From our first breath, we are observing, experiencing, and learning. Early on, we depend on outer beings to protect us and take care of our needs. We are taught how to walk, talk, eat, behave socially, etc.. When we have reached the appropriate age, we usually leave our nests and search for our “true selves”, taking all of our handy tools and ideals with us. The appropriate age may vary depending on how we are raised. Some humans have to grow up very quickly learning survival on many levels. Other humans are protected and nurtured from darkness allowing for a sheltered lifestyle. No matter how we grow, we were conditioned to be like those that raised and educated us with our own natural essence. Out of all the knowledge we are given, we weren't taught how to maintain our natural state of being. Because of this, we take our thoughts way too seriously. It does not matter if it is a past memory from childhood or a thought of a future event; It is not happening now. When we get emotionally caught up in thought, we are trapped in the “illusion”. This is suffering.
When I was a kid, my papa caught me talking to myself. I blushed as he laughed and said “It’s ok to talk to yourself. It is when you start answering yourself that you need to worry”. 20+ years later and three years of yoga under my belt, I had another moment of being caught talking to myself, but it wasn’t my papa that noticed. It was me. I noticed I was having a conversation with myself and I was answering myself as well. That was an awakening moment for me, so I took my therapist’s advice and tried meditation.
What is meditation exactly? It is simple, but a practice. Meditation is listening and observing yourself while sitting still. Easy right? Easy as it is for you to listen to others. For example: Your dear friend is chatting with you about something important. You are asked a question and find yourself embarrassed that your mind went somewhere else instead of listening to your friend. Very apologetically, you ask your friend to repeat the conversation. This is what happens in beginner meditation. You sit still, but it seems impossible to get comfortable. You try to calm your mind, but the thoughts get worse. You can not listen to yourself because you can not believe what you are hearing. Your body may begin to ache or become distracted. We want others to listen to us so badly, but we can not take time to listen to ourselves. This is the truth for the majority. Why do we give up on meditation? The most common excuses I get is “I don’t have the time”, “I can’t sit still”, and “I can not stop thinking”. By making the time, you learn how to slow down mentally, physically, and mindfully. You will begin to notice that you productively get more done than before you had a practice.
Meditation is a practice that teaches how to detach from the “monkey mind” and find a relaxed state of being. When we meditate, we consciously observe our mind and as our thoughts come in. We take control by redirecting the thought, for example: If a negative thought comes in, replace it purposely with a positive thought. You could also place your thoughts on a cloud using your imagination and watch them float away. You use your negative as a teacher to become positive. While doing that, you try to pay attention to the space between your thoughts. This is where the solutions to the problems are found. This is the peace you have always been searching for. This is also where you find yourself. The more you meditate, the space between gets longer.
Meditation does not require any particular spiritual or religious belief system. People of many cultures, religions and spiritual beliefs practice. Unlike prayer, meditation is listening which allows for both to work hand in hand. I suggest to students of religion to pray before they begin to add protection. Meditation is a healthy escape. In fact, drug rehabilitation centers are adding yoga and meditation to replace addiction. The more you do it, you are able to release stored toxic feelings and emotions. With the effort you put into your practice, you are rewarded with clarity and peace of mind. Other benefits of meditation: Happiness, more restful sleep, less stress, dissolve thoughts and negative thought patterns, peace, greater clarity or intuition, relief of anxiety, lower blood pressure, breathe more easily, enlightenment, deeper connection to source, awaken creativity, focused, empower your self to be your true self, heal relationships, ease pain, and end suffering. The list goes on and on!
How do you begin a meditation practice? First write down why you want to learn to meditate. What do you hope to experience? Why have you chosen this path? For example: Find self, nurture self, calm the mind, learn how to relax, relieve anxiety. Now that you know that you desire to meditate, You are ready to prepare your space and gather your tools. Your space does not have to be big, just allow for it to be clean and peaceful. Make sure that you have also set your boundaries with the people around you, letting them know that you need Some time for yourself without interruption. Meditation suggested tools: Candle, cushion, blanket, aromatherapy, journal, tissue, timer. It is also recommended that you either shower or clean hands, face, mouth, and feet. Make sure you eat a few hours before. Digestion is a distraction. There are many ways to meditate, but we will focus on these four;).
- Body Scan Meditation: In this meditation, you begin focusing on your breath. As you breathe, you begin scanning your body from the toes, to the crown of your head. You spend a little bit of time on each part of your body. You allow all to be as it is, not judging. It takes about 10 to 15 minutes at minimum to slowly get from your toes to your crown. Take your time and if your thoughts take over, just begin where you left off patiently.
- Dristi Meditation: Dristi means one pointed focus. In this meditation, you will find a place to focus with the eyes either open or closed. During this time, you will listen to your breath and maintain your focus on one point. If your eyes are open, allow your eyes to soften so that your gaze is easy. Do not allow your eyes to drift. If they do, just very gracefully bring your gaze back to one point. Examples: Tip of the nose, third eye, navel, thumbs, hands, big toes, far to the right, far to the left, and up to the sky.
- Mantra Meditation: in this meditation, you will be repeating a phrase that benefits you. Examples: trust, om, amen, I am, truth, healing, love, listen, be here, patience, breathe.... You choose this word or phrase to repeat in your head. Find a comfortable seat at position and tune into the breathing. As thoughts begin to come up to distract you, begin chanting your mantra in your head. Each time you drift away and get caught up in your thought processes, notice it and observe without judgment. Take a moment and allow your breath to help you tune back in and continue the mantra.
- Guided Meditation: Guided meditation's are very beneficial and allowing you to train your mind and body. They are quite fun and less challenging. During this time, you are following the teacher’s voice. They will be guiding you to deep internal exploration. There are many books, DVDs and CDs available to you on the market. I recommend guided meditation on occasion and that you choose another primary tool allowing for you to empty your mind completely.
One thing to always remember when it comes to self reflection is to have patience, forgiveness, and compassion for yourself. Life in the outer world is not easy, it too is a practice. I hope that I have shared enough information to give everyone a good start. My prayer for all of us is to be free from suffering so that we may live life in the present moment. Namaste.