Everyday Meditation

open

“If your everyday practice is to open to all your emotions, to all the people you meet, to all the situations you encounter, without closing down, trusting that you can do that – then that will take you are far as you can go. And then you’ll understand all the teachings that anyone has ever taught.”
Pema Chodron

In a comment on the recent post, How to Meditate, reader Linda wrote about the peace and calm she experiences when meditating, then acknowledged, “I want to find the way in to that state more often.” I imagine Linda is not alone. Does anyone out there want to feel peaceful and calm more often?

Discovering a state of inner tranquility, through meditation or any other means, is revolutionary. In this busy, driven world we live in even a few moments of silent awareness can change everything. When we discover that this haven of calm is always available within us, we realize that a moment of stopping and dropping in brings sanity and perspective. This is everyday meditation.

Meditation in This Moment

As we addressed in a previous post, true meditation is simply being aware of everything without resistance. Being aware takes a movement of our attention away from outer circumstances and the stories we tell ourselves about them. We go from being involved with the contents of our restless minds to being the space that everything arises in.

Why not try it for a second right now? Close your eyes, and move your attention first to your breathing, then to the space prior to the breathing from which the breath arises. Or look at the space in which these words you are reading is appearing. You will notice that that inner space is clear, quiet, and undisturbed. It is peace itself.

As we can see, this space is available, always. When it is revealed, it is just like the clouds parting to reveal the sunlight that has been there all along. A formal meditation practice is a training ground that adds a great deal of support to this realization, but the only requirement to be aware is a willingness to shift our attention.

Becoming Aware

Obsessively engaging in thinking, most of which is unproductive, can be thought of as a habit. Moving our attention away from thinking can feel like we are trying to stop a freight train barreling down the tracks. But freight trains can slow down, and becoming aware that we have been thinking is like the moment the brakes are applied. There is a stopping – and then the opportunity for a conscious choice. These moments are overflowing with possibility. Where do you choose to place your attention?

Every time we realize that we have been caught up in thinking and shift to the space of awareness, the habit of thinking softens. Every time we make the choice to stay awake to what is actually happening, we know peace.
We cannot make ourselves become aware that we have been thinking. These moments simply happen. But, by implementing the suggestions below, we can nudge ourselves in the desired direction.

  • Meditation Practice. A regular meditation practice is a great support to increase the moments of awareness. When we set aside a few minutes every day to sit quietly, we are removing ourselves from the outer stimulation of the world and inviting in moments of awareness.
  • Investigate the Habit of Thinking. Become very familiar with the experience of being caught up in thinking about something. What is happening in your body? What emotions are arising? What is the energy like that is motivating the thoughts? Do you feel depressed, anxious, or conflicted. Any of these experiences can signal you to wake up and make the choice to shift your attention to the space of awareness.
  • Be with Like-Minded Others. Go to a meditation group. Connect with people who are interested in exploring inner stillness. Read blogs that support truly knowing yourself – rather than fixing yourself.
  • Know Your Triggers. Make conscious choices about the stimuli you expose yourself to. Be fully in the world, but be wise about how you do it. If violent movies agitate you, if you find the news disturbing, make another choice. See how you can orient your life toward stepping off the spinning hamster wheel and allowing yourself to be still.
  • Give Yourself Reminders. It might sound mechanistic, but it can be helpful to get into the habit of stopping for a moment before getting out of bed in the morning or starting your car.

When we become aware, we wake up from the lives we create in our minds to experience what is actually here – this breath, these sensations. Peace is closer than we could ever imagine. Be still, and you will know reality as it is – fresh, clear, and alive.

image credit: Monica’s Dad

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16 Comments

  1. Posted February 23, 2010 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    Gail,

    Thanks for this post and the other recent ones on meditation.

    I have been meditating consistently on a daily basis for a couple of years. Up until that time, I was one of those people that just didn’t get what meditation was all about. But that changed immediately after the first time I tried it.

    Now I meditate for around 10-20 minutes right after I wake up in the morning. The process basically involves breathing deeply, relaxing, and doing my best to release my thoughts.

