I lead a weekly Facebook Meditation Chat, and am posting some of the chats here. Enjoy. Comment. Ask questions. Share your own experiences.
November 26, 2012
Cynthia: Ok I will start.....as a beginner, I find it so difficult to slow down my mind. What's the first step in learning to quiet my mind?
Jayna: I have trouble quieting my mind. Do you suggest mantra Japa or just concentrate on breathing?
Dear Cynthia and Jayna let me get something written here for you.
Cynthia... there are lots of steps that you can take to help quiet the mind. But even noticing how active the mind is shows you are progressing. Everyone's mind is active and jumps from one thing to the next. Here are a few things to do... breathe slow and steady. Make sure your breathing, though deep, is very comfortable - comfortable is more important that how deep it is. If you do it comfortably, you will eventually find it deepening and slowing down... when the breaths slows down, the mind will slow down, too. Being clear about what you are trying to focus upon is also important. For instance you can watch the breath... initially breathe a little deeper so that it is easy to focus upon, but then, once you are finding it easy to watch, let the breath become more subtle. This will bring your attention to a more inward place and heighten your awareness. You could also use a mantra.
Dear Jayna, these comments will speak to your question as well as Cynthia's.
Repetition of a Mantra is a particularly wonderful and easy practice. Once you have found a mantra that you enjoy repeat it regularly... what I mean, is that you want to repeat it daily, and in many situations: at your "formal" meditation time; while lying in bed before sleep; upon waking; while showering, or driving... or almost any time. The more you repeat it, the more you will begin to vibrate with it and find it easier and easier to sort of "ride". It will carry you, keep your mind calm, start to change your thinking patterns so that they are calmer and and more constructive... and even create periods of sweet stillness for the mind.
Cynthia: How do you choose a mantra? Please know I really AM a beginner.
Choosing a mantra... there are a lot of mantras... some short... some longer. When you are getting started it makes sense to play with a number of mantras for a while and see how they "feel" for you. You want to choose one that you enjoy. So initially you may use a number of mantras, but eventually pick one that you like and commit to repeating that one everyday - without fail. It is fine to still explore and get to know and even "use" other mantras, but do that along with repeating your chosen mantra - not instead, and not shifting from one mantra to another.
Buddy: Do you need a Mantra that a Swami gave you or can you pick one that resonates with you? Do you switch them at times? Do you constantly use the Mantra or do you like the stillness of the mind?
Buddy, no, you do not need a mantra that a swami gave you. You can pick one that resonates for you. But please note.. it is useful to stick with whatever mantra you have chosen (it is fine to try a few until you find one that you like, that resonates for you, but then pick that one). It takes steady repetition of the same sound formula for you to start to resonate with it, and for it to begin to reveal its qualities for you. Then you will start to resonate with it easier and more fully. It will begin to shape your life experiences and your mental state will more easily settle into that groove. This can only take place when you stick to one sound formula (mantra) and stay with it regularly for a long time. And Patanjali tells us that we need to do it with feeling as well if we want it to "happen." Next, please note that getting a mantra from a swami is something different. What you are talking about is known as mantra initiation. This really is more like a marriage with your teacher. So do not simply look for a swami to give you a mantra, better to pick your own. But if you have found a teacher who works for you as a guru, then it would be wonderful to ask for a mantra from your teacher. If the guru initiates you with a mantra, two special things take place... first you are able to get into the groove with the mantra more easily and quickly, and secondly, the mantra keeps you intimately connected with your teacher - both good. Hope this was helpful.
Cynthia, I hope this is useful. Don't worry about understanding everything. Just use anything that seems useful for you right now. Know that the Divine, the Universe is completely supporting your urge to come into Yoga (union). Trust the guidance that speaks to you. As you make use of it, more will naturally flow your way, along with the means to understand it and do it. Whatever seems not to speak to you at the moment, just ignore that for the time being. Have fun. It is important to ask your questions... then the guidance comes.
Any more questions at this point from anyone?
Saraswati posting here! We have a question from twitter for Jayadeva: Can you recommend any sounds for meditating I've tried some apps but not impressed! Don't have gongs etc.
Are you looking for specific apps to use or suggestions for the types of sounds that can be useful. Let me speak to both briefly...
a wonderful app for meditation is the Insight Meditation app.. not the free one (which is ok) but the one you pay a little for. It gives you a number of gongs/bells that are quite beautiful. You can choose how long and how often the sound and create a schedule of them sounding to assist your meditation practice.
***Saraswati posting*** I think they are interested in general sounds that would assist one in their practice.
I love to ring a singing bowl to start my meditations - one that I actual have at my altar (not an app). It took me a while searching until I found one that resonated for me in a way that really took me deep within and so naturally stilled my mind. But once found, it works great. I ring it when I start and it quiets my thoughts and draws my attention inward. Then I begin my chosen practice.
I also ring a lovely bell when I first arrive at my altar to meditate. This sort of clears the air, creates a lovely vibrational atmosphere in the room,and stops my mind from whatever it was doing before coming to the altar. Then, after lighting some incense (I like incense and it, too, lets me know that I am about to settle into my meditation - and then when I smell incense anywhere it reminds me and draws me into the meditative state), I then ring the singing bell, do some pranayama (breathing practices) and start working with my object of meditation.
It is ok to play some music if it doesn't stir up the mind or draw your attention outward. Be sure to see what the effect is... is it moving you inward and helping to still the mind? helping to create an open space for you to focus on whatever you have chosen to focus upon? or, is it drawing your attention outward and keeping you form going withing - remember, the kingdom of heaven is within - and once you find it within, it transforms your "outer" world into that kingdom.
Certainly some of the best use of sound, is mantra japa... you doing the repetitions is better than listening to it being done by others - though that creates a delightful and useful energy when you are not doing your meditation practice.
And here are a few useful tips before we close tonight...
steady... a daily practice is key to making meditation a part of who
Until you are really established in a meditative state of mind, it is important to commit to a daily “formal” meditation practice. Do it everyday for sure, even just a little bit is fine – but make it part of you everyday way of being.
Keep meditating. Have fun. May you be ever blessed and a blessing in this world.