One of the conversations I’ve been having quite frequently of late is about meditation. Many of my clients, friends, and kids (I use the term loosely, as I have several 20-somethings who call me “Ma”) hear about the benefits of meditation, but they haven’t really made the connection for themselves. Most of them have tried to meditate a few times, and found it to be a difficult, if not seemingly impossible pursuit. Those thoughts! Those damn thoughts that never cease! My dear friends have heard that meditation means sitting in silence, not thinking – and that just doesn’t happen for them.
I would certainly not consider myself to be an expert on the subject, and I am not a teacher of meditation (yet). But I have been committed to my meditation practice, pretty much daily, for the past ten years at least (and sporadically for ten years before that). So I have some experience with those unceasing thoughts, and I am very empathetic toward those who can’t imagine how their mind will ever be able to shut up for a span of twenty minutes, let alone five. But oh. my. Holy Source – it is SUCH a worthy pursuit. Meditation has transformed my mind from one snared in the collective consciousness of angst, fear, fog, and separation, to a mind with space in it. Space between those thoughts. Space enough to be able to step back from the thoughts – not to stop them, but to witness them – and to gain a little perspective so that I can notice them. Notice is a key word in this conversation – I notice those thoughts for what they are: thoughts. I can notice how those thoughts, flying through my mind, will conscript my attention, pulling it away from the present moment. I can notice what physical effect those thoughts have on my body: change in breathing, clenching in stomach, palpations of the heart. I can notice how many of my thoughts are engaged in judgements, arguments, fears, “what ifs” and “if onlys.”
With that noticing, I am presented with choice, because (as Michael Bernard Beckwith says) “choice is a function of awareness.” Once I have begun to notice what my mind is doing when I am not paying attention, I have a new awareness – which, to me, feels like space. Space from which I can choose a response, rather than be subject to reaction.
So the practice of mediation is a time of “courting awareness,” of exercising the muscle of noticing, of developing the space – and therefore perspective – between the constant stream of thoughts. I begin my day with this dedicated time, so that later on in the day, when I encounter a challenging thought or experience, I can notice much more quickly what direction my thoughts are taking me, and I have more awareness out of which I can choose my response.
What I would say to beginners of meditation is this: don’t try going it cold turkey! Diving straight into the labyrinth of your mind without a guide can be daunting, and I think that’s why people give up so quickly. Find a teacher – local, or online – to help you get started. Guided visualization is a great way to start; visualization gives your mind one thing to focus on, which quiets much of the rampage going on in your thoughts. Guided meditation is another great start, whereby a teacher or guide provides you with insight and form to the process.
Here are some resources for you to explore to get started:
Craig Hamilton (free download) http://integralenlightenment.com/academy/
Mercola recommends Insight, a binural audio program that raises the stress threshold in the brain. http://immrama.org/insight-program-relaxation-meditation-insomnia/
Michael Beckwith, The Way of Meditation, 6:30 am Service at Agape. This service began on Nov. 1, 2015, which is where I recommend you begin. Live stream archive http://agapelive.com/streaming-archives/sunday-11-01-2015/#.VuRfSMecRCc
Adyashanti, https://www.adyashanti.org. A guided meditation – Not My Will, But The Heart’s Will Be Done. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBqMxTQPsbE&list=PLVxeinhZCajBJBOGvX4CNAB_oLczYa4aA&index=2