I don't know about you, but meditation scares me.
I can't keep strange thoughts out of my head and often struggle to clear my mind. The problem is that my mind is only clear when I sleep and it takes me long enough to quiet enough to get to sleep. How can I meditate if getting to sleep is such a problem?
My mind is always full of something. Grumbling about co-workers and politicians and people who irritate me (and not just people who are family). Research keeps my thoughts busy and keep me far from the calm I seek in which to meditate. My mind is never quiet -- at least not for very long.
About the only thing that clears my mind is calling someone and having to deal with leaving a message on their service or answering machine. Then I go _______________ BLANK! I fumble for the right words. I struggle to get past the blank in my mind that contains information and a not so witty message to leave and not get immediately erased or ignored. I finally manage to say something that doesn't make me sound like an idiot who got caught off guard when the answering machine or service asks me for the reason I called. Saying, "Because you called me first," is not an option and I don't want to seem like a bigger idiot than I already do. I'd rather be caught in public naked than to deal with leaving a message. It doesn't matter if I've called a business with a specific issue in mind or a friend just to say hello; I am flummoxed and silent. My mind is blank. I've nothing to say and yet I cannot hang up like a stalker. I must leave some indication that I had a reason for calling.
Why can't I call up those blank moments when I want to meditate? That would be perfect. My mind is blank and I need not say anything because I am listening to the cosmos or the universe or the silence in my mind waiting to be filled with shining purpose as I wait to be guided, fulfilled, or empty so that I may at last move toward the purpose that motivated me to meditate in the first place.
I get messages from a service every day and this message about meditation for beginners, something I need assistance doing, was perfect for me.
|MEDITATION FOR BEGINNERS|
The following is an excerpt from the "Meditation for Beginners" on-line course. If you would like to enroll in the course, click here.
If the mere idea of meditating feels uncomfortable--or scary even, that's okay. Exploring unknown territory usually does. But don't worry, you won't turn into a hippie, have to change your friends, or pack up and move to a commune in order to reap the benefits of your meditation practice. This is a gift you're giving yourself and nobody even needs to know you are meditating, but you just might love it so much that you will want to teach your friends and family.
Let's take a moment to get clear on what meditation really is. The term "meditation" can refer to any process that leads you to an inner state of relaxed awareness. There needn't be any big mystery or drama about the process itself, and there's really no right or wrong way of doing it. There are simply different techniques that can be used as tools to help you focus and quiet your mind, and we'll work with some of these as the weeks unfold. This will allow you to choose which method works best for you as a person. I still have a hard time quieting my mind and I find that my meditation practice is more fulfilling for me while I'm in nature. Our main purpose here is to help you develop a meditation practice that's right for you. It'll be something you feel comfortable doing and that you're willing and able to do regularly.
For those of us who already have a meditation routine, we've come to depend on the way our practice enhances our lives. We've discovered an ever-present source of inner peace and wisdom from which we can now draw strength, courage, clarity and compassion. It has become easier to respond to situations from a calm and grounded place, rather than acting out old dysfunctional patterns. We're also better able to navigate our lives in alignment with our own needs and goals. A morning meditation will give you the quiet confidence and the strength you will need for your day.
Research has linked a regular practice of meditation to reduced levels of anxiety and stress, in addition to improved immune function and a host of other health benefits. Studies have shown that the nervous system actually begins responding differently to stressful situations--creativity flows more freely and new solutions begin to emerge. What's wonderful is that many of these advantages occur after just one session and continue evolving with regular practice. As you develop your own meditation program, you'll be able to track the benefits for yourself, from changes in your mood to improvements in your energy. Soon you will find yourself reacting from a place of centered calm rather than from your head.
And then there is me. Meditation is supposed to reduce anxiety and stress and nothing makes me more anxious and stressed out to the max than contemplating meditation.
It has taken me a very long time to figure out that it is normal for thoughts to intrude when beginning to meditate. Minds are seldom blank when beginning to practice meditation. The trick is to push the errant thoughts out of the way and breathe, just breathe. The more we practice clearing our minds and listening to the world around us, the easier it becomes. Meditation isn't forcing your body and mind to obey. Meditation is finding a quiet moment, pushing rampant thoughts out of the way, and breathing in and out, being aware of the passage of oxygen into the lungs and out through the nose or mouth, and allowing yourself to focus on the breath. Thoughts will intrude, but push them out and focus on breathing -- in and out -- again. Being aware of breathing and relaxing into the breathing helps to calm the mind and still the thoughts. Thoughts will intrude and be pushed out again. Thoughts will continue to intrude and continue to be pushed out until the longer one meditates, the easier it will be to breathe and relax.
When the mind refuses to calm and clear, simply get up and go about your day until the time comes when you can relax and focus on breathing -- and listening. Listen to the world around you. Listen to the sounds of life inside and outside of your space. Take a walk in the yard or the park or wherever you happen to be and focus on breathing in and out. The more you practice paying attention to your breathing, the easier meditation will become.
One thing I have also found is that working on cross-stitch or writing help calm my mind and make me more receptive to meditation and listening to the world around me. I am concentrating on putting the stitches in the right place with the correct color and shape. My mind is calm and clear. The only thoughts are focused on stitching whatever I'm making. I am unaware of time passing and my mind is calm and uncluttered by random thoughts. It is while I'm thus engaged that I meditate -- and I breathe. I don't keep track and I am not overwhelmed by questions. I listen to the sounds around me and feel the stress and anxiety leave my body and my mind. For me, cross stitching is a form of meditation -- and I get something done. My mind is open and receptive and the universe (or the story I'm working on) is clear. I am meditating.
I don't fall asleep because I'm not clearing my mind in order to allow to rest my body and mind. I have no purpose in mind other than the piece I'm stitching. I am meditating.
I discovered how to find a way to clear my mind and listen to the world around me -- and inside of me -- without really looking for it. I didn't struggle to quiet my mind. I discovered the key to meditation for me was through cross stitch and the rest was added without me turning into a lunatic or an idiot. I found what was always available to me by simply being myself. Everyone can meditate and sometimes the key to meditation is already within your grasp. Special music, prayers, mental gymnastics, and other methods that seem to work for everyone else may be totally unnecessary. Within you is the key to unlock the method of meditation that works for you. All you need to do is stop, breathe, and wait for it. No matter how unorthodox or strange it seems to someone else, go for it.
We are all individuals with different ways of learning and listening. There is no wrong way to learn to meditate. All we need to do is stop struggling for what may already be in your grasp. You will find it and meditation will manifest itself in your life when you least expect it to. In the meantime, relax, go about your life, and breathe. It will find you if you don't find it.
That is all. Disperse.