Do you sometimes feel that things seem to "happen to you?" Life is filled with many occurrences that seem to defy explanation. Some of us seem to struggle in every area of our lives, while others appear to breeze through with everything falling into place. The latter group is made up of people who are happy most of the time. So, what's the secret? Are some of us destined to have better fortune that others? Did they get instruction book outlining the methods to find fulfillment in their mental, emotional, physical, spiritual, and financial lives?
There is no secret sauce. The first requirement is being present. They show up for each of these areas in their lives. Meditation is the starting point for many when it comes to being present. It's often misunderstood as being some type of mysterious skill that can only be effective by practicing for many years. The image of Buddha or a monk in a contemplative state for many hours during the day leads many to believe they can't meditate.
There is an expectation the experience will produce some type of enlightened higher state or relieve the impact of emotions like fear, anger, or sadness. Many feel that they should enter a "Zen" like state where their mind and emotions are free of activity or chaos. It should, in effect, quiet them down. We all fall prey to stress that is caused by even the smallest annoyances.
Being cut off in traffic or not having someone you spoke to greet you can have a cumulative impact over the course of a day or a week. Recognizing where our thoughts are taking us is the first step to beginning to manage them. Meditation helps to do this when we understand its true purpose and manage expectations around the experience we will have using it. Like anything else, there is a cumulative impact to making regular practice of meditation.
Deepak Chopra said in "The 7 Spiritual Laws of Success" that one of the most important things we can do for ourselves daily is to enjoy the gift of silence. Doing this can facilitate meditation, since its true purpose is to be aware of ourselves and what is around us at the exact moment we are using it. Meditation is the art of being present. We are not at war with the thoughts or feelings passing through us at that very moment. We simply acknowledge and release them.
There are many wonderful books and audio programs available to guide us through meditation. I that silence prevents me from fighting with thoughts or emotions that are within me because I have nowhere else to place my focus. Silence is the absence of contact through, conversing, touch, reading, watching, or listening will sitting or lying down.
My conscious was like a busy New York subway station when I was new to meditation. There are still moments when it resembles one, but those are fewer and further apart. I am not inspired all days, but the discipline of spending that time is far more valuable than anything else I could do with it. During this time, I focus on things I am grateful for and ask what I can add to the world to make it a little better today. Deciding to make a conscious effort to help others get the things I want closes the circle.
The last thing I do is release all the things I am attached to, such as, what others think of me, what I expect others to do, specific outcomes for efforts I make, how others will respond to what I say or do, or having others treat me the way I want to be treated. Taking time to be instead of doing for short periods help me maintain balance. The busier the day will be, the more time I need to spend getting centered.
Like many others, I do not have long periods of time to devote top this practice. But I will have my time because the benefits are too important to miss. Meditation is an individual adventure. If you give it a try, and persist at it, you will not miss the time you devote to it. There are as many ways to meditate as there are people. Please don't fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others. My standard starting out was "when I’m like Ghandi."
Start slowly, but start! Even five minutes is better than no time at all. Two awesome resources to help you get started are How to Meditate by Eknath Easwaran and Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
Great article, Russell!