Steps to Meditation... A Practice for You...Now
Here is a guided meditation practice that I have been offering on a recent meditation course. I don't think it is possible to teach meditation, the same way you can't teach someone how to sleep but here are some pointers to ensuring the conditions are optimised to enable you to enter into a state of concentration and mindful attention whereby you might slip into meditation and timelessness - so you have direct experience of it and know when you're doing it - a glimpse before you become aware of it in your mind again.
1. Find somewhere where you will not be disturbed, somewhere clear of clutter. Sit in a comfortable position on a chair, or on your yoga mat on a yoga block or bolster to support your spine.
2. Take time to sit with your self – take a few long breaths as if you're sighing out, a sigh of relief to stop doing, rushing, busy...become 'present' - notice and name what is true eg. I can feel the ground underneath me, I notice my hands are cold, I can hear the birds singing outside etc...
3. Stay long enough to settle into position, to allow the dust to settle and notice your thoughts - set your timer for 20 minutes.
4. Notice the breath, the body, all sensations – smells, taste…linger on touch of your hands, your clothes on your skin, the air on your body, any images behind your eye lids or anywhere else in your body, the sounds you can hear inside and outside. Feel yourself still and the vibration of any sound you can here passing through. Without disturbance – this is awareness without attachment.
6. It may be difficult to accept thoughts, attitudes, criticism - the mind may want to protect you from what is happening now – it may distract you with physical discomfort, your body calling for attention, thoughts that will stop you from any kind of deep experience.
7. Ask yourself WHAT NEEDS TO BE HEARD? You may be surprised - meditation can be very helpful and healing but you have to give it time so don't give up after a few minutes, or even 10. And if you are impatient, ask yourself if there is a connection between this attitude now and how you operate in your life outside - is there teaching here?
Some more thoughts on meditation, what it means, how you know when you're doing it and what is it useful for?
What actually is meditation and how do you know when you're doing it? As with many practices that are difficult to describe in words, meditation is often misunderstood - beginners often tell me they cannot clear their mind, they cannot meditate or sit still long enough, or even sit still! So we could start by asking what meditation IS rather than how to 'do it'.
It's simple really - meditation IS awareness. When you close you close your eyes and shift your attention from the outside world to the inside world, what do you become aware of? What do you notice? Can you track constant change and flux that IS the movement of the body, the breath, the mind, energy, emotions, mood - and this is the tricky part:
NOTICE WITHOUT TRYING to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!
To rest your full attention on the NOW...to suspend your life for some time to become timeless...to focus fully on the present...to narrow down your life to this moment...
For deep questions, we need to be focused on listening for the answers and be awake to whatever arises whether that comes in the form of answers...or quite often, no answers...trust that what arises, what is revealed may have a message for you that you don't need to work out right now!
Talking of questions, what you hope to receive from meditating - to know yourself more deeply? to be with the truth of what is affecting you right now? to accept everything that emerges from the depths of your body/mind/soul? to simply be? to welcome discomfort and conflict as well as joy and peace?
Before you start, ask yourself what is the difference between thinking and knowing? Are you concentrating hard to ‘do something’ or can you be attentive to what is already there?
The deepest question we can ask ourselves is
‘Who am I?'
Don't TRY to work this out by thinking - If we remain in our heads, we end up overthinking, analysing, considering, compartmentalising - this is NOT meditation
If we can simply DROP the trying to work it out, trying to stop our thoughts, we may find that we create room for simply tuning in our deep 'knowing', and experience a sense of awareness of a timeless being that is deep inside us, maybe just a glimpse.
The good news is that practice can create new pathways in the brain that makes it easier to drop into the present moment and give ourselves a break from overthinking, from criticising and judging, chewing over what's happened in the past, and worrying about the future.
Judy Hirsh Sampath, Yoga teacher and Yoga therapist, leads mindfulness, restorative, yoga nidra workshops, yoga therapy training, and therapeutic yoga retreats in India.
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