Lately it seems that a lot of talk around me is about meditation. A client requested that I write a post about meditation and how I practice. I am striving to write as little as possible about a big subject, and it is indeed a subject that many people have many different viewpoints, techniques and approaches.
Here is a simple guide for “how to meditate”, as taught to me by Lonny Jarrett, and what I have to say with the experience that I have:
Sit straight: sit comfortably cross-legged on the floor (on a pillow, cushion, zafu, etc.). Sitting so that your hips are above your knees helps a lot. For those of us who sit a desk all day, this will be a challenge. Keep at it, you will get used to it. (And if you do not, I recommend using the rowing machine/ergometer at the gym to build those back and abdominal muscles!)
Don’t move: that’s right, all you have to do is sit, not move, not scratch your nose or adjust your leg. You have no where to be right now, and no thing to do except sit, and not move. (Note: if you are in pain, move into a more comfortable position! Hurting yourself while meditating is not recommended, and it is not a failure if you have to change positions mid-meditation session.)
No relationship: have no relationship to what you are experiencing insofar as your thoughts, your physical sensations, your breathing, your emotions. No matter how many times that argument with your coworker, or the to-do list, keeps appearing, have no response, no relationship to it, do not engage with it. It is “there” and you are “here”. Your “job” is to witness, to watch it as if you were a stone in a meadow with activity swirling around you. You are there, unmoved by it all. The rock doesn’t think, “oh I really have to make sure to call so and so tomorrow”, or “oh, these thoughts are really annoying, I’m so frustrated”. The rock just is, letting everything around it be as it is, un-moved and without relationship. Everyone has thoughts that move through their mind, creating waves and noise. Waves eventually settle into stillness, noise becomes white (noise) or like rain.
Focus on nothing: just like that stone in a meadow, you have no focus. The rock has no eyes to watch the butterfly, or the clouds, or the plants. Be like the rock: with a focus on nothing. Be like a person in a crowd of people: unable to focus on it all, so you focus on nothing, walking through the crowd. There is always nothingness, no matter how little space there seems to be, there is always a bit of nothing. (Quantum physics, baby!)
Let the mind go: You are walking through a crowd of people, in order to get through the crowd you do not focus on any one person (aka thought, feeling, sensation) and consequently move straight ahead. Making eye contact or engaging with a person in the crowd prevents you from moving forward. Likewise, the rock cannot reach out to engage a bird, or respond to the clouds in the sky. The rock is unperturbed by the activity around it, your no relationship, focus on nothing and letting your mind go has to be like a rock: unmoved, with a focus on nothing and no relationship to whatever comes up, letting everything go.
No judgment: what comes up in your meditation is not to be judged, it does not matter what came up, how “good” or “bad” the meditation was (or is), doing it is the important part. Your meditation is what it is. It is neither good nor bad. Assigning meaning to what comes up says that judgment is being made, remember to choose to let them be meaningless.
Practice every day: no matter what! Practice every day no matter what, seriously. No excuses, well, having a high flu-fever is a valid excuse; otherwise, no excuses! Just do it, sit on that zafu, chair, or lay down and meditate. You’d be surprised how that twenty minutes or half hour can fly by, or not, depending on your response, or no-response, to the material witnessed. No matter how tired, busy, worn out, congested, lazy, “not feeling like it” you are, no matter the dinner party you just had and you really don’t feel like it because meditating isn’t “fun” and dinner parties are… Just do it.
Remember: the sea is still the sea regardless of the number of waves. Do not mistake yourself for the waves, you are the sea.
This instruction set is by all means not comprehensive, and I am not an “expert”. I still have many years of practice to go, and even then I would still have many more left. I’ve read that it takes years to get to a point where these instructions make sense internally. Still, I show up and practice my meditation every day. Some days meditation is fantastic, other days it is hard. The hard days turn out to be the best ones.
Contrary to popular opinion, you do not need the following to meditate:
- A mantra or fancy breath work
- Music or guided meditations
- Specific clothing, incense, crystals, or what have you
Let go. Let go of it all, jump off the cliff, break through into nothingness.
Nothingness really isn’t nothingness anyway; it is emptiness, infinity, potential, possibility as yet unmanifested…
Recommendations for getting started:
– Stretch before sitting for your 20-30 minute session, your knees and hips will thank you.
– Get a meditation app (I really like Samsara) and check the volume of your phone before starting. There is nothing more jolting than having a bell ring at full volume.
– Turn all alerts, vibration, notifications, ringers, etc. off your phone if you are using a meditation app!
– Pick the same time every day to meditate, no matter what.