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Making Room for Meditation

Posted by on Apr 16, 2012

Meditation Path in Kyoto, Japan

I’ve been guilty. I know you have too. With the best intentions I’ll write in my iCalendar, MEDITATE! Perhaps you’ve sent yourself a text or put it in your iPhone. You’ve discussed it with your friends. You tell yourself you don’t have the time to meditate, but the truth is, you can’t afford not to. The Buddha himself once said that meditation brings wisdom and the lack of meditation brings ignorance. I don’t know about you, but I find plenty of occasions in life to feel like a complete ignoramus, even when I’m practicing self compassion. We are living in an information age, and while there is ever more we can learn intellectually, there are vast Universes of simple wisdom we miss when approaching life from a purely egoistic, materialistic or intellectual viewpoint.

Meditating Under a Pipal Tree in Nepal

Perhaps you envision the necessity of a Kyoto Zen meditation path, like my friend Scott Prengle found on a recent trip to Japan, or a quiet cave in Dharamsala.  Is  sitting under a Pipal tree in Nepal the perfect scene which would help accustom your mind to stillness? Some days, we would be happy to just manage an extra five minutes of sleep after we’ve hit the snooze button a few too many times, or a moment of clear-sighted energy that isn’t a frantic or OCD-laden burst of movement like a spazzy cat gone wild on too much Alice in Wonderland juice. This is often referred to as the disciplining and then the pacifying of the mind. Once we sit, there will always be something to think about. The trick is to let that be o.k.  – even the spastic, knee-jerk-like thoughts that arise, including the compulsion to rise from the meditation cushion, even if its a dusty corner in your one bedroom apartment in a city of millions to check your email one more time.  The mind will never become still if we never practice, so like any great accomplishment – learning to play the piano or tie our shoes – we have to keep at it. It means making it a priority when life will always give us an excuse not to do it.

Alan Watts in His Library

The great American writer Alan Watts once said that meditation doesn’t have a purpose or an objective. How counterintuitive is that to our modern western conditioning? How many times have we heard the mantra, that we must have some purpose, some goal, some final object? One of the ironies of a pure and quiet mind is the realization that we feel the most connected to life, and the most happy when we are completely submerged in a moment, with no goal, no desire, just a complete surrender to the stream of Infinite consiousness that runs through us. Great artists completed their finest works bathing in the light of that stream. Inventors and scientists like Einstein and Elizabeth Blackburn (Nobel Prize winner who found that meditation helps your chromosomes be happy, thus lowering your biological age) realized some of their greatest insights in a meditative state. There is no goal here, and thus the irony: our greatest achievements may lie in wait – in anticipation of our allowing instead of striving.

In the early stages meditation is another chore, another thing to write in your calendar, another item to add to the to-do list, but as we build merit (another word to describe the benefits that come with the practice of sitting in meditation) it becomes easier and easier to touch this quiet space of wisdom. People as diverse as Bruce Lee to Swami Sivananda practiced meditation. William Cowper once alluded to the fact that meditation may teach us in minutes what would take hours to learn in books. James Allen tells us that once we sit to meditate we will no longer strive to build ourselves up, but only seek the Truth. These and a myriad other wise souls received their own insights from a consistent practice in meditation.

Here are Five Ways to Make Sure You Make Room for Meditation:

  1. Start small. If you really think you can’t afford to meditate (don’t have the time, energy, mental strength, etc., etc.) Start with a deep desire to meditate and think about that desire to sit calm and still for just five minutes a day. This desire to meditate will help bring about your willingness to actually do it.
  2. Try a guided meditation if you don’t feel confident enough to just sit and concentrate on your breath or still your thoughts for more than a few moments. This is a good one to begin with.
  3. Get rid of your pre-conceived motions about what meditation should be. Just sit there and do nothing. Allow whatever thoughts arise to come up and then imagine them floating away like clouds in the sky. There is no right or wrong. Just observe.
  4. Use idle time (sitting in a doctor’s office, waiting for a bus, sitting in your car waiting to pick up children, etc.) to meditate. Close you eyes and gently focus on your breath. Even if this is just a three minute practice, it is like building muscle. The more you do it the stronger and more focused your attention will become.
  5. If you obsess about how long you have been meditating and think about that instead of your breath, observing your thoughts, or watching your meditative object, then set an egg timer or stop watch so that you can focus without letting this worry strain your mind further.

Making room for meditation is essential. There are worlds of wisdom waiting for us. Just take the first step – and then do it again and again.

(c) 2012 Christina Sarich offered under creative common license. Reprint only with reference to site, author and all links in tact.

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