Friday, March 05, 2010
What exactly is
meditation anyway? "It's not what you think." In other words, meditation is not thinking about something, pondering big issues, or contemplating your navel. It is about emptying your mind or quieting the endless chatter that your mind barrages you with whenever you attempt to slow down and be still. There are different types of meditation. Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Buddhist monk, peacemaker, and poet, does walking meditation where he walks slowly, deliberately, and mindfully, preferably somewhere outdoors exposed to Nature. He co-ordinates his breathing to his step; for instance, you can take 3 steps for each in-breath and then 3 steps with each out-breath. Doing this keeps you in the present moment, the here and now. It discourages the incessant chatter of the mind.
Sharon Salzberg, tells of another type of meditation: lovingkindness meditation. This type of meditation is a little more mentally active as it requires you to direct your feelings of lovingkindness, first to yourself, then outward to those closest to you (in relationship, not proximity), and finally to your enemies. It sounds very simple, and it is; however, it is not easy! It is one of the first meditations I ever attempted. It is a beautiful meditation and engenders happiness and feelings of well-being.
Another type of meditation, and this may be the most difficult, is emptying the mind of all thoughts so you can hear "the still small voice within". The mind gets noisier as you try to clear out the thoughts. Many meditators feel they have failed at meditation if they can not eradicate the wayward thoughts, but meditation is bringing the mind back to silence -over and over again. When a new thought invades the quiet, simply notice it, let it go, and then bring your mind back to the silence. Do not be judgmental of either the thought or of the thinker. You may even find that after you have done this type of meditation for a long while your thoughts become more "unmanageable". This is usually a sign that you are approaching the stillness, and the mind, in a last ditch effort to overcome its own annihilation, throws everything it has at you. Be diligent and you will experience the stillness.
It is helpful when meditating to ask: "Who is the meditator?" "Who is thinking the thought?" If you can step back from yourself and be the observer of the thoughts, noticing the thoughts as they pass, neither judging them nor "scolding" the thinker, it may lead to less frustration.
Whatever type of meditation you do it is an important part of your spiritual life. It is only in the silence that you can hear your inner voice and the truth of its message for you. In his book "Your Life is Your Message", author Eknath Easwaran, Indian author and teacher in the United States, encourages his students who are seeking harmony in their lives to adopt his Eight Point Program. The number one point in this program is: Meditation.
1. "Your Life is Your Message", by Eknath Easwaran
2. "Lovingkindness", by Sharon Salzberg
3. "Peace is Every Step", by Thich Nhat Hanh
4. "Discover Inner Peace", by Mike George
Inspiring words that are helpful in one's spiritual life:
If you have hurt me in thought, word, or deed, knowingly or unknowingly, I freely forgive you.
If I have hurt you in thought, word, or deed, knowingly or unknowingly, I ask you to freely forgive me.
May I find happiness, peace and freedom.
May all my friends find happiness, peace, and freedom.
May all my enemies find happiness, peace and freedom.
May you enjoy a rich spiritual life.