What image comes to mind with the word mediation? Perhaps it’s a person sitting in a lotus position eyes downcast in silence. What are they really doing? To sit quietly only with one’s thoughts for several minutes can seem unnatural if not awfully daunting. What do you do? Just sit! How strange is that. Achieving the position alone can be difficult not to mention putting a leg or two soundly asleep after a few minutes. What’s the reality of meditation? Can anyone practice?
Mediation is a form of repose. The body comes to stillness. The senses are drawn inward in personal reflection or spiritual contemplation. One meditates to understand the self, social interactions and everything in between. The object of meditation is to become aware of the mind generating thoughts and how creative a place it can be. Thoughts drive actions or non-actions. Meditation stirs up many thoughts, images, and emotions. The goal is not to control or stop them, but to be aware of them.
The practice of mediation requires regularity and simplicity. Practitioners traditionally find a time in the morning, evening or both dedicated to meditation. At first, perhaps setting aside 10 minutes at 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. every day until this becomes a habit of daily life. The effects of meditation are cumulative. Generally, a regular practice may result in a better quality of well-being with more restful sleep, lowered blood pressure, increased energy, and ability to focus.
What happens in the silence?
The sitter needs to create a space that is only for meditation, a warm, quiet place filled with natural light, preferably dim. The sitter only needs a cushion if they can sit in lotus position, or a straight back chair. A place of refuge from daily activity. One recommendation may be to not set a clock. Simply sit and let the time pass. Don’t wonder how long you have sat, that’s the mind distracting the moment with thinking. Just sit. The minutes may grow naturally without creating tension in the sitter. If there is no goal, there may be nothing to compete against, a lesson to be learned from meditation.
At this point, many a reader may be lost at the complexity of these recommendations. In a house filled with kids, critters, noise or TV babble, this could be daunting. In this age of social media, it may be challenging. There is no better comfort than to be connected to the net and liked. Well, it is up to the sitter to find a way through all the distractions of modern times toward that place of refuge.
The first few minutes of meditation may be a revelation. There is no silence in the mind. The thoughts are endless. The body will also make awareness of every twinge it has or has conjured up. The cushion may become a friend just out of reach or a place of utter disillusionment. One minute of meditation can make the person painfully aware of the random and risqué nature of the mind. The mind loves stimulation. Sitting still is overwhelming. So, what do you do?
Alternative Mediation Practice
If this is all too painful to contemplate, consider alternative forms of meditation. Here is an example of mediation off the cushion. Start by taking out the most neglected houseplant, bring it to the table during a quiet time of day and examine it closely. Focus your eyes on the plant and take in its shape and color. Hold the potted plant between your hands and form a connection. Understand what the plant needs for care and begin to groom it. Trim off the dried leaves, prune back the unruly branches and tend it with care. Lightly cultivate the soil. Prepare a pot of warm water with plant food and give it a nourishing drink. Pour the water in slowly and watch the soil absorb the moisture. Take a damp cloth and dust each leaf or petal on both sides. Take your time and wash off the branches and stems as well. This may require a long swab to reach under and over. Tend the plant. When you have completed this task, give the plant a fine mist of warm water. Place the plant back in its surroundings, or ask it at the end of the cleansing, where it wants to be? Does it need more light, moisture or warmth? Give it all your attention until the task is complete. Practice grooming one plant each week. There is no start or end time, it is just done when it is done.
Zen meditation is filled with stories of enlightenment achieved by the act of a branch breaking off a tree. The simple activities we perform day to day may offer opportunities for meditation. This technique can be applied to grooming your cat or dog as well, combing your child’s hair, cleaning shoes, preparing breakfast or washing your own face. Meditation becomes a practice of focused attention with no pre-determined outcome. The meditator, rather than sitting alone, becomes engaged with something else. The act of sitting alone to extraverts can be improbable. The awareness of the shifting, rapid nature of thoughts to the introvert can be equally alarming. Find repose in simple activity, give the thoughts something to do, the hands activity to perform, and find comfort in the stillness. Meditation is possible in many different forms. Find the one that is best for you.