To say that we live in interesting times is a major understatement. In either middle or high school, I was forced to read the story, “A Tale of Two Cities,” by Charles Dickens. I say forced, because I did not really understand much of the novel, and found it to be rather boring.
Despite the tedious nature of reading this novel, the opening line of the book lived on with me; and it is finally in this year, the year of our lord, A.D. 2020, a year unlike any other, when I finally understand what the dickens, Dickens meant when he said these lines. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us …”
I get it, boy do I ever get it. And with all of the things going on in the world, it can become extremely easy to give in to despair, to fall victim to our anxieties, and to feel extremely overwhelmed by everything. One of the coping tools that I use to help stay calm, and grounded, during the uncertainty of these times is meditation. Let me be clear. I am in no ways a perfect meditator. It is very much a work in progress for me; and on the days when I have the most angst about everything, that is when I rebel the most against one of the very things that helps me settle down.
There are variations of an old zen proverb floating around the internet that says, “If you don’t have time to meditate for 20 minutes, you should probably mediate for an hour.” There is also a possibly fake quote from the Buddha. LOL, I can’t go back into time and ask the Buddha myself if he said it, but I can confirm that I have lost some of the things mentioned in this next quote as well. So that’s my validation. “Buddha was asked: What have you gained from mediation? He replied: Nothing. However, Buddha said, let me tell you what I have lost. Anger, Anxiety, Depression, Insecurity, Fear of old age and death.”
I also like these quotes on meditation, “Quiet the mind, and the soul will speak.” By Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati. Pema Chodron said, “Meditation is a process of lightening up, of trusting the basic goodness of what we have and who we are, and of realizing that any wisdom that exists, exists in what we already have. We can lead our life so as to become more awake to who we are and what we’re doing rather than trying to improve or change or get rid of who we are or what we’re doing. The key is to wake up, to become more alert, more inquisitive and curious about ourselves.
Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche who I believe was one of Pema’s teacher’s said, “Meditation should not be regarded as a learning process. It should be regarded as an experiencing process. You should not try to learn from meditation but try to feel it. Meditation is an act of nonduality. The technique you are using should not be separate from you; it is you, you are the technique. Meditator and meditation are one. There is no relationship involved.”
There is not an easy or clear way to define meditation. It is practiced in many different cultures across the world, and it is a tradition that has a long and ancient history in various religions and spiritual practices; it also has history in the fields of psychology and neurology. For some people it is about connecting to the divine, finding enlightenment, or deepening their faith. For some people it is about finding inner and external peace, awareness, calm, and general harmony and overall improvements to their wellbeing. There are no right or wrong ways to meditate because there are many ways; you have to find the one that is right for you. You should find a practice that works with your life, your personality, your values and believes and ultimately your schedule. I mean you probably are not going to give up your current life and retreat to the Himalayas to spend eight hours a day meditating. If that is your path, that is excellent, but for most of us, we need to start small, and work our way up to something that is right for us.
Meditation has also been proven to have a number of amazing benefits that cover emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual well-being:
· Stress reduction is a big benefit.
· Reduces anxiety
· Promotes more kindness and compassion
· Leads to greater self-awareness
· Helps with emotional intelligence and emotional health
· Helps lower blood pressure
· Improves sleep
· Cultivation of peace of mind
· Builds positive neurological connections to the parts of the brain that are responsible for focus and decision making
· May lead you to a place of spiritual happiness/enlightenment
There are a variety of techniques for meditating. While you can do meditation almost anywhere, some tips are, to find a quiet, comfortable place, sit up straight or lay down (but run the risk of falling asleep), and wear comfortable clothes. Some of my personal best practices are to record your own mediation in your voice, and play them back. I think hearing your voice as you meditate is powerful. Also, if you speak another language as your native language, consider recording your meditations in that language. Here are a few examples of some meditation techniques:
· Guided meditation: In a guided meditation, the guide or teacher walks you through the basic steps of the practice. This is great for beginners, or for those who like having a structure.
· Unguided meditation: This is also called silent meditation; you meditate alone, generally sitting in a quiet place and focusing on the body and thoughts.
· Visualizing mediation: Good for helping to picture yourself succeeding at your goals or some specific outcome. This is also good for boosting one’s mood. This technique usually focuses on visualizing positive images, scenes, and outcomes.
· Transcendental meditation: This is a trademarked technique founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and it is one where practitioners meditate for 20 minutes twice per day. It is a silent, mantra meditation.
· Chakra meditation: In this technique you work to keep the chakras (energy centers in the body) open and aligned. This helps to keep your chakras in balance. I will be talking about the chakras in a future blog/video.
· Sound bath meditation: This uses singing bowls, drums, gongs, and other instruments to create sound vibrations that help focus the mind.
· Focused attention meditation: In this technique you focus your mind on something like your breathing or something that will anchor the mind and keep your awareness focused.
· Body scan or progressive meditation: This is a technique that works to reduce tension in the body and to promote relaxation. Useful for helping to get better sleep, release stress and to relax the body.
· Loving kindness meditation: This technique is used to develop and strengthen feelings of kindness, empathy, compassion, acceptance and love towards yourself and others. This is a good meditation for helping to let go of feelings of anger, and to cultivate forgiveness.
· Reflection meditation: In this form of meditation, you might be asked to reflect on different aspects of your life, or what you are grateful for. You focus more on the feelings that arise than the answers to the questions.
I have done nearly all of these meditations based on things going on in my life, mood, need, and more. I find value in all of them, and really, I am just working on making meditation an integral part of my day and my life. Please find something that works for you, and let the results unfold.
We will now do a very short meditation that I wrote, that incorporates some of the aforementioned techniques. (You can watch this on my Youtube channel at: https://youtu.be/ceNbAtBbJyg)
Put yourself in a comfortable position. Close your eyes and take in three deep but comfortable breathes. As you take in each breath, I want you to breathe in love, kindness, compassion, and prosperity. On the outbreath, breath out anything that is causing you stress, anxiety and feelings of overwhelm. Breathe in (x 3), breathe out (x3). As you become more and more aware of your breathing, I just want you to feel a sense of gratitude and appreciate for the way in which your body functions without you having to give constant instructions. Isn’t it a blessing that our cells are working to keep our body happy and healthy. Isn’t it a blessing that our heart beats, and that we breath effortlessly. Focus now on your heart space. You feel a sense of warmth radiating out from your heart. You visualize a tiny golden light emanating from your heart space. With each breath that you take, it grows and expands. You feel that warm golden light moving through your body. It radiates out through your arms, and out of your finger tips, down through your torso, down your legs, and out through your toes. It radiates up and pushes gently out through your crown chakra. You feel a surge of love, and compassion for yourself. Any places of tension within your body, you feel the golden light massaging any stress and tension away. You feel a sense of love for the world around you. No matter what is going on, you feel safe, protected, and loved. You see the light shooting up to the stars above you, and down from your feet to the earth. You feel connected to celestial energy of this amazing universe, and you feel deeply connected to the earth below your feet. Grounded, solid, and stable. The light continues to grow, and you see that it covers the entire world. You feel connected to everything and you feel a surge of love pulsating through your body. You feel that you have a part of play just by being here, and you do. There is no one else like you, who can do the things that you do. Thank you for being here. As the light begins to dim, you feel a deep sense of peace wash over you. I am going to count down from 13 to 0. When I arrive at 0, you will slowly open your eyes. You will feel relax, rejuvenated, and at peace, ready to face whatever the next week holds for you. 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0. Open your eyes.
Thank you. May the stars shine brightly over your week, and please remember that you have a whole tool case of things to help stay centered in these times. Have an amazing week.