Friday, September 01, 2006

How meditation works

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us. - Oliver Wendell Holmes
Meditation is an extremely simple process. It follows three distinct steps
We start with the superficial, scattered mind – (This is the level with which we often carry out our day-to-day chores, ‘bring in the newspaper’, ‘cook the meal’ - it is often characterised by lots of thoughts, positive and negative, with very little control or knowledge of how they got there) If we are often in this state of mind, we will find that we are easily distracted, have difficulty concentrating, probably worry about unimportant things and have little understanding of the real 'us'.
We then progress by virtue of our heart’s concentration - to deeper, analytical thinking. When our mind is focused completely on one thing, we are the most efficient and purposeful in our thinking. (This is the basis of the rules of ‘time-management’ -> to be focused absolutely on one task at a time) The analytical level reveals the deepest we can go with thought.
From this very deep thinking we enter into intuitive states, revelations, "I know this is right" feelings or extremely vivid goals or intense creativity or spiritual dreams. When thinking stops and intuitive experience takes over, this is meditation. We call these moments, 'Aah' moments. These moments are where the deepest moments of revelation and intuition are born, and we reveal our real self.
The task of meditation is to enter the very focused thinking of the analytical mind and from there the shift to the intuitive mind or heart takes place automatically.
The highest experience in any endeavour is a meditation experience. Every endeavour goes through similar processes to eventually arrive at meditation experiences.
If, for example, we want to become a pianist, we first have to train the body and the mind to have the correct finger technique etc. For a footballer, the right kicking style; for a rock-climber, the right moves; so we concentrate past the superficial to the analytical mind and learn and practice as efficiently as possible.
At each endeavour's upper echelon, however, there are moments where our consciousness is transported past the analytical to the intuitive or higher mind or what we may call the heart. Examples of these intuitive or ‘meditative’ moments are typically where a team works as one, a runner experiences the ‘runner’s high’, a bushwalker ceases to be an observer and merges into the feeling of the forest and becomes a participant, a sports person hits a ‘zone’.
As we know already these moments are usually;
Memorable - when we look back on our lives these are the moments that we recall.
Fulfilling - they are the reason we spend hours at our endeavours so we can get a few moments of ‘meditation’.
Accidental - imagine how much better our lives would be if we could meditate at any time we chose.
The seven keys to meditation
There are several key things you can do that will significantly enhance your meditation. They may seem subtle at first, but remember, meditation itself is all about cultivating the higher, subtler parts of your being. Take it from experience - together these seven keys will make a big difference. So please give them a try!
Key#1: Find a Special Place
Set aside a special place that is used only for meditation. If you have a spare room, great, but it’s fine to set aside a corner of your bedroom. This will be your sacred space for self-discovery, so you’ll want to make it as inspiring as possible. You might like to:· Cover a low table with a clean, light cloth · Place a candle on a table, and a vase with fresh flowers if possible.· You may also want to light some incense. Together, these items will help create a meditative atmosphere.
Key#2: Prepare Physically
Your spiritual journey takes place in and through your physical body. Here’s how you can help prepare it for meditation: · Take a shower before meditating. If it isn’t possible to take a shower, wash your face and hands.· Wear clean, light, loose fitting clothes.· Take your shoes off before meditating. Your feet deserve a break too!
Key#3: Sit Relaxed, Sit Straight
There’s no need to sit in a special yogic posture to meditate. If you can sit comfortably on a cushion on the floor, this is best. Otherwise a meditation stool or chair is fine. The important thing is to be still and relaxed, to have your back erect, and to have the flower and candle close to eye level. People often ask if it’s okay to meditate while lying down. We don’t recommend it; the most likely outcome is you’ll fall asleep. Always remember to begin your meditation with six or seven ‘power-breaths’ – long, slow deep breaths that release the myriad of thoughts and focus your attention within.
Key#4: Slow and Steady Wins the Race
In the beginning, five minutes of meditation a day is enough. Meditation is like an inner muscle that you are slowly but surely making stronger. If you overwork a muscle, it becomes sore; if you meditate for more than five minutes and feel tension in your head or get a headache, you know you’ve gone beyond your capacity. Try not to be concerned with expectations of what your meditation is going to do for you or what your meditation experience ‘should’ be. Just steadily, soulfully and sincerely practice and make yourself alert to the messages that will begin to arise from within.
Key#5: Choose the right time
Make an appointment with yourself and practice at the same time each day. Just as you feed your physical body several times a day at certain times, meditation nourishes your inner life so set at least one special time each day for your meditation exercises. The best time to meditate is early in the morning, before you enter into your daily activities. This way, the peace you get from your meditation will permeate the rest of your day.
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