    The feeling I get when I meditate is difficult to express in words. But some words that come to mind are bliss, unconditional love, completeness, harmony, and centered.

    I can tell from your articles that meditation has made a huge positive impact on your life. And it has also made a big impact on mine. If I were to recommend just one thing for people to do to make their lives better, I would recommend meditation.

    As you mentioned, the best part is that you can get the benefits of meditation at any time.

    Linda talked about how she wanted to be in this state more often. The way I do it is to focus on deeply breathing and slowly exhaling during the day when I have gotten off track and don’t feel good.

    Perhaps this might be called shallow meditation versus the deep meditation I do in the morning. With just a couple of deep breaths where I slowly exhale, I can come fairly close to those feelings that I get when I deeply meditate.

    The combination of deep and shallow meditation has been a fantastic way for me to stay centered during the day.

    • Posted February 23, 2010 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

      Thanks SO much for your comment, Greg, and a warm welcome to you.

      I love hearing stories such as yours when people find a way to be present and reap the benefits of bliss, unconditional love, completeness, etc. And thank you for sharing the method you have discovered for staying centered during the day, or anytime. It’s as simple as noticing the breath!! I feel the stillness in between the words you write.

      What your comment speaks to is consistency. If we make the choice to be quiet on a regular basis, to find the inner stillness that is always available, our conditioned patterns begin to relax. They just can’t hold up when we are conscious enough – and, over time, it becomes easier and easier to choose freedom rather than suffering.

  2. Posted February 23, 2010 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    Gail,

    Thanks for referring to my journey, I’m enjoying this series. It happens to run parallel to my awareness process of the past couple weeks where I’ve become very aware of my state of mind. And most of the time, it’s pretty anxious. I wrote on my blog about the car accident I had on the highway in a snowstorm this past week. It was a wake up call to really slow down and pay attention to where my mind goes. Since then, I have slowed down, becoming more and more aware. I don’t know exactly what to do, or how to move forward, but I think just slowing down is a step in the right direction. I do only a little bit of quiet time/meditation a few times a week, though my goal is to do it every day. I will just keep working on it. Thanks for your writing on this topic.

    Best,
    Linda

    • Posted February 23, 2010 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

      Hi Linda,

      I read about your car accident – so glad that you and your family are all well. Sounds like you have two incredible daughters.

      Slowing down sounds like just the right thing – it says to me that you are listening to what is happening in your life and responding with what seems appropriate to you. This is wisdom.

      And in this slowing down, you are realizing a lot of anxiety. This might sound strange, but Great! This is an opening. The anxiety is there whether you are aware of it or not, so once you are aware, you have the possibility of it not having so much power over you.

      If I might make a suggestion, it would be to get to know the anxiety. Notice how it shows up in your mind and body. Get a sense of how it sees the world. It only holds up when there is a story around it. As it is demystified, by seeing it directly, it may start to shift. This post on fear might be helpful.

      I love your dedication to knowing yourself and discovering peace of mind. With so much willingness and intention, you are bound to see results.

      Love to you,
      Gail

  3. Posted February 23, 2010 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    Gail,

    You’re very welcome! And I enjoyed reading your response.

    Like you said, it is indeed amazing how all that one needs to do is simply notice your breath. But as you know, that small change can make a world of difference. Also, “Choose freedom rather than suffering” is such a great way to put it.

    I look forward to following your blog and continuing the discussion.

  4. Posted February 23, 2010 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

    Linda,

    I know that there are lots of books on meditating and the word meditation means different things to different people. Furthermore, all I really know about meditation is what I have tried on my own (aside from reading a little bit about it).

    But below is a more detailed description of what I do which works very well for me. Though, it may not work for others.

    Gail, I’m not sure if this is similar to your process, but I’d be interested to hear about what works for you and/or other people you know that meditate.

    This would probably sound crazy to most people, but I didn’t truly understand the definition of unconditional love until I started meditating. It’s that powerful.

