I promised a post on meditation, so here it is! 🙂
Many people, and I used to be one of them, view meditation as an austere discipline, simply a way to train and focus the mind. This may be you if you entered the practice of meditation, as I did, through the door of karate or Buddhist practice or any other practice in which meditation is taught as a time to sit still (and straight!) and focus on the breath, possibly even counting the breaths.
This is a good door through which to enter meditation practice, a very valid door, and keeping the spine straight does in fact help immensely with any kind of meditation, austere or not. It reduces the busyness of your thoughts (why, I don’t know).
However, not everyone is drawn to austerity. Some people have enough austerity and discipline in their daily lives — and some people don’t really need to add a practice that feels like a punishment. Some people need their meditation practice to be a comfort, something to draw on, something that lends support in daily life. And why shouldn’t meditation be all of that?
Other people need meditation to move them further into a deeper awareness practice, a practice of paying attention to, reading, and and even working with energy. And why shouldn’t meditation do all of that?
Beginning meditation work with a simple counting the breath practice is wonderful, but quite honestly, I sometimes think that people who have enough difficulties and hardship in their lives to work through can benefit from a different gate into mindfulness. And that’s all meditation techniques are — different gates that get you into the exact same place.
1. Don’t feel that you have to sit up on a cushion. You can lie down savasana-style, as in yoga class, or you can meditate in any of a number of wonderful yin yoga poses: child’s pose, or legs up the wall, or any yoga pose that you find yourself hanging out in for a time. You can be cozy in a blanket for meditation, and you can have a pillow under your head (but try not to bend the neck unnaturally). There is no reason not to do whatever it takes to make your meditation practice a pleasure rather than a chore. Of course, if you get very comfortable you may fall asleep. I don’t personally think that’s a bad thing. If you are falling asleep meditating (and especially if you are overextended, as many or most women are), my guess is you need the sleep. You can meditate in your dreams. Likewise, your meditation does not have to last any special length of time — it should be whatever amount of time best supports and sustains you in your daily life.
2. You can use hypnosis audio to jumpstart your meditation. It’s not cheating! It works very well.
3. Play with visualizations. These can make your meditation rich in healing and very grounding. Here are a few to try:
- Imagine roots spreading out from you down into the earth. You may even want to visualize being a rock or tree.
- Visualize healing energy in the air and/or in the earth, and breathe that healing energy in when you breathe in. When you breathe out, send that healing energy to parts of your body where you are holding tension or stress, or radiate that healing energy out into the world for the benefit of others.
- Even if you don’t do hypnosis, you may want to play with the old hypnosis method for gradual relaxation: visualizing that you are stepping down a staircase, getting more relaxed with every step.
4. Play with breathing. You can try the breath counting, but don’t feel that you have to stop there. Practice belly breathing. Practice slowing down your breath and keeping the in and out breath the same length, perhaps with a pause between the two.
5. Before and after each meditation, set an intention. If the meditation is to support you in your practice of whatever you practice and to help you and sustain you on your path in life, then consciously set that intention before and after the practice. If the meditation is for all sentient beings, set that intention. If the meditation is for healing purposes, set that intention. Setting your intention will open up your practice in ways that you wouldn’t have believed were possible if you hadn’t experienced them.
There are other meditation topics that would be worth exploring here (moving meditation, meditation as a form of energy work, the connections between meditation and prayer), but I want to stop with just this much for today. Give it a try, if you haven’t yet, and please feel free to post your experiences in the comments section. And don’t be surprised if you find yourself getting addicted to meditation! 🙂