How to Meditate, Article – April 16, 2010
Starting Meditation Practice
Embarking on meditation can be intimidating. Whether it is to simply relax a bit more, or to become (sound the trumpets) enlightened, getting started can be daunting for how much curiosity there is around it. So, to begin with, just to take the pressure off, know this— no-one is adept at meditation. This may seem like an absurd statement, for there are millions of people who meditate— who have been meditating for years. I started meditating when I was in college, and that was thirty years ago.
The truth is that no-one is a master at meditation. No-one knows how to mediate. If they believe they know how, then they are not truly meditating. I have two quotes to share that recognize this truth.
"Self-knowledge is not a thing to be accumulated; it is to be discovered from moment to moment, and to discover there cannot be accumulation." —J. Krishnamurti – As One Is
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few." —Shunryu Suzuki - Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind
The point of meditation is to reach a point where there is no particular point in meditating— which brings a freshness, an innocence and a sense of wonder. This innocence arises out of being washed clean, and being able to see life through the eyes of a child, able to appreciate once again its beauty and simplicity as well as the quality of wholeness, oneness, fullness, richness. Okay, enough with the nesses.
Getting Started Meditating
Obviously, all these people do something regularly that they call meditation. They may sit, or walk, or knit or whatever. There are many ways to meditate. I enjoy sitting still. I sit with my legs crossed in a similar manner to what is depicted in so many photographs—something akin to the lotus position.
This is what works for me. So, even though I do not know how to meditate, I DO know what position works consistently. So there is a paradox at work here— I know how to meditate, or get started meditating, but when it comes to the actual meditation, I deliberately come up empty-handed.
This brings us to another issue, and that is of intention. Meditation, for me, involves the struggle to not struggle. How can one stop struggling if one has to struggle to stop struggling? It is because meditation involves finding what is in common between opposites and letting both go— allowing one to exist in a space where nothing is in conflict with anything else— or, to coin a word—oneness.
Yes, it can happen. It works, and it is a beautiful space. This is why people continue to do it. If it were just sitting still for hours without any real peace, then it would not be such a big deal to so many people.
To Meditate - Just Sitting
For those starting out, it is enough just to sit still for the allotted period of time. There are so many thoughts that will pass through the mind and attempt to trigger you into going about all the many things that are more pressing, like the dishes, the laundry, etc. and on and on forever. Let’s be honest. It never stops. The only way to stop is to disarm these triggers and sit still.
The excuses will come, one after another, outlining the absurdity of your sitting doing nothing. The mind does not want you sit still, because if you sit still long enough it will cease to be the boss. You instead will become your own person, truly independent of all the mental traffic. Krishnamurti said it over and over again that his objective was to free man unconditionally.
Just Beginning to Meditate
The place to start is with just managing to sit still for a half an hour. A half an hour is a long time to evade the traffic of the mind, ever telling you to do something different. It sounds easy. We find so many ways to distract ourselves from potential silence—music, television, radio—the list goes on. Actually sitting still will bring up all the things that you have been evading, avoiding, denying.
One of the problems with meditation is that it challenges to see it all for yourself up close and personally, which ultimately leads to great personal growth and development. You can reinvent yourself utterly, see life anew and with excitement and wonder. You must only pay the price of admission, which is to witness all that you have stuffed down, one episode at a time.
Beginning to Still Thoughts
I personally have let go of SO much that was haunting me, holding me back, torturing me. There are nightmares of thought-trains ready to send you into habitual spirals of “what is wrong with you” and all the rest—internalized voices from the ogres from your past. Imagine being free of this. I have been meditating for thirty years and just the other day I unearthed a memory with my Father on his deathbed—a memory that was just lying there in my subconscious— absolutely effecting my day to day.
Just that extra bit of tension driven by something that happened years ago—life I had not fully live, could not live in the moment it happened—wasn’t really there for and aching inside me—hoping for the chance to be felt in its entirety and released. It is gone now. My meditation is free to go even deeper.
Meditation is Healing
Once again, if you are just beginning, or tried once and got discouraged or fed up from sitting still, my advice is to try again and again. The return is immeasurable. Chronic illnesses can utterly disappear. There is an increase in the ability to breathe deeply. There is a restfulness that follows your throughout the day.
The more you do it, the more you take with you as you move into all the different areas of your life. One feels a stronger presence of mind and not as much of a short fuse in terms or reacting to others and all of their stuff. The freedom that comes is the freedom to remain grounded and centered in the face of what once sent you reeling. This makes life easier on you and on others. Be good to yourself.