“Meditation, it’s not what you think.”
“Don’t just do something, sit there!
The two quotes above are “oldies but goodies” phrases to highlight the practice of meditation and hint at how it may add a well-needed new perspective to our lives. When so many of us are setting up our New Year resolutions, it may be Yoga and meditation can be part of this process supporting you in gaining the changes you seek.
Most people form an impression of meditation from friends, family, something they read or saw on TV. If you ask people what meditation is you will get as many answers as people you ask. After some research you will come to the conclusion that there are only two absolute truths about meditation:
- Each person has their own unique experience from it
- Each person is successful with meditation in their own way
Why Do Meditation?
One thought is that we meditate to “get away” or “detach ourselves”. According to health and spiritual guru Deepak Chopra (http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-491/Meditation-Techniques-for-Beginners-Demonstrated-by-Deepak-Chopra-Video.html), meditation is a way to connect with things or “get in touch”. It could be to get in touch with a particular thought or feeling. It’s about focus. Our minds are filled with thoughts looking for some energy. Focus is about choosing the thoughts we give energy to and momentarily ignoring the rest.
Spiritual teachers tell us that there is a space between our thoughts that, if we connect with that space in meditation, we are actually connected with everything. How this space is experienced is different for each person who goes there. People state that they feel relaxed and peaceful, with less stress, when meditating. Some people feel energized and more focused.
P Going into it with the expectation that you’ll have the same experience as someone else will often result in disappointment.
How Often Do I Need to Meditate?
As with anything that’s good for you, the answer to this question is: It depends. For some people it becomes a regular, formal practice. For others, it’s used on an “as needed” basis. Once you have discovered the techniques that work for you, you will have a sense for how often you should meditate. Meditation is a tool and how often you use the tool depends on how often it is needed by your system.
You will also learn different techniques for meditating. You might feel compelled to use each at different times. For instance, you may have one technique that you use every night as you fall asleep. Another you might use before you go into meetings at work. And a third might be one you do every Wednesday evening in the park across the street.
How Do I Start?
Unfortunately, many people who try meditating do it once or twice, then stop. Some people start out with wrong assumptions and expectations.
There are a few simple things to know to get the most from your first meditation experience. You will find that one or more of these tips work for you. Don’t worry about the ones that don’t. Again, meditation is an individual experience. Your unique experience.
Todd Goldfarb at the We The Change blog (http://zenhabits.net/meditation-for-beginners-20-practical-tips-for-quieting-the-mind) says that meditation is about focusing 100% on one area. To do that, you need to work on removing other distractions from both inside and outside of you.
- Find a quiet place. Yes, meditation instructions always start this way! When you become an experienced meditator, you will be able to meditate surrounded by children screaming and cars roaring past you. For the first few times, find a space that is relatively quiet. Turn off cell phones, alarm clocks, TVs and anything that could distract you.
- Get comfortable, but not so much that you will dose off. Sitting up is a good way to start. Make your body comfortable with pillows or a blanket, whatever feels good. If it’s relaxing to you to have background music, play something mellow. It might also help to drown out other noise around you.
- Now, relax! It’s interesting how some instructions just stop at that, as if we all know how to relax on command! So, try this. Close your eyes and become aware of your breathing. Breath slowly and steady. Become aware of your breath and breathing. Now, think about your head. Ask, “How does my head feel?” Keep thinking about your breath as you ask. Whatever first pops into your mind is OK. Say “Thank you” and move on. Go to your neck and ask “How does my neck feel?” Get the answer and move on down your body this way. All the way to your toes.
- Once you’ve gone through your entire body this way, take a few deep breaths and think, “I am all here. My whole body is here. I am present” Take a moment to focus on that thought, “I am present” and as you do, you will become even more present for this meditation.
- Now you can focus. Pick one thing in your life and think “I want to now become more aware of this.” You choose, start with something light weight: Why can’t I grow flowers? Which gym should I join? What is making me anxious about taking the written driving test? Once you’ve mastered your own meditation technique, then you can dive into the deeper end of the pool with harder questions!
- Once you have asked your question, the focusing begins. Put your attention to the white space between your thoughts. The time between your breaths. The empty space is where the answers are. Our mind is busy trying to fill up the empty space. We look where the mind isn’t to find our answers.
- Finally, accept whatever happens. Sometimes you will feel like “Wow! That makes sense!” Other times you will want to say “Huh? What’s that about?” Don’t worry, it’s all good and right. Just because you don’t understand it right now doesn’t make it any less so. Ask the question in a little different way the next time you meditate.
- What Do I Do Next?Like all techniques, practice is key. Keep trying. Tweak the steps a little until you have a fit for you. Maybe you need to go through your body in detail to relax: How does my left ear feel? My right ear? My nose? My lips? Or you may find that being more general works best for you: How does my body feel right now?Don’t be afraid to try different techniques. You’ll eventually come to what consistently works for you.