There are many paths to a peaceful, loving, happy and abundant life, and there are many ways to meditate. Some people do yoga, tai qi, qi kung, walk, hike in the woods, work-out, dance, draw, play an instrument or work on a puzzle to quiet their mind and satisfy other creative or athletic desires simultaneously. These are all great things and serve more than one purpose. Chanting, praying or using mantras are some ways that people intentionally meditate. In my understanding, silent meditation is the most difficult form of meditation because you are simply being with yourself and your mind. Yet it can have the most profound results. All types of meditation or ways to calm the mind are most effective if practiced regularly.
Meditation is a practice. Many people tell me that they have tried to meditate and they “can’t”. There is a BIG misconception about meditation that in order to be ‘doing it’, one has to have a completely clear mind and be fully present the whole time, and that otherwise they are doing it incorrectly and therefore, not doing it at all. THIS IS NOT TRUE. Meditation is just like anything else in that, you get good at what you practice. When a person takes up an instrument, dance, martial arts or a sport, that person will generally need to practice in order to be good at the thing they are practicing. Practicing playing the guitar is still playing the guitar, just like practicing meditation is still meditation. The goal with meditation is to clear the mind and be fully present. This goal is a life long journey of ebbs and flows, progressions and back slides. Some may never achieve this goal for more than a few moments at a time. Most people, with regular consistent practice (which is required of most, to become good at anything), will have longer and longer periods of time in presence. That is the idea: to have longer periods of peace and calm, in presence. That is where progress is recognized. Only a few have reached a point of enlightenment before death, which is a constant state of being fully present. Some have long periods of presence and then they try to hold on to it, and the very act of attempting to hold on to it, causes it to fade away.
Most people have what is referred to as “monkey mind” – a busy mind, thinking of many things all the time, day dreaming, being “unconscious” in some regard. Being conscious in a spiritual sense is knowing what one is thinking from one moment to the next. If one has a monkey mind, this is impossible, or extremely difficult rather, as well as exhausting. For example, when a person with monkey mind meditates, they either get very tired or they loose interest quickly and move on to something else. Sometimes people fall asleep. This is very common actually. When a person meditates, who is not accustomed to meditating, it is similar to using a muscle that is weak. In order to strengthen the muscle, one must practice. Monkey mind can be remedied with meditation. I would recommend starting with 5 minutes a day for 2 weeks and gradually increase the amount of time as the meditation muscle gets stronger. You will know when you are getting stronger because 5 minutes will go by in a flash and seem easy. This is true regardless of how long you are meditating for, if it feels easy, increase the time. A good long term goal is 1 hour, two times a day.
One example of a simple meditation that I still use part of the time, is to count your breaths, ie in & out 1, in & out 2, in & out 3… and so on till you get to 9, then start back at 1; repeat for the duration of the time allotted to meditate. Also, close your eyes and focus on the backs of your eye lids. When you notice that you are going past the number 9, or if you forget what number you are on, be gentle on yourself and start back at 1.
The best times to meditate are shortly after waking, and before bed. Anytime is a good time to meditate, as long as it feels like a good time for you. (While driving or using heavy machinery, make sure your eyes are open and you are practicing safety. 🙂 Otherwise, you could meditate all day long, throughout your day while doing dishes or anything else, simply by being present. This does not take the place of silent meditation however.) Practicing at the beginning of the day will help to set your day off to a great start. You will notice that the rest of your day flows with greater ease when you meditate in the morning. Practicing at night before bed will ensure a more restful sleep. I call this “downloading the day”. It allows a person to let go of the happenings of the day, have peace of mind and drift off to sleep more easily.
There are many benefits to meditation. One of the most valuable results of meditation is quieting the mind. The reason that this is so valuable is so that one can hear the voice from within that is guiding us in every moment. Each of us has a direct connection with Spirit / God / The Universe / Our Higher Power / Intuition or whatever you want to call it. This connection resides in the mind, through thought. Typically people have so much external noise in their lives as well as internal noise in their minds that they drown out that quiet voice that is guiding them… radio, television, iPod, cell phones, traffic, horns, conversations, etc. It is uncommon for anyone these days to have much silence throughout the day. Silence is like water. The more you drink it, the more you crave it; and a certain amount of both are essential for our well being.
Being with one self and simply sitting, is one of the most challenging things for some people to do, or not “do” as the case may be. Many people think that meditation is a waste of time because of that very thing… doing no-thing. However, on the contrary, it’s one of the most productive no-things one can do. The reason that it is an act of self love is because one is simply being with oneself.
I have found silent meditation to be one of the most important elements of having peace of mind, and allowing my life to flow with greater ease. I have also recognized a greater ability to hear and listen to my inner guidance, which always serves me well when I follow it.