by Ed and Deb Shapiro
Meditation is simple and transformative, yet it is highly misunderstood. Some people think it is about controlling the mind or stopping thinking, while others see it as both weird and wacky or boring and meaningless.
Yet meditation really just means being totally present, totally aware with whatever is happening. It is being with ourselves completely as we are. If the mind is thinking, then we are aware of the thinking; if the body is moving, then we are aware of the movement. Hence we have sitting meditation, sound meditation, walking meditation, even running meditation. It is not purposefully doing anything other than just being here and now.
And just this is transformative. It creates an inner spaciousness in which we can gently stop the endless “me-centered” dramas, our mind that is like a drunken monkey leaping from one scenario to another.
“Meditation can mean really being focused on something, or it can mean letting go of all focus and simply being still,” says Gangaji in our book, Be The Change: How Meditation Can Transform You and the World. “It is not a matter of saying, ‘I am going to meditate,’ it is more like ‘I am just going to be here for a moment without doing anything, without following any thought.’ And, in that, there is peace, a surrendering the mind’s activity to this vast silence and spacious awareness. It is not anti-mind activity; it is simply that usually the mind is spinning round and round, so it is a stopping of that spin.”
Meditation is both an experience of oneness and the practice that enables us to be aware of this. As we make friends with ourselves, we discover a freedom from habitual tendencies, from repetitive behavior, and we experience a great joy, peace, and unconditional happiness. It is, therefore, the greatest gift we can give ourselves.
But the world is like a magnet pulling us outward into all manner of distractions, so we often need help, methods or techniques, to remind us to just be still. We need to be guided inward. Here are six steps that can lead us in that inner direction:
Six Steps to Freedom
1. Create a daily practice even if it is just for 5 minutes. Meditation has an accumulative effect, so doing it for a few minutes every day is actually more helpful than an hour once a week.
2. Meditate for the sake of it without expectations, as it can cause stress and even a sense of failure if you look for results. No appointments, no disappointments!
3. Make friends with your breath. Focusing on the natural flow of your breathing will give your mind something to do and encourages your attention to go inward. In this way you also make friends with your meditation practice.
4. Make friends with your chattering monkey mind. When you are still your mind can seem very busy and distracting. Name this your monkey mind and don’t take it too seriously.
5. Commit to your peace. There is nothing more important than your peace, it is the core of your being, so make a commitment to being still and quiet regularly.
6. Do It
Meditation techniques are many and varied, but all that matters in being fully present. Try this:
Sit comfortably with your back straight.
Take a deep breath and let it go.
Be aware of each breath and silently count at the end of each out breath, up to five: Inhale, exhale, count one… inhale, exhale, count two… and so on for five breaths. Then start at one again. Just five breaths and back to one, following each breath in and silently counting. So simple.
Do this as many times as you want, breathing normally.