My first introduction to meditation was during my time in Melbourne, Australia, 7 years ago. There’d been a flyer posted through the door advertising guided meditations at a nearby church. As luck would have it we didn’t have to many other excursions planned. My host and good friend Dean was marginally intrigued too so we scheduled it in.
The church and the class were pleasant enough, I remember they handed out sweets before and after, which I thought was a nice touch.
The meditation itself was a guided one. I didn’t get much from it in all honesty. It was relaxing and imaginative but didn’t give the serene feeling of presence that I get from a more ‘mindful’ meditation these days.
It did however, send me a down a pathway of discovery. The more I read and researched about meditation, the more I became interested. The benefits and side effects seemed almost limitless.
After buying ‘The Power of Now,’ a book by Eckhart Tolle, I was more than willing to try implementing it into daily life, despite the fact half the book seemed like nonsense to me at the time. Funny that in the several times I’ve read the book since, I’ve gained a deeper understanding from every turn of the page. I still highly recommend it as the best book out there for learning and understanding the how, where, and why’s of meditation. Although as a beginner I would suggest ‘Practicing The Power of Now’, as an easier substitute to read. It’s basically a more reader friendly version of the original.
On my return from Australia I read the book thoroughly, and although I was dubious about its effects at the time, I still sat down and remained silent for the twenty minutes suggested each day.
Slowly I began to create my own method for becoming present. A routine that, after some trial and error began to work for me, and still does to this very day.
Like most habits, meditation is really difficult to get into and as a first timer can seem completely pointless and boring, but once you’ve experienced it’s subtle effects, you’ll know it was worth it.
After falling out of the habit myself last year I’m currently training myself to get back in the swing of it, by finding time each day to sit without distraction, so can certainly relate to how difficult it can be, even for an experienced meditator.
When I speak of the sublime, I am of course referring to both the pleasurable effects during the meditation, but even more so the after effects, it’s said that if meditation was taught in schools we could end war within one generation. I’ll discuss more about the plethora of effects in an upcoming blog post, but rest assured there is nothing but positive consequences to be had from meditation.
I’ll leave you with my own personal routine for what works best for me during a meditation session. If this peaks your interest I urge you to read about my 30 Day meditation challenge, which I’ll be posting soon. It’ll be insightful and give a broader perspective on what to expect.
As for my preferred method, it begins with finding a distraction free comfortable room to sit in. For me this is generally my bedroom since I prefer meditating on a morning not long after becoming awake. Most times I haven’t even ventured out from beneath the sheets before doing my morning meditation session.
So around thirty or forty minutes after waking up, I’ll sit upright in the bed. Forget about this nonsense to sit with your legs crossed or your hands in some weird position. It’s completely unnecessary and will more than likely distract you from focusing, which is exactly what you don’t want.
After finding a comfortable position my first point of focus becomes the sounds I can hear. This can be the passing cars outside, the wind, the apartment buildings doors or elevator, a dog barking, birds tweeting, whatever it is is irrelevant, it’s just a single entry point to bring your focus into awareness of your senses. In other words, making you more conscious of background sensory perceptions that we normally either ignore or simply don’t notice.
It’s important to not label the sounds, but to simply notice and pay attention to them.
After a minute or two my awareness then expands to include the feeling of my weight on the bed or chair I’m sat on, the kiss of the air against my hands, and finally the gentle rise and fall of my chest while breathing. Sometimes I’ll include my attention being on the faint beating of my heart. My goal is to gradually have an all round recognition of these things collectively rather than bouncing from one to another like a pinball.
It may seem impossible to begin with, and you’ll almost definitely bounce your focus around from one thing to another. No doubt intruding thoughts will be the most difficult thing to ignore, but the point is not to try to prevent the thoughts, if anything that will only encourage them all the more. The aim is to reach a state where you feel so immersed in the moment that you become master and commander of where you choose your attention to be. At this point the mind is like a still lake. Thoughts will still appear and cause a slight ripple, but pay no attention to them, keep your awareness on the moment itself, or on single sensory perception if it is easier. Soon those thought ripples will disappear again as the mind becomes calm.
Twenty minutes a day may seem like a tall order, especially if you live an extremely hectic lifestyle, but one of the amazing effects of meditation is that it allows you to free up mental energy, you’re thinking less in general which means increased alertness and productivity. The time you may feel you lose from sitting down for twenty minutes each day is at least the equivalent of the time you’ll spend thinking of what you need to do to get tasks done.
When things are going good you feel great and like you don’t need it, but when things start to suck you wish you had kept up the habit. Therefore it’s better to always keep up the daily practice. All of the time and ESPECIALLY during times of hardship when you need to stay centered and self fulfilled.
Most importantly though you’ll begin to feel a sense of control over your emotions and a general feeling of peace and happiness throughout the day.
Eventually you’ll begin to wonder why you didn’t start sooner, wishing you’d took up the habit years ago. Which is correct, you should have! If everybody meditated the world would be a much happier and peaceful place.