Learning How to Meditate
by Neva J. Howell unless otherwise noted
The spiritual practice of meditation
Stopping the mind, stilling the thoughts and reaching peace within. That all sounds lovely, doesn’t it? Then why is it so hard to do? If you are someone who has tried to still the mind and have not been happy with the results, maybe the tips on this page will be useful.
You can read 10 books on meditation and find 10 different instructional videos and articles on how to meditate. The definition of what constitutes meditation may also change from resource to resource but usually you read that getting into meditative state involves a clearing of the mind, a centering and letting go of conscious thought – something along those lines. The place of no mind.
Yeah, right. Easier said than done. Meditative states may be particularly difficult to achieve if you are what is termed a “type A” personality. You’ll know if you are because your mind is always going, working on projects, making mental notes of things to do tomorrow, or after you finish meditating…in fact, you make so many notes that you never really meditate. Is this you? Well, there is help even for us type a personalities who want to meditate daily.
Despite the ease with which meditation gurus seem to sit for hours upon end, enraptured yet relaxed, deep in meditative state, meditation is not easy for everyone. In fact, I counsel a lot more people who confide they have trouble shutting off the conscious mind than I do those for whom going into meditative state is an easy thing.
There’s another misconception that time equals quality. In other words, the longer you meditate, the better…. Not everyone can sit in lotus position for 24 hours and bliss out. It’s not a given that everyone should sit in lotus position — some may need help for sedentary muscles, warm up classes, etc. to avoid avoidable pain and suffering. In my experience, there is no cookie cutter approach to still the mind that works for every person, all the time. Meditation is as individual a spiritual tool as any other.
Do I have to sit still when I meditate?
Depends on who you ask. If you sign up for certain meditation retreats, you definitely may be asked to sit still, for long periods of time. Most of us are not used to that at all. It’s actually good to ask about the requirements beforehand, if you are planning to do a meditation retreat because some are far more strict than others.
Personally, I don’t typically sit still when I meditate. I practice walking meditations or meditation with gentle movement more than any other type of meditation. Walking gently clears my mind and helps me focus. If I’m inside and I can’t walk, a rhythmic moving of my body from side to side is helpful. This works for me because it gives my body and mind something to focus on. I do some of my most focused prayers and healing work while walking or otherwise moving gently, and I receive some of my most beneficial guidance. I said all that to say that what it takes to get yourself to that still point of no-mind may be different than your best friends or mine. Find what works for you.
I do believe in meditation as a spiritual tool and work to meditate everyday. It takes discipline for me. I’ve learned a few tricks to calm my active mind (which I don’t see as a liability but a gift) and enter the void of inner space. I’ll share them with you, in hopes they might be of benefit.
The meditative power of running water – One of my favorite meditiation tips involves visualizing running water in a specific way. I love the sound of a peaceful creek. I also love to watch a gently flowing stream or creek. Both the sound and the imagery relax me very quickly but the running water has an even more important function, in helping me clear my mind. If this is a sound and view you find relaxing as well, the first meditiation tip might be of benefit.
To begin, I imagine a little stream of water – a beautiful creek flowing, and imagine that miniature creek flowing right across my forehead. For me, the water naturally flows from left to right. For you, it may be different. As I focus on the gentle flow of the steam across my forehead, I begin to turn my intent toward meditation. I allow the many miscellaneous thoughts that inevitably pop up to just float down the stream. I don’t fight them. I just notice them, and let them float on down. Many times, using this technique, I am able to reach a point of pure water. Then, I know I am in the space of no-mind.
Allow the mind to store the thoughts that won’t go away – Before I found this meditation trick, I’d sometimes spend my entire meditation period trying to stop my thoughts. The more I tried not to think, the more I thought. Then I started using this very effective meditation technique, particularly for those stubborn thoughts that just will not levae my consciousness, is to put them on “the back burner”. The mind is just chock full of little file folders, sort of like mental note holders, and one of the disciplines that has helped me to meditate better is to allow the mind to do what it does so well. By deliberately creating a temporary file, which I call the back burner, and giving the mind permission to hang on to a worrisome thought but to not let it dominate, is actually easy for the mind to do. I learned a long time ago, that we could create file folders in our mind, just like a physical file folder on our desk. I ask my mind to create a “Back Burner” file, where things will be kept that need attention soon after the meditation period, so that I can forget about them for the amount of time I dedicate to meditation. It works (at least for me).
External helpers to deepen meditation
In addition to internal processes that help me deepen my time in meditation, I also utilize external meditation tools. One of the most valuable tools I’ve found is the Centerpointe program. These cd’s work better than any other binaural beat or soundwave technology I’ve ever tried and the results I’ve noticed include being able to let go easier, go deeper, and experience more coherence in my vibrational frequency.
Additional meditation tools I have found effective include Copper pyramids or crystal pyramids, suspended over over my head, holding specific crystals in my hands, taking flower essences before meditation, drinking a soothing herbal tea before I meditate, and choosing music that doesn’t call my mind to specific attention but allows me to let go more and more, as I listen.
Summing up on how to meditate…I would encourage approaching meditation with an adventuresome Spirit and seeking out the best ways for you, individually, to center down and go into the still space.