In 1996 I met a monk at a college campus in Southern California and asked him one question: How to do I meditate? His answer changed my life. Several months prior to this occurrence, I had awakened from a three-day coma, after a severe brain surgery. I lay in a hospital bed for weeks, and also had to relearn how to walk. There was nowhere else to go, no other games to play, just hours and hours to contemplate and go within. I had hours and hours of time for reading: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Tesla, Einstein, Vivekananda, Wayne Dyer, Joseph Campbell, William James, Socrates, Seneca, the Bible, various Vedic and Buddhist text. Basically, anything that spoke of the inner life. A word that kept coming up was meditation.
It sounded so mysterious… But what was is it? Could I learn to meditate? All of these great people that I was reading about, spoke of it. I desired to learn for myself. I asked the teachers and doctors I knew, to no avail. I looked for books on “How To”… Nothing made much sense. (This was before the internet.) So, on that serendipitous day, a monk was visiting our campus and I thought to myself, “Surely, he knows how to meditate.” His answer: “Oh, it’s very simple. Find a quiet room. Backbone straight. Focus on your breathing.” I asked him if there was anything else, and he said, “No attachments.”
That was my first helpful instruction on this powerful practice.
Meditation has transformed my life.
Meditation is one breath. I read once in an ancient text: 12 seconds. 5-second in-breath, 1-second hold, 5-second out-breath, 1-second hold. Whatever part of the breath you find yourself experiencing, savor this part of the breath. There can only be one breath. There will only be one breath. To experience the breath is to become the meditation. To become the meditation is to experience the breath.
Future. Past. Present.
Often, when a person is younger, their attention goes to the future. In the latter years, a persons attention dwells on the past, on things as they used to be or as they were. Meditation is the practice of skilled mindfulness, meaning the mind is full of awareness in the present. Being present means releasing the prior state of consciousness. When the old form of of consciousness passes, the conditions surrounding the old form of consciousness dissolve.
There is a law of being. When I planted some flowers many years ago, it came to me that I cannot make a flower grow. All one can do is give the flower the space to become itself. A little water. A little sunlight. Nutritious soul. The flower knows what to do. The flower knows itself. All the laws surrounding horticulture are a form of memory. I thought, “It must be the same with my own being.”
All thought is a form of intention. Meditation is the practice, whereby one brings all thoughts into the light of awareness. Meditation is the focusing of the busy mind to a singular point. In Transcendental Meditation this point is a mantra. In a Vipassana Meditation, this point of focus is the breath. The practice of mindfulness through meditation is to make every thought a loving thought. Anything that is not of love is not you, and therefore you can let it go. In other words, after you have released everything, what is left is your true nature. Mantra: “Peace is my Nature.” Meditation is not about controlling the mind. It’s about observing yourself. Watching your mind, not controlling it. To control anything, the first step is observation. Equanimity. Abiding calmness. Peace. No strong person can make a weak person strong. Each of us must cultivate our own strength through our own individual efforts. Every day, give yourself time to be. If you would like to call it meditation, good. In truth, there is no word for meditation, because it is different each time. It is personal. It is visceral. It cannot be described until after the experience is had. In NASA there is a protocol that fixes 80% of electronic problems. The acronym “T.O.T.O.” Turn off. Turn on. In other words, power down. The native, feral nature of the heart is always for peace. Peace is our nature. We proceed from our past but are not predicted by it. Forgive yourself. This will liberate your being to be present with you. Meditation is moment by moment awareness and this can only occur by being present. To try to meditate is akin to trying to go to sleep. With more effort comes more resistance.
The practice begins with meditation and ends with meditation.
1). Find a quiet space. Take off your shoes. Symbolically, this is a releasing of everything that has gone before. Call it forgiveness, call it letting go, call it making peace with.
2). Sit with a tall spine. Shoulders comfortably back. Heart open. Lift the back of your head up and bring the chin into the throat slightly. Place the hands comfortably in your lap, right hand on top of the left. Think about pulling in breath to the lower abdominals. Maintain the rhythm and texture of the breath. The breath and the meditation are not two separate things. They are both part of the same thing. Never hold back on your breath for any reason at this point. Breathing releases tension and restores equanimity to both mind and body.
3). Focus on your breathing. Get a general sense of your body. Pay attention to the flow of the breath, of the one breath. Experience it. Taste it. In the Upanishads it states:
comes abundance and
still abundance remains
This is felt in the breath. In Tibet, contentment is the state of not wanting for anything, because one is connected with everything. In this state, there is an abiding calmness.
4). No attachments. If you have children, don’t think this does not apply to you. I get it, we all have attachments. What this speaks to is not attaching any emotion or judgment to a particular thought, method or belief. Allow the flow and rhythm of your practice. Meditation is not static, It is dynamic and alive. Meditation is the only thing you cannot do. In the Tao Te Ching, it states, “doing, not doing.” Meditation is the absence of doing. You cannot try to meditate, you just sit, and breath. That’s enough. If you’re lucky then meditation will happen. See yourself as lucky.
Just begin at once. One breath at a time. Finish reading this if you would, or put it down right now and begin at once. Take a couple of minutes. Sit tall. Shoulders back. Go within. Focus your attention on your breath. Be the meditation. Don’t chase it. Make it your own. Your own practice will be a greater teacher than any words I could use here. Confidence grows with personal experience. There is no right way to meditate; just your own practice.
It is important to have a focus when getting started. So, focus on sitting with yourself. That may seem like a novelty in today’s age of distraction, nevertheless, this is the most ancient practice of mindfulness. We cannot change our lives in a day, but we can change the direction of one’s life in a moment. Once you are pointed in the direction you’d like to go, you will get there—as long as you do not quit. Even writing this article is a practice. I just sat with a straight spine and began typing.
Every season an agriculturalist clears the land and sows the crop for the new season. Meditation is like this. It is where one connects to the beta of life. If you can truly clear the heart and mind, then you can get an authentic sense of your own inner-being. The greatest enemy is the ego over one’s own self.
Meditation is also referred to as the practice of compassion. Why is this so? Compassion in the Tibetan culture is known as the force that connects everything. So to practice meditation is to be connected to this mindfulness of compassion. Rather than reacting, one chooses a deliberate action that comes from awareness. As best you can, begin your practice with a loving heart. When you are you, meditation is the meditation. Whatever we practice we become good at. Whatever we practice often, we become really good at. Whatever we practice incessantly we become a master of. What we choose to practice defines us.
The quality of your breathing affects the quality of your thoughts. How one breathes is how one experiences this life. A benefit of practicing meditation is being more mindful of your breath. Begin right now, wherever you are in your life. Begin with a breath. There is no preparation for a meditation practice, you just begin. Take the steps I have laid out in this article, i.e. take off your shoes, find a quiet place…
And remember, the most beautiful strings of words ever joined together: BE. Just Be.
Originally from St. George Health and Wellness