For those who might be new to meditation, below are some reminders, tips and hopefully useful thoughts about meditation. For those who are experienced meditators, you are welcome to have beginners mind and see what sparks an inspiration or a new idea. And everyone, please add questions or comments below for the benefit of all – me included.
Reminders about Meditation:
Meditation is easy!
The state of peace and calm ALREADY EXISTS inside of you, it always has and it always will, so all you are doing is sinking into the calm that is already there – it’s natural, more natural than mental agitation and worry.
Meditation is simply slipping into your natural state of being. It’s “easier” and takes much less energy than stress.
No matter how turbulent the mind is, the calm is there – like waves on the surface of the ocean, no matter how big the waves are, down deep in the ocean it is absolutely quiet all the time.
There is no good or bad meditation. Do not judge meditation.
Whether or not you have thoughts or you feel agitated or you think that you are having a “good” meditation it doesn’t really matter. Don’t judge the quality of the meditation by the experiences you have while you are sitting there with your eyes closed. What is important is the experience you have when your eyes are open in daily life – are you feeling more relaxed, centered and happy? Are you more loving?
It’s great when we have a meditation that feels calm, uplifting, expansive and blissful – this is the state of consciousness we are working toward experiencing with our eyes open all the time. However, it’s equally great when we have a meditation that is turbulent or emotional in which we release all kinds of thoughts or emotions and thus purify our consciousness.
It’s important not to think that we are doing something wrong if we’re not always feeling calm. Every meditation experience in every variety is contributing to establishing a calm awareness of love and compassion for yourself and the Self in others.
In our culture, we are taught to believe that the external world is more real than the internal world. Spirituality and quantum physics are saying the opposite is true – the internal world creates the external world. Through meditation and an inward spiritual practice we can learn to experience this and identify with our internal soul self as we interact in our external world.
One of the main shifts in consciousness that a spiritual practice can help us accomplish is from “I am a body, I have a soul” to “I am a soul, I have a body.” That is, that our primary identity is with our eternal loving compassionate peaceful soul. I have found this is a big key to transformation – both internally for our own happiness and externally for Peace in our communities.
Lead from your heart, not your head.
The heart has in most cultures always been central to the Self – to love, emotions, connections and devotion. Jesus and Mother Mary are shown with their Sacred Hearts aflame both with devotion to God and compassion for humanity. Hanuman is shown literally tearing his heart open with Rama and Sita (male and female aspects of God) inside his chest where his heart would be. Poets from all cultures write poems and couplets and haiku about the heart.
Modern science is telling us that the heart has a much larger electromagnetic field than the brain – and that the heart has neural tissue that sends intuitive and informative messages to the brain – much more information than the brain sends to the heart. So – the heart is where it’s at.
One question that used to perplex me is if the Heart is the center of our soul or if our Third Eye is the “seat of the soul.” Sometimes when I go deeper in meditation I feel a concentration of energy in my third eye, yet whenever I feel God’s Grace I instinctively put my hand on my heart, and that is where I experience the concentration of love and connection both with the Divine and my fellow earth creatures (human and non-human).
One thing I like is that in Tai Chi they teach three hearts, or dan tian – the lower dan tian in the belly, the central dan tian in the heart and the upper dan tian in the forehead, or the “third eye.”
So, I’m not sure if the soul is “seated” in the heart or the third eye – and I’m not sure the soul is limited in the same way our minds are, so maybe it’s both. I like to think of it as the Light of the Soul in my third eye being anchored to the Love of the Soul in my heart.
About Thoughts (don’t worry, they’re ok):
Stop trying to stop thinking.
Just keep coming back to the meditation – when thoughts arise, when distractions happen, just bring focus back.
Many people’s first thought about meditation is – oh, it’s so hard not to think. And even when I hear many guided meditations it starts with “empty your thoughts and put the mind aside.” In my experience trying to force your mind to stop doing something that it is quite natural for it to do creates inner conflict and is the antithesis of creating inner peace.
Having thoughts during meditation is a natural experience and is actually part of the mind releasing stress so we don’t want to resist thoughts.
In meditation we allow everything that happens in the mind or the body to occur with zero resistance or judgment. When you realize that you’ve drifted away from the technique simply bring your focus back. No matter what the thoughts are remain neutral and softly come back to the technique – it’s easy and effortless and involves no struggle or strain.
Its very important not to force the mind as this actually creates more stress and resistance. Just allow the natural process of the body and the mind as it is relaxing, unwinding and expanding.
We don’t try to control thoughts and we don’t struggle with them. It’s just the meditation dance: once you noticed that you’ve drifted away, just come back.
As you get more used to meditation – it can help to simply stop identifying with the thoughts. Let them drift by like a cloud in a blue sunny sky – don’t attach to them, don’t follow them, don’t fight them, don’t focus on them. Shift your identification to the calmness and peace underneath the thoughts. You ARE the peace and the thoughts are just happening on the surface.
About Postures, Mudras and the Lotus Position:
We tend to think of “meditation” as someone sitting in lotus position with their eyes closed, yet that is a very limited view of what can constitute meditation. The guy sitting next to you on the bus with his eyes open might very well be meditating without anyone knowing it. I sometimes “meditate” while walking my dog or dancing in a night club (though a different form of meditation than what I might do in the quiet of my own room at home).
It is much more important that you are comfortable when you meditate than that you force your body into any sort of posture or position. It is just as fine to meditate sitting on your kitchen chair as it is sitting on an official meditation cushion on the floor.
You can meditate laying down, but it’s not usually recommended as your body consciousness has laying down associated with rest and sleep and you might just end up falling asleep. But if, for instance, you have back problems and sitting up is hard for you, by all means, meditate laying down and just use your intention to set the time up for meditation, not sleep.
There are also a lot of different mudras, or hand gestures, that can be used in different techniques. They are designed to help with certain energy flows for certain types of meditation, but they are not essential in any way. Likewise, when praying it’s not important to clasp your hands together. When I was little I used to think of clasping my hands together as the phone to dial God’s number, but I don’t think that is the case. The most important part is just your heart and your consciousness and has nothing to do with fancy finger work.
Keep it simple and follow your natural flow – if you feel to put your hand on your heart, do so; if you feel to put your hands together in prayer, do so; if you feel to turn your palms up to receive, do so; if you feel to place your palms down to ground energy, do so; if you feel to raise your hands up in praise, do so. If you’re not feeling anything then just let your hands relax naturally in whatever way is most comfortable.
Many forms of meditation are done with your eyes closed, which is useful for going deeper into our internal Self, our atman or our soul. Some forms of meditation are also taught with your eyes open – which can also be useful to help make it easier to keep a connection to our awareness of unity and peace when we have our eyes open in our daily lives. Why not do both?
One of the most important things in meditation is consistency. That is true for any time you are learning something new – it’s much better to do it consistently on a daily basis even if its just for 10 or 15 minutes. That is the easiest way to get the benefits of meditation. All you really need to do is DO IT.
It takes 40 days to build a new habit so especially in the beginning set a goal to meditate every day for 40 days.
Commit to a practice – 10 or 20 minutes once or twice a day – build your meditation muscle and you’ll feel the results.
- Mornings – before the mind is filled with thoughts, and also quietest time in collective mind before the world wakes up. Also, helps set the mind in a good direction for the day.
- Before bed – release the thoughts of the day and prepare for sleep, have longer periods of restorative sleep.
- Any time when you have a good space and time to pause and focus in meditation.
- Short meditation breaks throughout the day – JAM’s – the Brama Kumari’s wonderful App “Pause for Peace” has several wonderful “Just-a-Minute” meditations that are perfect for centering in your soul throughout the day.