How to Meditate . . . and not lose your Mind
How do you meditate? It’s not an often accepted nor taught practice in Western cultures or religions, although its benefits sustain all religions and cultures. The rewards of meditation have been touted as simple as improved health and as deep as enlightenment and reaching God. The truth is meditation enhances peace . . . of mind. However that applies to you is a part of the joy and experience of meditation.
That being said, there are as many ways to meditate as there are religious sects in the world – basically infinite. So what will work for you? Let’s start with the premise behind meditation and then work with the variations and elements that have evolved. The point of this review is for you to determine how you want to approach meditation so your practice enhances your personal fulfillment.
First, what the heck am I trying to do?
Meditation is quieting the mind. The vast amount of sensory input we get every waking moment and the subconscious passages in our dreams are all reflected in the constant brain activity that goes on. Meditation is a means to not just stop the noise, but to observe the signal from the noise. In meditation you stop asking and start listening. It has been analogized that prayer is likened to talking to God (or Spirit or yourself); meditation is listening.
First, you can’t sustain completely quieting the mind, or at least it takes considerable time and effort to practice, which is what monks and Enlightened Ones are capable of attaining. For the average meditator, a few moments, less than seconds, are all that are possible; however, even a moment of silence is actually monumental in peace. The whole session can resonate calm from just that moment.
Second, how you sit or stand or lie down?
Pick what works for you. The position should hold your attention, but without distraction. A full lotus with legs wrapped like pretzels actually makes sense if it contains the body’s desire to fidget and can be held without pain for extended time. That effect could also be affected by simply sitting in your car just the same. The point is balance between distraction and relaxation. If you relax too much, you’ll fall asleep, which is okay. It’s very common to fall asleep during meditation, and perhaps in of itself, it shows a desire of the mind to rest. Go with it. Meditating more will allow you to reach the meditative state without sleeping because your mind then realizes you are not just giving it a much needed rest just once, you are making it a routine.
Third, how long do you meditate?
Meditation can be an instant or hours. Like good sleep though, a regular practice should allow you to reach that peace easily and still not occupy your life again, like the posture, to the point of distraction. Thirty minutes is an ideal target to start your practice. Once or twice a day.
Setting a regular scheduled is highly conducive to a beneficial practice, especially when you are first beginning. You are more likely to see the benefits of added peace because the meditation practice is a learned exercise that increases with frequency. It is not a magic pill, and one of the most important tenets is knowing that each meditation session is unique. Each session reflects the movements of your life and so when a session does not help you attain peace, that is a statement of itself – your mind is overworked.
Fourth, where do you meditate?
The meditative environment is important. Like all aspects of your practice and your life, you create what you want to attain peace. In the ideal meditative practice, you build a special spot that reflects the peace you want for your life. This “altar” to yourself can include candles and incense, or pictures of your family . . . or icons and heroes. Place what comforts and inspires you.
Inside or outside?
Being outside truly enhances the meditative practice. Keeping tangent to the elements is a great benefit to all beings and as a meditator it tends to enhance the ability to listen when you are closer to His creation. Is it necessary? No. Again, this is your practice. See what works and adapt as you feel.
Different established practices have different guidelines on what to listen to, internally or externally. A repeated phrase such as “peace be with you” or “Thy will be done” are great starters, ways to help quiet the mind. Music without lyrics that enhances that higher peace, or perhaps music that inspires you, is excellent as well.
Another option is guided meditations. These are scripted meditation sessions that “guide” you through a meditation session. These blend well with open meditation. Any google search can find you instant downloads for experimentation and exploration. Adyashanti and Deepak Chopra, provide excellent resources for beginners.
And in the end …
Finally, namaste. This is a common phrase in yoga and meditation practices, which is often used in closing any gathering or correspondence. It has many meanings, and one is “the light in me recognizes the light in you.” Enjoy your meditation practice and enjoy . . . you.