    And Linda, if you try this, you will know you are doing the “deep meditation” right if your body is tingling all over. The first time I meditated it was a very powerful experience (it has been less intense from the second time on).

    Here it is…

    Meditating daily is one of the most effective ways to help maintain a positive vibration. Here is how I incorporate meditation into my daily routine.

    I have found that meditating in the morning immediately after I wake up works best for me. The first step is that I completely relax my body and clear my mind. Right after waking up, this is usually very easy unless I was just in the middle of an intense dream.

    Next, I focus on my breathing.

    I breathe in slowly through my nose for around 4-5 seconds. As I breathe in, I focus on expanding my stomach outwards. This allows me to get a really deep breath every time.

    After breathing in, I comfortably hold my breath for 10-15 seconds. And then I exhale slowly through my mouth for 5-10 seconds.

    I typically repeat this process for around 10-20 minutes.

    For me, meditating for only 2-3 minutes in the morning is not enough. On the other hand, meditating for an hour is usually too much. However, like with everything in life, I recommend doing what works best for you.

    When I meditate in the morning, my vibration stays much more positive throughout the day. I am a lot more relaxed and patient. And it is much easier for me to “go with the flow.”

    However, I still experience stress at times during the day even though it is a lot less than before I started meditating. When this happens, I immediately focus on taking deep breaths. Within as little as a few seconds, I can start getting closer to the feeling that meditation gives me.

    While the feeling will not be nearly as deep as the one you get when meditating, you can at least go from a negative vibration to a neutral one very quickly. And once you do this, it will be a lot easier to go back to having a positive vibration.

    I highly recommend incorporating meditation into your daily routine to help maintain a positive vibration. While the feeling that I get when I meditate is difficult to describe in words, a few that come to mind are bliss, unconditional love, completeness, harmony, and centered.

    I have heard it said that we are spiritual beings having a human experience, not human beings having a spiritual experience. Meditation makes me believe that this is indeed true.

  5. Posted February 24, 2010 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    Gail and Greg,

    Thanks for the encouragement and suggestions. Greg, I have a huge resistance to breath work. The way emotional damage shows up in my body is in my breath – shallow, tight chest, controlled breathing. The idea of using breath to relax is difficult for me. I know it’s the major method for meditation, so it’s probably something I need to look at again. I’ve certainly made improvements in my breathing patterns, but not enough. I love the way you describe the tingling you got the first time. I like Gail’s suggestions to just notice how anxiety shows up in my body and life. See what it’s “story” is. My partner suggests to me that I look at the big picture – remind myself where I’m going, the vision I have, and stay focused on that. I tend to get stuck in the nitty gritty, the “problems” (which always work out), and forget about that vision. Lots of reminder work for me to do. Constant vigilance!

    Thanks again for your support.

    Linda

  6. Posted February 24, 2010 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    Hi Gail.

    I like the concept there about finding out our triggers through regular meditation, and that makes sense. If we cut off stimuli at their entry point, we are then able to see where and when items are arriving into our thoughts. It is not easy to do this when connected to all of them.

    When I meditate the next time, I will have doubled how many times I have thus far.

    • Posted February 25, 2010 at 10:03 am | Permalink

      Yes, that’s it, Armen! Whether you call it meditation or not, when we become conscious of our triggers, we can see how they affect our thoughts. True meditation is simply being aware, and when we are not aware, old habits continue like the freight train barreling down the tracks. It often does help, though, to have a formal practice for some time.

      I love how freedom is so possible, right at our fingertips!

      Whether you sit and meditate or not, Armen, I have the feeling about you that you are very aware and so dedicated to cleaning out any habits that keep you from your full, beautiful expression. You can’t help but shine!! It comes through all your writing.

  7. Posted February 25, 2010 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    Hi Dear Gail, As always this is so beautifully written and equally as insightful. You are always helpful in an easeful way.

    Then I noticed the quote at the top of this post and it reminded me of how when people ask me what I do for a mediation, I often say, “I do a living meditation.” They usually don’t know what I mean and will either pretend they do and say, “Oh that’s nice.” LOL! Or they will ask, “What is that?”

