So, what is meditation?
Meditation is a tool that can allow us the space from our repetitive thoughts to see ourselves more clearly. Through meditation we can reconnect with the stillness within.
There is nothing that is more natural than being able to slow down and recharge our batteries it’s just that generally in the West we have forgotten how to do it in a deliberate manner. We have no tradition in our mainstream culture of sitting still and going with in ourselves.
There are techniques of Buddhism, such as meditation, that anyone can adopt.
~ Dalai Lama
Preparation for meditation
Eastern systems of exercise now popular in the west, such as yoga and the martial arts, were originally used as a preparation for meditation. The more comfortable that we are in our bodies the more our racing minds can start to slow down.Look how loose and natural a cat is, in deed any animal is a master of relaxation. To hold tension in the body is to waste energy and no wild animal has energy to waste. The tension that grips our bodies is due mainly to our addiction to constantly thinking, we all think too much!
Quietening down the machine
Our ability as humans to think things through and plan, to use imagination to see how we can change our world is the ace card up our sleeve that other animals do not have. This gift of such a powerful imagination and ability to think so well can come with a high price if it is not used in a balanced way.
Like a runaway train our mind becomes a problem when it races out of control. Machines have freed us from having to do constant back breaking work just in order to survive. The famous film Terminator depicted a world where the machines had taken over, the servant had become the master. Your mind can be an amazing tool for good or at the other extreme it can destroy you.
Observe rather than judge
By slowing down your mind and getting a little distance from it you can start to see your repetitive patterns. With meditation it is important to simply observe rather judge yourself. If you judge your thoughts in meditation you are drawn back into giving the thoughts too much energy. It is you alone that makes your thoughts more real than reality. Withdraw your attention from these fleeting shadows and the thoughts clear like clouds that have blocked the sun light.
Are you in control?
Quite often people are indignant or even shocked at the idea that they are not fully in control of their minds. How much control do we actually have of our thoughts? If you were told don’t think of, remember DON’T think of a… Banana, what is the first thought that comes into your head?
Thoughts are not often truly random, you could be thinking about television and a second later, apparently randomly, you are thinking about the pain of sun burn! Your train of thought may go like this, I watch too much television, I must spend hours watching soaps,so many are based in Australia, it’s nice and hot in Australia, I would be too hot, I might get burnt by the sun like I did when I was really young etc etc
One meditation technique designed to reduce the constant stream of thoughts that give rise to another as in the above example is called mantra meditation. A mantra is amongst other things a meaningless word that you can repeat to yourself, because it has no meaning it does not give rise to other thoughts in the way a word like television would. When someone meditating on a mantra sees that yet again they have drifted off into a stream of related thoughts they simply bring their attention back to the mantra.
Training your mind
Any art or skill takes a lot of practice to become good at, as we all know all to well, Rome was not built in a day, meditation is no exception.
Training your mind to concentrate is very like training a young dog to walk on a lead. When your easily distracted puppy wonders off do you shout your head off and give it a few savage kicks or do you firmly but gently bring it back to its original position again and again and again until it learns? If you train yourself to meditate when your mind wonders off don’t kick yourself just see what’s happened and bring your attention back again and again to what ever you are meditating on.
Living on the edge?
Can meditation be dangerous? Does it leave your mind open to dark forces?
Will meditation turn you into a long haired space head out of touch with reality?
Anything done in an extreme way can be unhealthy, but a tool to help you see yourself more clearly used in moderation has to be a wonderful thing. The word meditation probably carries with it a lot of strange ideas of passive navel gazing. A type of concentration that is so intense that it excludes any thought of past and present or even any thought at all is not always done sat down cross legged, taking a bend a bit too fast in the rain on a bike brings us fully into the moment. Danger can induce a natural form of meditation, often when death is close we feel more alive, the addictive buzz of living on the edge.
The waiting game
Why not, the next time that you are forced for no good reason, to wait for an appointment that you were on time for, try just become aware of your breathing. See if the angry thoughts loose their power to some extent and rather than feeling more and more tense, as time goes by, you become more content just to sit and be. To turn a situation like this around is no mean feat, the hardest game of all is the waiting game win that one and your on your way to being in control in any situation.