I get people asking me all the time about meditation. What it is, how to do it, what they’re doing wrong… Let’s start with the fact that meditation may not be what you think it is. I count any activity as meditative if it brings you to center, helps you detach from the noise in your head, and gives you a sense of peace. So meditation may be running, walking, chanting, gardening, knitting, sacred breath work, martial arts, yoga, taking a moment to stop and be present… It may also be sitting in a room staring at a candle, walking a labyrinth, taking on certain body or hand positions for extended periods of time, or simply observing your internal process without participating in it. There is no universally perfect way to meditate.
One of the greatest benefits of meditation I have found is not, as some people assume, shutting off the noise in my head. That’s actually a rare occurrence, and I envy people who can do that on a daily basis. What does happen with regular practice, though, is that you begin to be able to detach from that noise, the committee, the squirrel cage, or whatever you call the voice(s) in your head that (a) tells you it’s not enough, you’re not enough, there will never be enough and (b) distracts you from any growth-oriented or self-healing activity you attempt. It is in meditation that I started to be able to tell the difference between that noise and the small, still voice within that actually wants me to grow and flourish.
Try this: turn off your cell phone and the TV and the stereo, step away from your computer (after you’re done reading this, obviously), and sit somewhere you won’t be disturbed for 10 minutes. If that’s the bathroom, so be it.Set a timer for 10 minutes, if you’re worried about having other things to do. Just observe what does on in your head, to the best of your ability, without participating in it. Don’t hold on to any one thought. Don’t take anything that goes on in your head personally. Observe it, as if it were someone else babbling at the next table in a restaurant, or a radio station. Every time you find yourself picking up a thought, holding on to it, taking it personally, or you find yourself engaging in active conversation with the noise, gently bring yourself back to a place of observation, as if you were paper training a puppy.
You won’t do it perfectly, and that’s okay. With practice, it will become easier, because everything you haven’t done before improves with practice, unless you’re some sort of savant. But if you do this for 10 minutes every day you will be amazed at how much more empowered you feel, because you’re not letting yourself be victimized by an internal process run amok. You will especially start to notice the difference on days where you forget to do the practice. We don’t generally like those days.
There are a million other ways to meditate. Some people really like being able to focus on something, like a mantra, or their breath. Some people enjoy following along with a guided meditation or journey. It helps some people to do something specific with their body while they are meditating, postures or mudras or yoga, or even walking or running. But if movement allows your mind to rev up and distract you from a place of observation, try something else.
Once you’ve gotten the hang of the feeling of being centered and at peace, feel free to add purposeful meditations into the mix, like healing or talking to guidance. But you will find much greater benefit from those if you first practice not-participating in the noise in your head.
If you would like to try guided meditation, may I suggest my new album The Source, now available via CD Baby in both CD and MP3 format? It contains 5 meditations: Grounding, Clearing, Releasing Fear, Sacred Breath, and a Grail Meditation. I also offer a monthly meditation, each with a different focus or technique, at Everyday Zen Relaxation Studio in Long Beach, and I will be at Spellbinder Books in Bishop, CA on June 25th to talk about meditation.