Why should we meditate? It lowers blood pressure, it calms the nervous system and it brings about self-awareness and peace. Those are lovely platitudes and they sound great but the reality is is that most of us do not take the time to meditate. You might have conjured up in your mind some old looking man from India sitting around in his diaper, with his eyes closed, or open in some bizarre stare, and seated in some impossible twisted form that looks incredibly uncomfortable. Yes, he’s meditating but that doesn’t mean that it has to be YOUR meditation! Let’s look at ancient scriptures from various cultures as we develop a new idea of meditation, a guide as to how to meditate and a glimpse into our self as to why we should meditate.
Kathleen McDonald, a Buddhist nun, says that “meditation is not spacing out or running away. In fact, it is being totally honest with ourselves: taking a good look at what we are and working with that in order to become more positive and useful, to ourselves and others.”
In the old testament David wrote in Psalms 4:4 – Meditate in your heart, upon your bed and be still.
When the Buddha was asked what he had gained through meditation he replied “Let me tell you what I lost through meditation – sickness, anger, depression, insecurity, the burden of old age and the fear of death.”
Dhyana is a Sanskrit (ancient Hindu) word which means the receptacle or the mind that is moving and going. Now, tune in and really look at that definition: moving and going! The exact opposite of what we think meditation is supposed to be!
Where are you moving to when you meditate? You are moving to a clear space in your mind and you are withdrawing from the distractions of the world. But how does one go about meditating and withdrawing? When I began teaching a yoga/meditation class I did Google searches, I bought books and I am immersed myself in all of the how to’s only to be incredibly frustrated. So I will pass on a few tidbits of advice.
Time – Find what works for you! Five minutes, thirty minutes …… it really doesn’t matter. Just take some time to quiet your mind.
Posture – please don’t think you have to sit in some pretzel position in order to meditate. I can’t even do that and I teach yoga! Again, find what works for you!
Space – of course we would all like a beautiful little shrine in our home with the candles and the flowers and the incense and the atmosphere and the altar… You get the point! You don’t need any of that. When I was a classroom teacher sometimes I thought I was going to scream with the noise of children all around me. I often sat in my classroom instead of the teachers lounge and ate lunch all by myself just to enjoy the solitude. That five minutes of silence was as glorious as any temple because it was a space of withdrawing. Granted, it smelled like stinky children instead of beautiful incense but it was a little piece of heaven and it gave me the power to move through the rest of the day!
If you read the book Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert you know that while she was in India learning to meditate she did nothing but chase the monkeys around in her mind. That is normal, so don’t get discouraged if you make a list of all the things you need to do when you get through meditating! The main thing is that you are stopping the every day thoughts as best you can, connecting to your breath, and clearing your mind, even if it is for the briefest of seconds.
Here are two more tips for you for my own personal experience. Download some type of an App. I personally use one called Brain Wave. It has a timer, all sorts of categories to fit different moods or needs and has options for music and other features. Since it’s on my phone it’s with me everywhere I go. Also, I use Pandora for one of my many music options and I have created a meditation station. The music selection is incredible and I have built it to suit my taste.
Also, guided meditation’s are great tools! Sometimes we all need a little help, that calming voice, the suggested imagery that will take us into a deep meditative state or just a relaxed and aware place of being. As you know, I teach a yoga/meditation class here at Premier. The class is 30 minutes of yoga followed by 15 minutes of guided meditation. Often I read from various books written by experts. Sometimes I read my own guided meditations to the students. Either way, I will help you to find just a few minutes of bliss where you can withdraw from the world, connect with your breath and become more positive and useful to yourself and others!
Grace and Peace,