If you have been looking for the next meditation lesson, I’m sorry it has taken so long! We had a long winter, a short spring, and we’re now in the full heat of summer! So I have been outside practicing another form of meditation through gardening. Gardening involves some hard, physical work, especially at the beginning of the season. But once the flowers and fruits and vegetables are in the ground, there is a spiritual reward in tending, nurturing and harvesting one’s own produce. In contrast to our ancestors, a lot of our lives are spent indoors. It is the nature of our world and it can’t be helped. But the modern world has evolved much faster than we humans have. It is easy to become disconnected from the natural world, to which we belong. Spending time outside, plunging my hands into the sweet-smelling earth, eating a freshly picked spinach salad that grew from seeds I planted, reminds me of my connection to the world around me. There is a rhythm to gardening, a rhythm based, of course, in my own breath. By tuning into my breath as I work outside, I feel a sense of contentment, of belonging to the world, and of deep peace.
If you have a yard or garden, enter into this peaceful rhythm the next time you step out there. No garden? Take a walk and simply be aware of the trees, birds, and sky. Live in the middle of a big city? Notice the little things: the spider weaving its web, the dandelion springing forth from the crack in the sidewalk, the pigeon looking for crumbs. Just breathe, observe, and know that you are a part of a system much larger than you can comprehend.
Stay tuned for the next audio meditation: #7. Creating Balance (Coming soon!)
Our world is a busy place and it demands a lot of activity from us. Most people I know seem topack an enormous amount of activity into their waking hours. We spend a great deal of time at work, at meetings, caring for children and taking them to their many activities, doing chores and errands…. The list of things we have to do seems endless! Because we have so much to do, we end up sacrificing sleep to accomplish everything. To make matters worse, our way of life often subtly encourages us to ignore the body’s signals that we are tired, that the head aches, that we’re holding tensions in the muscles or the organs. The body sends us messages all the time about what is good for it and what jeopardizes our health. If we ignore these messages, disease can eventually take hold.
In this practice, you will be asked to tune into different parts of the body and just pay attention. You may notice tension or pain, or you may notice a sense of well-being. You may not notice either of those things, but perhaps a certain part of the body will call up a memory, a color, picture, texture or feeling. Just notice what happens and then move on to the next part of the body as I guide you. As you go through the rest of your day, be mindful about what your body revealed to you. Resolve not to keep going despite pain and exhaustion, but rather to finds ways to nurture, rest and renew. If for example, you find that you unconsciously clench your hands or hold tightness in your jaw, take a few moments during the day to breathe into that area and relax it. If you notice that you are sleepy, resolve to take a power nap or go to bed a few minutes earlier than usual. Know that simply by LISTENING to the body, you are already nurturing yourself. Once you begin to forge a stronger mind-body connection, you can decide what else you need to do to keep your body healthy and functioning.
As always, please share your interesting experiences with this practice by leaving a comment.
This 12-minute practice makes use of visualization. Creating a picture in your “mind’s eye” is an effective way to meditate. This time, you will use your imagination to visualize a symbol of rebirth and possibility.
Don’t worry about the number of times you lost focus and caught yourself thinking during your practice. Perfection is not the goal of meditation. The goal is to choose to stop your typical routine for a few minutes in order to be mindful of the present moment. Most of us don’t normally do this, so you may feel your Busy Self is made anxious by the pause in the daily routine, unwilling to grant even a few minutes to suspend time and impending tasks. It is quite usual for the thoughts of all we have to do, to thrust themselves into our minds. When this happens, don’t get discouraged, don’t get angry, don’t worry that you “aren’t doing it right”. Be as patient with your wild mind as you would with a puppy or a child. Bring your attention slowly back to your meditation and let the thoughts float by. If you do this a thousand times during your practice, it is time well spent!
After this practice, notice how you feel. What ideas, colors, shapes, thoughts came up as you meditated on the Golden Egg? If Meditating on a visual image works well for you, continue to practice that way!
NEXT LESSON: Meditating on the body: Is Your body trying to tell you something?
“You should rather be grateful for the weeds you have in your mind, because eventually they will enrich your practice.”
This meditation uses a visual object as a focus instead of the breath. Some people really like to meditate on something they can see in the “mind’s eye”. See if this works for you. The practice runs 11:11 minutes.
We continue to use meditation to go inside of ourselves and to explore what happens when we do that. There is no right way to meditate and there is not a particular experience that you are expected to have. Typically, people notice that they feel calmer and more relaxed after even a short meditation. We hope that you will also notice some positive effects from engaging in the full, healthy breathing that we will practice. You will struggle with the practice of “letting go of thinking”—everyone does! Perhaps you will also begin to see that you begin to access a deeper sense of self when you meditate, and that this inner self can be a sanctuary—centered, calm and focused. The most important point this week is to just engage in the practices and see what happens. Don’t judge yourself! The aim here is not to achieve a state of perfection; rather, it is to become more aware and mindful of who we are and to accept ourselves as the unique beings that we are while discovering our unrealized potential. In fact, it is often the struggle and failure to stay focused that becomes one’s greatest teacher!
Please take note of the exercises that resonate with you. Try to find another time (or times) during the day to practice the kinds of meditations that you like—even if it is only for a few minutes. If you have trouble relaxing in the evenings or getting to sleep, try doing a simple breath meditation for a few minutes when you climb into bed at night. The more often you practice, the more you are likely to notice positive changes in how you feel and how you move through your life.
Meditating on the breath is a great way to begin the process of going within and calming yourself. While I am guiding you through this practice, there will be several pauses during the track. Just keep breathing, as I ask you to do. Notice how you feel before doing this practice and how you feel after. Was it hard to focus on the breath? Easy? What did you learn about the nature of your breathing? How much did your thoughts intrude? Please comment to say how this practice worked for you.
Just hit the “Play” button!
Often, people think of meditation as a religious, esoteric practice. However, meditation can be as simple as stopping in the midst of a busy day to be truly conscious of the present moment. Why bother to do so? It’s a great way to get some perspective on what you do each day, how you spend your time, and to become more aware of why you do the things you are doing.
It does not take special study or knowledge—although many gifted teachers have written profound descriptions and instruction about meditation over many centuries—it only requires a desire to get in touch with a calm center that already exists within yourself. Every one of us has this calm center. It can be accessed simply by paying close attention.
I have designed a series of guided meditations that teach a variety of ways to pay attention and go within yourself to find that calm center. As you progress, you are likely to find that going inward can help you see the world in new ways. Meditation can open the door to a profound sense of purpose and personal freedom that already lies within you.
I will post a guided, audio meditation each week. You will begin by simply meditating on your own breath, and then experience other ways to focus your meditation in upcoming guided audio practices. To start, please go to “Previous Posts: January” , where you will find an audio guide to prepare you for meditation, “Intro to Meditation”. Then try the first guided practice, “Breath Meditation 1”. Let me know how it worked for you.
I am new to blogging, so I’ll be figuring out how this will work, and learning how to use this resource better as I go along.
I hope to hear from you, whoever you are, and hear about your experiences as you embark upon this set of practices.