Here’s the second part of the Meditation Tips series, it’s the second and third methods of meditating that have helped me with what to think about when I’m not supposed to be thinking of anything…
For many of us, it’s very helpful to “go to a peaceful place” in our mind when we meditate. Guided meditations can be great for this. When we meditate quietly by ourselves, we can call up a thought and feeling of a divine environment, or inspirational spiritual figure. In this form of meditation, it’s important to feel, to expand from our hearts, as well as witnessing the workings in our heads. We might think of a heavenly dimension, a sacred location, a perfect summer day; or of a prophet, saint, or catalyst of personal transformation, like Yeshua (Jesus), Teresa of Avila, Mahatma Gandhi, or the Buddha.
We might focus on our personal concept of God: the Heavenly Father, the Feminine Divine, the Loving and Miraculous Universe. Or we might focus our meditative thoughts and feelings on Love. On the love of our family; on the love of our pet (or of all living things); on the joy of Being that is the love of this life. On gratitude for the gifts we receive each day. The beautiful opportunities we have for sharing our joys and sorrows with one another and the world. The remarkable flow of Love through our lives. Or on how everyone and everything deserves Love.
Our internal dialogue while meditating might go something like this, for example: “Thank you God, Divine Mother, Jesus, Buddha, Krishna (insert your favourite…), angels and ancestors, family and friends, for the Love in my life. Make me a pure channel of Love and Peace. Let Love surround me and flow through me. Let me sit in a place of Love and light. Let me be Love.”
Of course, you can replace God with Love, or Love with God, or mom, or peace… you get the point. The subject of your purest spiritual devotion.
You may pray, or chant to focus the connection of your meditation. Like the sacred word OM, open “ahhh,” then out and rounded “O,” and ending with a deep mmmmmm. The Lord’s Prayer, or the St. Francis Prayer, or a mantra, like Om mani padme hum, Buddha’s Mantra of Love and Great Compassion. We call on the spirits of Light and Love that surround us, or invoke the beautiful power of the Universe that makes the flowers bloom. We single-pointedly focus on that same power that makes us bloom into Love.
With this devotional focus, we forget ourselves and the troubled thoughts manufactured by our unconscious, and connect to our true selves. To the beauty and mystery of Being in unified consciousness. We recognize ourselves as being one with everybody and everything, and transform our daily lives beyond mundane fears and superficial demands. We arrest our thinking at the level of the Ego, and transcend it with expanding heart energy. Like that.
In Hinduism, this corresponds to Bhakti Yoga, The Yoga of Devotion, and can be seen practiced to something of an extreme by Hare Krishnas.
What do you see when you have your eyes closed. It’s not pure blackness, is it? In fact, there’s a kind of field of waving, effervescent light there inside your eyelids. Dim, vibrating, alive. There’s a sort of dance of particles. The lack of light, or the remains of light, creating fields of colour, of energy, that erupt and move across your inner vision. It’s a kind of process, perhaps at an electrochemical level, that you can actually witness with your eyes closed. It’s not just dark.
What makes you breathe and makes your heart beat? It’s involuntary. We could say that it’s the same power that’s behind the heartbeat of the Universe—the pulsing evidence of the very moment of creation. While the best efforts of our intellect to describe it only lead us to Frankenstein, if you just sit quietly and concentrate on your breathing, you’re immediately grounded in the inexplicable mechanical process of Being.
You breathe in, the breath makes its cycle, and you breathe out. A small space, and you breathe in again. This happens whether you focus on it or not, but if you do, you’ll notice that little else enters your internal dialogue, which might go something like this: “I breathe in slowly through my nose, my breath turns the corner, and I breathe out slowly through my mouth. In through my nose, out through my mouth. I breathe in again from my stomach drawing in the sky, and breathe out down through my hips, anchoring to the earth. I breathe in the pain all around me, and breathe out loving-kindness.”
Now try the same kind of focus on your heartbeat, which you really don’t beat—it beats you. Like the taut membrane of a drum. Feel the tension and flow of your circulation out to your hands and feet. Filling your face. Tingling through your body in perfect unison with your breath. Focus your perception inward on these automatic mechanisms of Life that we normally pay so little attention to; that connect us directly with all consciousness in the Universe.
Look behind your closed eyes to that point in the centre between your brows that a swami calls your “third eye,” or Sixth Chakra. Enter into that centre of internal illumination, if you can, with practice, feel the energy course through you following the solid rhythm of your breath, in and out. “Pull” the string at the top of your head to straighten your spine—sometimes your vertebrae will “pop” in succession, releasing more inner flow and awareness.
In this state, externally oriented thinking is suspended as we enter unified consciousness.
Now just sit, and focus, and watch, and be, and as you get used to practicing these three methods, you’ll find that they merge together, as they should. Elements of Analytical Meditation enter your inner dialogue and you can direct these “thought packages” towards objects of your devotion—towards Love, as you sustain the underlying foundational thought: “…breathe in receiving, breathe out giving...” for example. Watch the energy cascade across your inner screen and realize a surrender into the power beyond “normal” consciousness. An energy that enfolds, supports and animates All. Now sit and listen, not to your thoughts, but in between them, because what questions we ask in prayer, are answered in meditation.
I hope that these techniques are helpful—they’re the best I can do to describe what has worked for me. And what is that, what have they done? To paraphrase, when Buddha was asked “What have you gained from all your meditation?”
“Nothing at all.”
“Then what good is it?”
“Let me tell you what I lost through meditation: sickness, anger, depression, insecurity, the burden of old age, the fear of death. That is the good of meditation, which leads to Nirvana.”
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