Learn Meditation; Meditation Manual

Chapter Nine

Note: This chapter also is a stand-alone Meditation Manual.

Meditation is a practice of quietly listening and noticing. Id. at 101. It is a patient practice that leads to a depth of personal knowledge and a sense that life is sacred. It slows the mind. It internally releases "pressure" that may have appeared to come from the circumstances or problems of life. It leads to knowledge of the true self, which appreciates and walks lightly among its "troubles", and which is different from our selfish ego.

The practice of meditation is like practicing piano. You do not play masterfully the first time. It is the continued practice of meditation that reaps benefits. Do not expect specific benefits for two to three months.

The result of meditation is liberation. The experience of the true self goes beyond words. It is such a remarkable experience that it has been called "the God within" or the Holy Spirit. It is a path gradually ending loneliness and inner feelings of emptiness, anxiety and sadness.

Many of us are numb to our inner pain, which we only dimly recognize. After all, the way we have always felt is all we know and provides us with no basis for comparison. It is our normal state. We resist calling it "painful" and cannot even know that it is painful until we have an experience of some other state that we like more.

Discovery of the self (also called "the holy spirit" or the soul) is a deep, beautiful experience. In that experience, we feel our pain melting. Sometimes it feels like a dark blanket of bliss descending on the body. Sometimes the experience is like an explosion of 1,000 suns inside the head. Often it is slow and subtle. The body seems stiller. Life seems simpler. We begin enjoying things we thought boring or mundane. We make fresh choices that lift us out of our ruts. We feel closer to other human beings, surrendering our previous feeling of being different or strange or "outside."

Setting the Stage

Make the place you meditate and the articles you use for meditation be special. A room you use regularly should be neat and clean, a comfortable temperature, and dark. You may choose to use a sleep mask or ear plugs to enhance the experiences of darkness and quietness. If you meditate outside in nature, pick a quiet beautiful place, among trees, in a gentle field, on a river bank or by the ocean. You may also meditate in any place considered holy. Advanced meditators may select a "frightful place" such as a cemetery.
There may be special objects that remind you that you are sitting in the presence of God: a religious symbol (a cross, a candle, a picture of a person you accept as a model or meditation master, works of art or statues with deep inner significance). You may use incense for a special smell and to remind you each day of the meditation states you previously have enjoyed.

Shower before you meditate. Use a special fragrant oil or cologne. Say a prayer immediately before you begin. The Lord's Prayer or the Rosary are possible. You may also choose to read a passage from the Bible or another holy book. Ask God for his grace to fill your meditation. Pick a quiet time of day and do not be interrupted by the telephone or the door. Early morning, between 5 am and 6:30 am is an excellent, quiet time, which permits you to end your meditation by enjoying the sunrise. After practicing for a while, you may find meditation far more restful than an equivalent amount of sleep.
In the evening before you meditate, concentrate your mind and will on the precise time you will rise. Set an alarm clock. Pray for grace to rise at that precise time. When you do awake at that time, remember your prayer and cooperate with the grace that has helped you to awake.


What to Do

Meditation may be done sitting or lying down. It is often best to practice sitting at first because the beginner may be likely to fall asleep if lying down.

To sit, find a comfortable chair or use a comfortable cushion to sit on the floor. Sit with your back erect, balancing your head effortlessly. Let your arms relax at your sides, with your hands resting open on your knees. In honor of the energy of meditation, you may choose to touch the forefinger of each hand to the end of the thumb. Have your legs crossed or, if you are on a chair, have the feet flat on the ground. With practice, crossed legs will become more and more comfortable. Through the practice of Hatha Yoga, an ancient form of stretching exercises, you may improve your sitting and may even learn the Lotus position, which weaves the legs together and gives greater stillness and stability for sitting.
During meditation, you may be more comfortable if you recross your legs in the opposite direction or pull your knees toward your chest from time to time. Your body is not intended to be uncomforable during meditation. If you are uncomfortable, shift to a more comfortable position or lie down to meditate. In time, your ability to sit in meditation will improve.

If you choose to, lie down. Find a comfortable place, preferably on a carpet or rug. Place a pillow under your head and another under your knees. Let your arms rest on the floor at your sides, palms up. Let your legs lie flat on the floor and the pillow, with the feet relaxed, the toes pointing slightly out.

Relax completely. Relax a second or third time. You may choose to deepen your relaxation each time you breathe out. Be aware of your breathing.

Find a focus for your meditation. Your focus must be something very special for you. For a Christian, it may be helpful to use the Jesus prayer (repeating the name, "Jesus" over and over), the phrase "Thy Will be Done", or the Rosary. Followers of my guru, Gurumayi Chidvilasananda, use the mantra, "Om Namah Shiviah." It is an ancient Sanskrit mantra that contains the vibration of a living yogic master in it. It means, "I honor the Self" (which is not the ego, but is the Holy Spirit). It is a mantra that is freely given to be used by anyone and, done with reverence, can bring you closer to the experience of God and Christ and can awaken you to the vibration of God within your body. It is helpful to receive the mantra from Gurumayi, who lends her grace to your repetition of this phrase.

Another focus you may use is the breath itself. You may follow the breath closely, feeling the air moving within you and becoming aware of where the air is coming from and going to. Become aware of the point furthest from you that air moves because of your inhalation. Feel the air move through your own body. Be aware of the deepest place in your lungs to which the air travels. When you exhale, be aware of the furthest point from you that the air moves from your exhalation. Experience this divine process of taking energy into your body and discharging wastes. You may sense the miracle of the breath and feel humility and gratitude for this divine gift.

