What is the process of moving towards meditation?
I say towards, because meditation is an out of body experience which you can not perform. Meditation infers that there is no performer! I suppose it’s easier to say and we all love that, but to say “I meditate”, unless your speaking from the cosmic endless ocean of pure concsciousness-bliss, is just incorrect. You can however prepare yourself for this divinely graced presence by meditation practice. Imagine it’s like going through all the rooms in the gigantic house-of-your-being, slowly you dim the lights and turn off things as you make your way inwards. Walking more quietly and slowly after each light is turned off, you might stub your toe on some left out thought you thought you had put away. Pick it up mindfully. Feel it in your hands and contemplate it’s meaning or use in your life. If it has merit or a place in your heart, place it on a shelf for later. If it’s just chatter or undesired, drop it without remorse into the bin. Going further into your house, you find rooms you may not have known even existed. However, they feel more familiar than any of the previous rooms once you’re in there. You decide to sit down in one. As you sit and become still, you realize you can feel the entire house you’ve already gone through. There it is, perhaps gently vibrating in your awareness. Now, all there is to do is look at the awareness…. of your awareness…. of awareness… that………….hey! ……this is just an article, snap out of it!
Meditation begins with a quiet place where we can slowly withdraw from activity and stimulation. We should definitely be grateful if we have a handy place like that in our lives. For most people it’s hard to find the ideal spot. Don’t sweat it. Just locate or simulate the most cave like setting you can manage! The whole idea of the cave is that it’s just a hole in a rock with nothing going on in there. You need to cut out the stimulation so you can look and listen internally. It makes pratyahara, sense withdraw, a lot more simple. If you can’t really find such a place conveniently, consider somewhere with consistency in the incoming stimulation.Maybe the non-disruptive sounds of nature.
Another example, I live in Bangkok in a condo. I practice meditation on the roof, 24 stories up. From up there, the bustle of the city sounds mostly distant and homogenous. None of the sounds stand out too drastically. Ideally if there aren’t any buck-wild children around the pool I’ll also practice there. Actually, if I’ve just done a lot of invigorating asana I’ll practice meditation afterwards there because I feel so centered, even if there are all kinds of kids splashing and cahooting. They usually become unusually quiet if they notice me put my head on my feet in Kapotasana anyway.Plus, I think some of them really get it…
Another option you could consider that I just read about is quite extreme. Put on some headphones with static white noise, tape half a ping pong ball over each eye, then put a red light on in front of you. These filters over your senses will eventually become completely meaningless to your brain and you will be totally internalized. The only problem is you might start to hallucinate wildly after about 30 minutes. Here’s a reasonable compromise…
…obviously for much shorter intervals.
So it’s true, you don’t have to actually sit somewhere quiet for that withdraw. But having a foundational asana and pranayama practice helps to hone your focus a little more close to home. People who are good at relaxing, somewhere quiet, ideally in nature, are doing this all the time too. If it’s somewhere especially peaceful (again, nature) you can even be engaged in simple activity and get a sense of it. It’s a skill of sorts to be able to filter out overload. This is needed from time to time to refresh ourselves and it’s the first step towards meditation. That withdraw however, can be much more recuperating and the experience much more interesting if we leave out the activity.
So, you’re in your spot, your withdrawn, my next post will be about meditation poses, what next? Watch your breath. If you’re practicing meditation there’s no need to change your breath. Just be still, calm, and watch your breath. Watch the spaces between your breath. Watch the feeling in the spaces between your breaths. All the while, feel everything relaxing and slowing down. Your heart rate slows down. Your mind slows down. Time slows down. Like in the metaphor of the house-of-being if you come across a thought don’t rush yourself to cast it out. Let it be there as a phenomenon. Picture it as an event or energetic happening. If it strikes a chord with you emotionally take consideration to know your genuine feelings and have resolution with the subject before letting it go. Some thoughts come simply as flashes of trivial memories, mostly inconsequential, some come with deep personal meanings and present a great opportunity for establishing a new relationship with that particular subject.
This process of moving inward, let’s you encounter more consciously your usually subconscious behavioral patterns. But it’s still only just on the verge of conscious…initially….I can’t even say what kind of stuff might be waiting for you in there; such fleetingly indescribable whisps of experience, energetic epiphany, maybe even completely disappearing for an instant. Sounds epic right? Well if you don’t experience any of that it’s fine. Don’t give up because like the ashtangi’s love to say “practice and all is coming.”
The practical level of meditation practice is always still there. It’s a great tool. Instead of bang-crashing all around your nervous system with the thought train express, processing the endless bits of information of a day, and reacting to the explosions, bosses getting the cramps, or a damned paper cut…Just sit down sometimes… survey the network of your nearly impossibly miraculous vessel of life in a chilled out way. The more you come here, to your place inside yourself, perhaps an even sacred place, the more your innate intelligence, beyond the level of your thinking mind, will trim all the hodgepodge non-sense on which you don’t need to be wasting your vital nerve force. And, when you come back from meditation practice you’ll have a new and easier way to be true to you, more streamlined, high-def, and totally astrally experienced.
Tips for Meditation Practice
1. Be comfortable. It’s not going to work if you’re struggling to just be in your body. Upright is preferable to laying down for staying alert. Use big cushions or even one of those cool super space age rubber balls. Actually, you’ll probably have too much fun rolling around and bouncing on it. If you can’t sit upright comfortably for more than a minute lay down for now and practice asana!
2. Relax your eyes and tongue especially. Thoughts are often stimulated by movements of these areas that carry and convey so much information.
3. Watch your breath.
4. Trust yourself! You don’t have to “know” what to do. Sometimes there is a lot of stuff to process before you can come to the clearing of peacefulness.