Meditation | Matters

May 2, 2012

MeditationMatters

After sharing my dad’s place for contemplation on Monday I thought I’d talk a little bit about how I find my own Zen. I’ve been dedicated to practicing meditation for almost a year now. Some of you expressed interest in the specifics the last time I posted about it so I’m going to share with you my way of approaching meditation. While I am not religious, meditation has helped me tune in to my higher self, feel more connected to the world around me and find a certain amount of tranquility and spirituality throughout my day. Just like anyone can practice yoga these days I think anyone who feels compelled to go inward should take some time to meditate daily.

Candle

CONCENTRATION
Before I jumped in to meditation I spent weeks developing my ability to concentrate and still my mind by practicing this valuable candle concentration exercise:
1. You’ll need: a piece of paper, a pen or pencil, a timer and a candle.
2. You’ll want to sit at a table in a well lit room – make sure there aren’t any drafts or open windows.
3. Get situated at the table with the candle at least 2 feet in front of you. Light the candle and set your timer to 10 minutes.
4. Now focus on the flame. Any time a thought pops in to your head you’ll want to make a mark on the piece of paper. But don’t take your eyes of the flame! And don’t move any part of your body except to make the mark on your piece of paper.
5. Once a thought pops into your mind gently let it pass, calm your mind and keep going.

You’ll start out with lots of marks – maybe even hundreds! As I was practicing this candle concentration exercise over a few weeks I found that I was becoming even more aware of my thoughts throughout the day. I was surprised to find myself talking trash (especially on myself) and complaining in my head all the time. I had no idea. This concentration exercise not only taught me to become aware of my thoughts (even the more subtle ones) but it taught me that I have control over my thoughts. I started replacing negativity with optimism and kindness.

After a few weeks of developing my ability to concentrate and still my mind I moved on to practicing meditation. There is a little more ritual involved here and it’s something I’ve really grown to enjoy. It’s good to meditate when you wake up or before you go to bed. After taking a shower is a great time to meditate. However, I like to practice my meditation after my morning walk to work.

Focus

1. PREP YOUR SPACE
I like to meditate in my bedroom. It’s probably the most chill place in my house. I sit on a piece of sheep fur and face East.

2. HOW TO SIT
Sit in lotus, half-lotus or “criss-cross applesauce” as the kids call it these days. You’ll want to sit straight up with good posture. You can rest your hands in your lap or put your first two fingers to your thumbs out on your knees.  Close your eyes and elevate your gaze so that you’re looking out towards the middle of your forehead.

3. BREATHE
Breathe in for 4 counts while you tense your body. Hold for 3 counts. Then release for 4 counts as you relax your entire body (but still maintain posture). Then exhale with two quick bursts to make sure all the air is expelled from you lungs. Repeat. Do this 6-10 times. At this time think about your intention – what you want out of your meditation. Do you want to feel more connected? Do you want a clear mind? Do you want peace?

During the rest of your meditation you can breathe as normal. Try not to focus on your breath too hard.

4. VISUALIZE YOUR LIGHT
This is where it gets a little groovy – but hang with me here. With your eyes closed and your gaze elevated visualize a ball of light in your solar plexus (that’s just below your rib cage – just above your stomach). Visualize this light growing until your whole body is filled with light. Then imagine it expanding beyond your body – filling the room and  the space around you. Then imagine it extending down your street and saturating your neighborhood with light. Keep going – expand your light to fill your city and state. Saturate your entire country with light. Expand your light into the oceans and overseas. Soon Earth is filled with your light. Keep going. Extend it into space as far as you can go. Beyond our galaxy and out in to the universe. (The Ray and Charles Eames film Powers of Ten really helps with this visualization).

Once your way out into the universe imagine a light even brighter than yours flooding the world. Join your light with it. Bask in it.

5. STATE YOUR INTENTION
Now is a good time to bring your intention to the front of your mind. And don’t just think it with words – actually picture what it looks like (this is how I came to picture my idea of alignment being on a tightrope). This is a time to commune with your highest self (or God, if you swing that way – whatever floats your boat here) – so make sure your thoughts are positive and worthy of the conversation. This is not a time to be negative or talk trash. Then let it go. Send your intention out into the cosmos and focus on keeping your mind clear and open.

6. TUNE IN
Once I’ve let my intention out in to the universe I like to chill. Sometimes I will notice subtle vibrations in my fingertips, in my lungs and throughout my body. I like to imagine I’m getting a vibrational tune up from the universe. Again, it’s a little groovy but it works for me.

7. THEN COME BACK
Once you feel complete with your meditation wade your way back through your light – through the galaxy and back to Earth. Find your continent, region and state. Make your way back through your city and neighborhood – into your home – into your room. Once you are fully re-centered in your body take a couple of deep breaths and open your eyes. Remain seated for a couple minutes and soak up the bliss. Try and carry this feeling with you throughout the day.

8. OR GO DEEPER
I wasn’t taught to do it this way but some of my very best meditations have happened when once I’m re-centered in my body, I then go inward. I imagine saturating my organs, veins and cells with that light I’ve put out into the world. So feel free to experiment with your meditation. Do what feels right for you.

It is really important to be consistent with your meditations. And even though I love meditating I have a hard time doing it daily. Sometimes I come up against some resistance and internal dialogue that says “Psah. You don’t need to mediate today. You did that yesterday!” Some days my meditation is for shit – my mind is scattered and I can’t focus. I get distracted and start making to do lists or writing blog posts in my mind. But other days I have such great meditations I feel the need to move to the mountains to become a monk who does nothing but sit in lotus all day long. Either way, I always go into each meditation with the expectation that it’s going to be the best.

Some days when I’m really not feeling it I’ll do a guided meditation to help keep me on track. I’m always looking for new ones – so if you have any recommendations leave them in the comments. And feel free to let me know if you have any tips or techniques for meditation. I’d love to hear.

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