Allow the focus of your meditation to permit you to glide into a deeper and deeper place. If you reach that place, you will know it. That is the state of meditation. In that state, you may let your focus point go and experience meditation. People with a serious habit of high body activity may wish to use Tai Chi, an ancient oriental art of moving meditation, to begin their meditation practice. There are many Tai Chi instructors in the United States.

In meditation, it is helpful to be aware of "the witness." The witness is the part of you that looks out through your eyes during your waking life, which observes your dreams and which observes your meditations. For example, consider what you mean if you say to yourself during meditation, "I see pulsing blue light." Blue light is the object of that sentence. It is what "I" sees. But what is "I"? Think carefully. "I see" obviously has nothing to do with your eyes, which are closed. "I" does not mean your physical body, which is not functioning in a waking state. Yet, there is an "I" that is observing the meditation. That "I" has no obvious location. It has no obvious substance at all. Yet it sees. It witnesses. It may be called "the witness."

In waking life, the witness is also present. It can see your troubles and your triumphs, not as the "subject" but as the observer. Thus, it can see life as a play being enacted for it. Life can become a play of consciousness -- all the world's a stage and we are merely actors. From that perspective, even the high drama of our life can have an interest to it beyond the seriousness that usually weighs us down. We can choose to see the entertaining side of the "high drama" of our life. We can become "light" about the circumstances of our life and see the humorous aspects and the helpful lessons, even of our tragedies. For us, life can become more of a dance. We can flow with it and experience ourselves as participants in the dance of life.

Meditation can bring us closer to God, providing access to the grace of being born again. It has many profound effects, including: relaxation, simplification of life, ease in making choices, increased openness to unexpected and creative ideas, increased self-esteem, patience, increased orderliness, a reduced need to control events and other people, reflectiveness and flexibility, an increased ability to love, greater appreciation of life, and more aliveness. It makes life more dynamic and more interesting and it attracts other people and new opportunities to us.

The experience of meditation may at first be boring. Often your ideas will continue racing through your head, producing the same pattern of thinking you are already sick of. But be patient. With practice, the space between the thoughts lengthens. You may become more aware of a still, quiet space that has always been within you, undiscovered. You may even reach a point in your meditation where the thoughts subside completely for a while.

Keep practicing meditation with patience. Know that if you are following the meditation directions, you are doing it right. Your meditation will never be wrong. It will always be precisely what you need at that time. In that sense, it is always perfect.

With practice, some of the things you may experience during meditation are: spontaneous vibrations, visions of beautiful colors that may not be seen in waking life, beautiful lights, auditory experiences (unstruck sounds), dream-like visions (some of which carry important insights with them and some of which may take you to worlds other than the physical world you live in), a new depth of stillness in the body, a feeling of warmth and relaxation in the heart area, spontaneous movements of the body, crying or laughing, the making of spontaneous sounds, moving into body positions you have never before experienced (spontaneous hatha yoga), feeling a desire to move as if you are being directed, the experience of deep bliss and peace, the melting of unwanted emotional feelings and the release of tightness in muscles. Along with these experiences, life often becomes lighter and more enjoyable. Emotional depressions last for shorter and shorter periods of time.

Length of Time for Meditation

Your objective should be to meditate once a day for a full hour. If you are inspired, you may start immediately at one full hour every day. However, you can begin an effective practice with just 15 minutes (a full 15 minutes!) five days per week. Do not beat yourself up for days you miss. Just wake up 15 minutes earlier than you would and take this time all by yourself. Pray for the grace to fulfill the goals of your meditation practice.

As a beginner, if you find meditation difficult using one of the focus techniques described above, you may use music as your focus. Play the music. Some techniques use soft music. Others use loud music because it vibrates within the body and helps to overwhelm ordinary thinking processes.  Keep returning your mind to each note of the music. Do not listen to the melody or structure of the music. Experience it with a "beginners mind" -- as if each note were a unique moment of experience. Then, just as with any focus technique, you may notice thoughts, feelings, body sensations, sights, etc. Just let those things be and keep returning your mind to the music.

Set an alarm to sound at the end of your meditation time. Because of the depth of some meditative states (and the risk you may fall asleep as a beginning meditator), the alarm will help you to end your meditation and to accommodate the rest of your daily schedule. To help return from deep meditation, you also may be prepared to play some music that will engage your attention and heighten your awareness out of the meditative state.


Questions About Meditation

As you continue to practice meditation, questions may arise in your mind from time to time. It is helpful, whenever that happens, to pray for grace to understand the answer to your question. One kind of question that frequently occurs is how to overcome some fear or other internal barrier that keeps the meditation from growing deeper. A prayer for grace may often permit you to go through the fear or melt the barrier.

It also is helpful to ask questions of an experienced meditator or, for the more difficult questions, of a true advanced meditator or spiritual master. For simple questions you may send E-mail to peterbb@meditatenow.com or you may call me, Peter Bloch, at 416-656-9646. For news about MeditateNow, which has weekly seminars and quarterly retreats, visit my home page. For links to other information about meditation, try Many Great Links.  For more information on stress reduction, click over to that page.  In addition, if you want to buy some meditation books or send them to others as gifts, visit the Meditation Bookstore.  Remember. You may also request his phone number so you can call Peter Bloch at home.

Good luck with your meditation practice. You have made an important choice: to begin. Stick with it. Seek reinforcement for your practice from experienced meditators.  You may also want to check the link for Centerpointe, which offers a new technology called "Holosync" that I find helpful and that may be helpful to many meditators.



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