, eternity - which is always the truth, only we are not always aware of it. All the doing has nothing to do with this. We can do or not do and it doesn't affect this state of truth. There is joy and peace, that Light which is self-effulgent. It is completely clear that this is your very Self. And you have full knowledge that it is always this way. This is the meditative state.
Patanjali tells us that we become established in something if we keep at it enthusiastically for a long time with no break. We are to make this meditative awareness the way we are, and if we do our practice daily, doing it with heartfelt attention, it will eventually become our way of being. We will be established in that. This is the goal of all of our practices.
OK... let me share a little about how to settle in quickly for your "formal" meditation practice.
It is helpful if you are clear about what technique you are using. After trying a few, select one as your chosen approach. It could be repeating mantra; it could be writing a page of a mantra; it could be recitation of some scripture; it could be watching the flow of the breath; it could be gazing at a candle or the image of your guru or anything you find uplifting and inspiring; it could be some combination of these. But be clear about what you have chosen and keep repeating that practice daily. You need to know what "practice” is for you. That is helpful. Then you need not be "deciding" each time. You know what you are doing when you settle to meditate. It will become easier. Deeper mental grooves develop which make it easier for you to settle into it.
It is also good to have your space pleasant and clean. This is something that is good to do before you sit. Make this something you check regularly, so that your space is "ready." Still, if it is time to sit and you have not yet made it clean and neat, and you only have a few minutes for your practice, use it as is. Being clean and nice (fresh flowers, dusted, ashes removed, fresh candle, etc.) is useful, but not required.
Sit. Take a moment to adjust your seated position so that it is steady and comfortable (pillows, cushions, blocks, a seiza bench, etc. are fine). Sit tall - this will really help your meditation practice. It allows your breath to flow more easily and fully, opens you up for energy to flow more openly. Be sure once you are sitting tall to soften the lower back - otherwise you will not be comfortable. You can do this without collapsing the posture. Next twist to each side – a gentle spinal twist using the breath. Put the back of the right hand around the back toward the left side, and, sitting tall, press into that hand around the back, pull the right shoulder around and twist to the right. Use a big breath or two to help release the spine. Do it to the other side, too. Finally, resettle toward the front, check the posture one more time so that is is upright and comfortable, and then take a few deep breaths. Do your practice for a minute or more. All of this settling in can be done in just a few moments.