Meditation is not sleeping, it is not just resting, and although it’s effects produce deep rest and stress relief, it is a very active process. It is an active process and a practice. Active because you are awake realizing the self and a practice because just like practicing playing the piano increases your ability to play music, meditation practice deepens your ability to know, understand and befriend the self.
As you start to witness yourself daily you start to realize there are various characteristics of your being. In meditation, the entire range of who you are will show up at one time or another. Your fearful self, your angry self, your bored self, your sleepy self, your elated self, and your restless self, your peaceful self, your endorphin filled self and your depressed self.
Since this is a practice you do by yourself and for yourself, you do not have to justify any of your own characteristics to anyone. You do not have to apologize for yourself. You can have the full range of human experience right there with yourself. Emotions including love and hate, prejudices, injustices, celebrations just arise and they dissipate in your own mind. As you practice you begin to know yes, I am that.
Meditation is a self-regulating practice because you start to realize deep inside of yourself that these characteristics of the human experience are your very own. There is no one else in there, inside your mind. You are having these thoughts and feelings. This produces a tremendous opportunity for self- inquiry.
Knowing how to practice meditation is the key so you do not get bored, discouraged and give up. And, it can be uncomfortable as you start to experience the self. “Nothing is happening” is often heard from beginners. This may mean that you need to hold the stillness of “nothing happening” and learn from that, because yes, you are that too. Just like you can learn music on your own, you can learn meditation on your own, but it helps to have a teacher, someone who has meditated for a longer time then you perhaps, and has more direct experiences of meditation. Meditation is your direct experience.
Meditation is the power inside of you because as you experience the self, you start to build awareness and through that compassion for “the other” grows. Meditation reflects the human experience if you are watchful. I was very fortunate to witness my mother’s aging process as she lived to 99. She enjoyed her fierce independence and living on her own which my sister and I enabled. I witnessed her enjoy the full range of emotions and learned that emotions are central to our humanness. It must be because emotions are connected to our feelings which we experience through our bodies. If Mom got upset, others would remark, “oh why is she so angry today?” That gave Mom and me opportunities to discuss this. I would tell her that I was angry too, and how I saw the wave of it in meditation. She then thoroughly enjoyed telling me, “I could see myself getting angry, I did not really mean that, you know who “I am,” right?” She asked if I understood. She was not her anger. We could both acknowledge that a wave of anger had come over us. We would both comfort each other and let this sink in. From there the dialogue was rich as it was non-confrontational. I learned compassion from these interactions as I could see what was arising in her, I witnessed in myself. The angry other was not so frightening any more. It took my mother some time to accept my need for practice time, and yet as her compassion for me grew, she started to welcome it. In her last year of life, she started asking me, “is it not time for you to meditate? She would then head for her bed to “lie down.” We got synchronized and finished our “inner time” at the same time.
Meditation practice requires you to keep in mind some rules, like chords, to play music. Set your time as it is important to set your intention to meditate. Choose to open your meditation and close it. Know you will hear everything. Spine straight. If you do not have the strength to sit, lie flat on your back. If you are overtired, you will fall asleep, so set an alarm to the time you want to close your practice. If you happen to have fallen asleep, meditate for a few minutes and close your meditation before you go off to your regular routine. You can practice with your breath, with a mantra (repetitive word) or being mindful for the allotted time. When you practice with breath or a mantra, you prefer the breath or mantra to all the other thoughts, plans and schemes that naturally arise in your mind during meditation. Preferring your mantra (or watching your breath) means you invite it in (go back to it) when you notice you are thinking. You will not be able to control this. It is an act of noticing. Even if you make a meal plan or develop a business strategy during your meditation and were bombarded by thoughts, that was your meditation. A stress is being released in your body mind none-the-less. The scientific community has the research that proves that for health benefits meditating twice a day for 20 minutes is all you need, lowered blood pressure, is high on the list of results, as is reducing stress.
You do not have to make it difficult by thinking you must meditate at sunrise and sunset. You may have to get to work or get the kids off to school. Make your meditation practice work for you, you do not have to work for it. Over time you will notice that the practice makes you smarter. After each meditation, you will have an inner knowing you have renewed energy and can get to a difficult task or you will know that “to do list’ can be cut in half.
A healthier you is a more powerful you. A compassionate you is a more powerful you. All this is readily available if you decide to make meditation your daily practice.
CLICK HERE to register for this Sunday’s Meditation Workshop with Ryma Bielkus.