    For me it is exactly what this quote says. I simply choose to use Life to sustain me, to nourish me. Why not go directly to the source? :) I have found that by moving through Life with my heart and mind open (and usually wide open LOL!) I live in a meditative state of Grace and Love all the time. I feel it’s what we were born to be.

    Through remaining open, no matter what is thrown at me, and using it all to grow and become more aware and more connected to all the world around me, I live in a continued state of vibrancy. It really is effortless, and if we can only remain open, Life will teach us EVERYTHING we need to know. EVERYTHING. And Life teaches in such a beautifully intrinsic way. I love learning and meditating in this way. It has truly become my life. It already WAS my life. I just had to awaken, open myself to Life around me.

    The world is full of people who shut down to Life and then go and try to find truth in books, gurus and religion. Those things can be helpful to some, but they are still not an intimate relationship with Life. Life is calling us, waiting, yearning to teach us everything we need. In turning to her and opening our hearts we will become more than we EVER dreamed possible.

    Thank you for touching me do deeply this morning. But then you always do. Much love to you, beautiful soul. Robin.

    PS I got your precious note about my newsletter. And because of YOU, :) I am now in the process of setting up an automated newsletter system with Aweber. So I will let you know when I have that in place. I was touched by your radiant kindness and encouraging words in your note. Gail, your soul REALLY SHINES in everything you touch and express.

    • Posted February 25, 2010 at 10:22 am | Permalink

      Robin!

      I’m smiling and laughing so much right now. Your comment transmits so clearly how fresh and alive life is. And I absolutely love hearing how opening is not just something you do – it is who you are – who we all are. You so clearly express the freedom that comes from no longer defending or being contracted or closed. There is complete openness to life, which gives us everything we could ever need.

      And then we see the world full of people shut down to Life. So many trying to understand, to not suffer, when the possibility is closer than the breath. This moves us to compassion that breaks the heart open. And your heart is SO open!

      Sending love to you, Robin. It’s always a treat to hear from you.

      And I will be the first to sign up for your email list!!

  8. Posted February 25, 2010 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    Are there different ways of meditating? I have heard of this way many times before, but I was curious if there are other ways.

    For example, I journal and that helps me to get the garbage out and get it in focus, which raises my awareness. If this isn’t meditating, it seems to accomplish the same end goal. What do you think Gail?

    • Posted February 25, 2010 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

      Hi Dan,
      Thanks for your comment and question, and welcome to A Flourishing Life!

      Yes, there are different ways of meditating. Some people recite a mantra or count breaths, and there are other ways as well.

      The point is to ask yourself what you really want, then do whatever is most supportive. It’s simply a matter of following your heart. It sound like journaling, which is a wonderful way to become aware of thoughts, feelings, and stories in the mind, is just the right thing for you. It is a way to get some space around the patterns that often run in us so strongly. If your goal is deep freedom from habits and enduring peace, sitting quietly with your inner self (i.e.meditation) and journaling are two useful practices.

      I wish you well….

  9. Posted February 28, 2010 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    Gail, I am new to your insightful blog – thank you so much from the foot of Mount Fuji. I especially appreciate the important point you made that, “true meditation is simply being aware of everything without resistance.” Which of course means that our entire day can be our meditation as we live each moment with aware acceptance. Meditation is the simple mindfulness we bring to every personal interaction, every situation, and every thing we encounter. And it transforms us. Warm greetings from Japan – Catrien Ross.

    • Posted February 28, 2010 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

      Hi Catrien,

      A very warm welcome to you – from the foot of Mount Fuji! Thanks so much for your comment.

      I love your phrase – “aware acceptance.” Everyday meditation is living in aware acceptance – openness, no resistance, complete welcoming. The transforming is in the eventual realization that life flows and we are not the doer of it. We listen, receive, and surrender, and our circumstances unfold in just the right way. Beautiful life….so sweet and alive.

      So glad to have you in our flourishing community!

      xoxo
      Gail

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