“The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself. “Henry Miller
In the last post, we talked about the purpose of meditation. I mean the real purpose. Sure, meditation can lower blood pressure, improve sleeping, and help people cope with physical pain. These are not small benefits and are valid reasons to meditate.
The Role of Meditation
But if what we want is freedom from self-defeating habits of all kinds and the realization of enduring happiness and peace, the practice of meditation can be a huge support.
There is no law that says we must meditate or we must know ourselves. The choice is completely ours. Some people avoid it like the plague, and others simply aren’t interested. But for those lucky ones (you?) who want to be truly happy and cannot help but ask the big questions, meditation is a tool that helps to shed habits and realize freedom.
When we are under the influence of our habitual patterns, inner discovery is next to impossible. Take an alcoholic as an example. Could he possibly see what is driving his need to drink while sitting at the bar with a gin and tonic?
Substitute for “alcoholic,” procrastinator, commitment-phobe, overeater, or self-deprecator, and you will discover your version of avoidance. When we allow the momentum of our patterns to carry us, we are too involved to see how they actually operate.
Freedom Is Possible
Simply sitting in quiet on a regular basis becomes a refuge of sanity from the pressure of our habits. It provides the space for us to stop and see what we are actually experiencing. It is a step away from the endless hamster wheel.
We learn that thoughts are just thoughts, feelings just feelings, and that we don’t need to react. It is so amazing to see that we can feel angry or recognize a recurring story of woe in our minds and we don’t need to do anything. We are simply present.
This is the freedom that stopping makes possible. Our choice is this: we can stay blind to what motivates us and continue playing out habits, or we can stop, notice what we are thinking and feeling, and allow those experiences just to be present.
Meditation is extremely simple – we sit quietly and allow everything to be as it is. Whatever we experience, we simply see it without doing anything to it. We might notice physical sensations, sounds, thoughts, or feelings that may be subtle or strong. We might notice urges to do something or tendencies to resist or avoid.
Our job in meditation is simply to be aware of these comings and goings without involving ourselves. We may feel the urge to move our attention in a given direction, but instead of acting on the urge, we stay still and allow it to unfold. That’s all there is to it.
You can think of yourself as the boundless sky. Clouds and weather pass through, but the sky is present, unmoving, unaffected.
For many of us what I am suggesting is easier said than done. The point of meditation is not to instigate a fight with what we experience. It is to be with what is. If avoidance or self-criticism appears, then that is the experience to receive in that moment. If you feel a fight brewing, then be with those feelings, thoughts, and body sensations.
When we meditate, we have a neutral, friendly attitude to everything that arises – the hard experiences as well as the mundane and blissful ones. Most of us wish to be accepted unconditionally by people. Meditation is the opportunity for us to be unconditionally accepting of ourselves, of every experience that arises in the moment. All are welcomed in the space of open awareness.
The Nuts and Bolts
Start to meditate by setting aside a few minutes for yourself. If the idea of meditating scares you, just try it for maybe five minutes, eventually working up to fifteen minutes or more. The idea is to be alert, awake, attentive, open, and receptive.
Settle your body into a comfortable sitting position, and close your eyes. Once you are settled so your body can be still, begin to pay attention to your breathing. This, alone, can be amazing. Simply track your inhale and exhale. Notice what happens around your nose, chest, back, and belly. All you are doing is noticing.
Another way to start is to open to sounds. Let your awareness be receptive to any sounds that appear, close or far. Be the still point in the center, and allow the sounds to come to you.
After a minute or so, let go of paying attention to the breathing or hearing sounds, and open your attention completely to everything that arises. You might notice thoughts, feelings, and sensations in your body. Just be a loving presence.
Thinking Is Not a Problem
At some point, you are likely to notice that you have gotten caught up in thinking about something. This is completely natural, and not a problem. When you realize you have been lost, simply shift your attention back to the space that receives everything.
This may happen thousands of times, if not more. Still not a problem. Each time, gently return to loving awareness. This is the movement to presence that stems the momentum of playing out habits unconsciously. This momentum is highly conditioned, so it takes some time to soften. Be kind with yourself.
One of the misunderstandings about meditation is that the goal is to stop thinking. You will realize that this is impossible. Thinking may stop, but it happens on its own and not because you are doing anything to make it stop. Thinking is part of experience, and all experiences are welcomed unconditionally.
The goal is not to get anywhere or accomplish any particular state, including states of rapture or bliss. The “goal” is simply to be with what is. Be awake to the ordinary, everything as it is.
Meditation serves as long as it is needed. Some people have been meditating daily for decades and for others the practice comes and goes. There is no assignment or “should” about it. If you feel moved to meditate, then enjoy. If not, life will bring you exactly what you need in some other form. If you are aware of avoiding meditation out of fear, you may consider examining your resistance.
In the ultimate state of awakeness, meditation is the enduring way of being. Even the concept of the meditator falls away, and all that exists is pure awareness. Thoughts and emotions may come and go, but awareness, you, remains untouched. This is what Adyashanti calls true meditation.
If you haven’t meditated before, give it a try. I’d love to hear how it goes. If you are a seasoned practitioner, feel free to share your experiences. Any questions are always welcome and will help everyone.
Next post: guided audio with a period of silence to support welcoming your own experience in meditation.
image credit: twoblueday