Rather than quoting a brilliant writing by an enlightened spiritual teacher, I will speak here about why I meditate, and the benefits to be incurred from a meditation practice. One of the most important benefits of meditation is developing the self-observer or witness. In meditating the meditator tries to quiet the mental chatter that is constantly resounding in the brain. In this quieting process the meditator becomes consciously aware of his or her own thinking activity. This is profoundly important, because it initiates the process of consciously knowing the self. The meditator goes from being a subjective thinker on automatic pilot, to being an objective observer of his or her own mind and self. If this is all that meditation does for us it would be a priceless gift. I have had many clients sit in front of me, very learned and intelligent people, whose minds go at a hundred miles an hour. They have a difficulty listening to others, because they have not learned to listen to themselves. There is never a moment of inner peace or silence. Often they are plagued with obsessive thoughts, fears, and anxieties. They have lost mental self-discipline and self-awareness. I tell them that the homeopathic remedy can help in this situation, but they must do the spiritual growth and work. The first step in gaining mental self-discipline and self-knowledge is practicing meditation.
I have heard many people say, “I have tried to meditate, but I just could not do it. I could not quiet my mind at all, so I gave up. It was just too difficult.” Yes, it’s true it is very difficult. It’s very difficult to break a lifetime of poor mental habits and conditioning, but persistence leads to success, which means a healthier mind and spirit.
I recommend just starting with five minutes a day of sitting quietly, and gradually building up to half an hour, forty-five minutes or an hour per day. If you cannot set aside time for formal sitting meditation, then meditate as you are commuting to work. Don’t turn the radio on. Instead watch your mind as you are driving, notice the emotions that come up, the thoughts, feelings, worries, fears, anxieties and the joys that pop into your head like bubbles on the surface of the ocean. Let those bubbles pop up, but don’t hold onto them. As soon as you notice a thought bubble, set it free, don’t pursue it, come back to quietness and your center. This is what meditation is, this noticing of thoughts, and feeling no attachment, attraction, or repulsion for them, but just noticing those thoughts rising and falling.
As you are doing this, to help quiet your mind you may try some simple breathing techniques, such as counting your breaths. Inhale to the count of five, hold to the count of five and exhale to the count of five, trying to make your breath peaceful and quiet. You may even go into samadhi, which is a state of deep inner calm. You may notice that your thoughts and your breath are inextricably linked. If you can quiet your breathing, your thoughts will quiet of themselves.
Now if you want to start practicing meditation in a disciplined fashion, you will derive the maximum benefit from it. Choose a time during the day, which you can designate to yourself and others as sacred personal time. You can choose to wake up an hour earlier in the morning, which is what I have done, and dedicate this hour to your spiritual life. If it is easier for you to meditate at night or in the afternoon, that will do as well.
Sit comfortably on a firm cushion that gives you good back support, or a straight back chair. If you are sitting on the floor, sit cross-legged, in lotus position if you are an advanced yogi, or with your legs tucked under you. The most important thing, however, is that your back is straight, and that you are not leaning forward or backward. In the beginning this may be very difficult for you to do, but with time your back muscles will become strong and you will be able to maintain this position with no difficulty. Now the chin should be ever so slightly lowered.
Rest your hands on your lap, with the right hand over the left, palm facing the ceiling, or if you are sitting cross-legged on the floor, you may lay your hands on the thighs, palms, up, with the thumb and pointer finger touching. Sit with your eyes closed, or half-way open. Practice the breathing which I mentioned above, and start to watch your mind. I sit for an hour every morning and sometimes it takes me fifty minutes before I start to feel that inner calm. Sometimes I don’t feel it, and sometimes I feel it right away. It is important to be loving and forgiving to yourself and accept whatever happens. There is a beautiful Taoist phrase which says, the mind is a difficult thing to clarify and an easy thing to muddy. What we are doing in meditating is clarifying the mind, and creating some inner quiet and inner space to hear the voice of our inner guidance, or the God that dwells within all of us.
Deborah Olenev CCH RSHom (NA)