How to Meditate, Article – April 16, 2010
There is a wide range of us out there meditating, from beginners who are just starting out, to those who have been meditating for years. Assuming that meditating is essentially about getting in touch with one’s inner, deeper and most natural self, this article sets out to explore what approach to meditating is more likely to bring us closer to these experiences. When we refer to the most natural self, we are speaking about an conscious awareness that is free from the accumulation of knowledge– nor does it retain frames of reference or ideas. The meditation we are seeking is one that helps us to recover wonder.
This wonder is the whole point. One cannot approach each moment anew without cleaning the slate of the mind. Those folks who have been meditating for years might just have well started meditating today. I stated above that “meditating is about recovering wonder” and for me this is what is most important. Everybody is different. You may just want to get a break from your otherwise hectic day.
Guided or Unguided
The difference between guided and unguided meditation is pretty obvious. In the first case one is guided by some form of information that is either recorded or known by the one meditating. In the second case there is no real directive. One simply meditates freely. We might even consider music a form of guidance. Music is powerful and can draw us in to its mood.
Music is wonderful. It helps us to relax or get fired up—all depending on the style. Guided meditation might be a good place to start for beginners as it has a shape to it that can be followed. There is a strong sense of accomplishment with guided meditation as there is an obvious beginning and end. There is no confusion about the goal. We complete the meditation and feel the results. These are very good reasons to start with and perhaps even continue to use guided meditation. The benefits are clear. We feel relaxed and more deeply grounded. It is rejuvenating and restores health.
Guided by Mother Nature
I use the term “unguided” meditation to distinguish it from “guided” meditation. Unguided meditation has its own form of guidance. Unguided meditation is not as easily done. One has to strip away all motive to do unguided meditation. Even then it is guided but not by ourselves. Unguided meditation is guided by and organic and raw nature. There is a special purity to it.
Human beings will never emulate nature. It is impossible. It is far too complex and integrated. The wisdom of nature cannot be surpassed. Our bodies are a beautiful example of its incredible wisdom. Our very sustenance and lives as individual creatures is due to Mother Nature. Meditating freely allows nature to do its best work whether it is healing or simply moving us further along our path.
Watching for Obstacles
In unguided meditation we simply sit. I say sit but I suppose one could walk or do anything for that matter. The point here is that there is no point. There is plenty of paradox present in unguided meditation. It is not a simple task to let go of motive. After all we are sitting in meditation for the purpose of meditating. These obstacles can be overcome with practice.
Here are a few pitfalls to watch out for— It is much easier to fall asleep while doing unguided meditation. There is no shame in this but know that it is not the same as meditation. Zoning out and losing track of yourself is the same—not a big deal but not to be confused with meditation. Meditation is about remaining alert and aware.
Remaining Alert and Aware
Guided meditation can be likened to watching television. The distraction is likely to be far more positive that television programming but it is still a program and one loses contact with self. When I use the term “self” here I speak of a self that is far deeper than the ego. I speak of pure awareness. The term “self” can be confusing for it is readily used to refer to both the individual and the deeper self.
To continue with unguided meditation sit still and do nothing. In zen practice this is called zazen, just sitting. The mind will engage and you will start thinking. One of your first series of thoughts will likely be about how ridiculous it is to be sitting still doing nothing. As you let go of these doubts and commit once again to meditating the thoughts will change. Try to acknowledge the thoughts. Allow yourself to be aware of the thoughts.
This is an important step as it differentiates you from your thoughts. There is the thinker and the thought. Focus on the thinker. Stripped of thought this thinker is your deeper self—pure awareness. As you might have suspected it is this stripping oneself of thoughts that is the most formidable obstacle. This is the goal and yet it can only be achieved by not trying to achieve it. Phew!
Spend a few focused thoughts choosing to think about not doing anything. Entertain the absurdity of letting go of motive. See clearly that trying to let go of motive is a motive itself. Just spend some time looking at all this. As you may have guessed we have not yet got to the unguided part of the unguided meditation. We must persevere—without persevering of course.
Beyond Thoughts are Feelings
As you sit still looking deeply at the problem and the absurdity of it all—a feeling of clarity will emerge. What occurs is a synthesis of the two opposites. Motive and un-motive come together as one. They are both the same problem—thought. This will get you in touch with feelings. Motive and will have a feeling associated with them—a tension.
Guided meditation can certainly relax you but without you fully knowing about it. In the case of unguided meditation you are absolutely aware and alert AND relaxed all at the same time. We are inching our way towards bliss here. There is tremendous joy in this awareness. There is a great wonder and simplicity present in this. It feels incredible and that is why they call it bliss.
Blissful Wonders and Joy
Just a glimpse of this is all you need. Stick with it until you get this first real tangible glimpse of bliss. The thoughts are relentless until you look closely at them and differentiate yourself from them. The boredom can be unbearable until you look at it squarely in the face and realize it is fear—not boredom. Your ego is arguing its value and pointing out how much you need it. Don’t listen to it.
If you are patient it will become more about feelings and sensations than thoughts. When this happens you are making real progress. Your time meditating is spent working out old emotional aches and pains that have no name—though they will often be accompanied by images of the past. This is good. Keep working. You will feel lighter and more alive every time you meditate and let go of more ghosts.
These are ghosts of thought and ghosts of identity and ego. Keep moving through them. This all happens naturally. You are in unguided meditation territory now. Nature is healing you. Your very own nature is expelling toxins and grief. Nature is restoring joy and wonder where it belongs. You are a vibrant and alive being that can see possibility in everything. Life equals joy. They are the same thing.