The Myriad of Possibilities in How
Moods and Meditations: Lesson 3
In this lesson, the how of meditation will be explored. This is where practice becomes important. There are many different techniques described online. And I heartily encourage you explore them. But in the exploration of application, take the time to repeat the process your are experimenting with several times. As you become familiar with one process and how you respond to it, you will learn more about yourself, about meditation, and how to apply meditation to your life. And you may develop a habit that leads to the right technique for your different goals as you meditate.
Getting into Meditation
Build your physical environment by forming the stage. If there are people around, let them know how much alone time you will need. Be sure to include a little extra time in what you tell them. Distract your kids. Silence your electronics. Kennel your pets. Shoo away the mosquitoes. In short, plan ahead to deal with potential distractions.
Next, build your mental environment by clearing the stage. Once you have formed your physical stage, your mental stage will be cluttered. The latest advice from a friend or manager. The news in current events you are following. The news, good or bad, that came in the mail. The latest quip from social media. Initially, as you push one aside, another will move in to take its place. I let these thoughts come in and then mentally set them aside. As the new thoughts become less intrusive, replace them with intentional thoughts based on your meditation. More on this in a moment.
Finally, build your spiritual environment by setting the stage. After forming the stage and clearing the stage, it's time to set the stage. More than anything else, this needs to be a spiritual process, connecting you to the infinite, the universe, your higher power, the moment of eternal consciousness, or however you view your place relative to the cosmos. This is a visualization process.
There are many ways to build the stage through visualization. I add prayer to my visualization. Chanting or humming have been shown to help as well. Because I have a firm belief in my Heavenly Father, I reach out to Him for assistance in my meditation. When it comes to the visualization, there are several techniques I have read about to aid in setting the stage. I visualize a shield, a sphere of spiritual influence that keeps the world out and me in for the time being. I borrow from the scripture concerning the whole armor of God to build this sphere. This visualization process pushes more of the thoughts that were intruding previously out of my mind. I have heard of visualizing each part of your body becoming gradually dedicated to the infinite until only the mind is left. This is a variation of a relaxation technique that works will with meditation. I have read of getting in touch with each chakra in sequence from the root chakra until the crown chakra is reached. Although research on this technique is suggested since it is more often a meditation technique rather than a preparation technique. Applying the chakra sequence may also mean using hand position that open those chakras.
What is being opened is the mind's attachment to the infinite. These events have been recorded scientifically as changes in brain activity that include a decrease in activity of the part of the brain associated with the passage of time. Feelings of peace have been reported from beginning meditators. The list of benefits is long and most have multiple studies behind them. Regardless of the beliefs behind the meditation, the rewards are definitely available to anyone.
Coming out of Meditation
A gradual entry into meditation should be ended with a gradual exit. Mentally walk out the way you came in. Just as you formed, cleared, and set your mental stage for meditation, you can form, clear, and set your mental stage for returning to the next step is your day. This process allows the feelings from meditation to linger a little longer.
What Were You Thinking?
What you think about while you are meditating is something open to quite an extensive array of interpretation. While I am a believer in many of the empty mind techniques, I only use them to clear the stage. This is perhaps one of the many aspects that marks me as a beginner. To empty the mind, there are several techniques that are available as options. One technique suggests watching stray thoughts come in to see where they came from and where they are going. Another techniques suggests concentrating on your breathing. Make conscious mental effort think about your breath by monitoring your lungs, your mouth and nose, and the sequence of events as you breath in, hold, breath out, hold, and repeat the process. There are several other techniques you can locate.
The mental process I have during meditation is to concentrate on one thought for awhile. It might be a passage of scripture or a line from a hymn. It might be to concentrate on a single wording of a problem I am facing. It may be a single mental picture with a few descriptive words of the goal I have by meditation such as peace, compassion, or understanding. Essentially, I am picking a visual and verbal image and concentrating on it. So long as new thoughts are in orbit of the original idea I let my thoughts follow whatever path they choose. If a thought is pushing me out of that orbit then I redirect my thoughts. If a thought is from another dimension, I reset myself mentally back to the original thought that started my meditation. I do not squash any thoughts. I let them flow as freely as possible. There is something about meditation that allows me to maintain a state of mind that is peaceful without mastering all the thoughts that are going to pass through my mind. Sometimes, the conscious effort comes easily and a gentle prod keeps my meditation state working. Sometimes, the conscious effort needs constant monitoring.
While these are powerful conscious efforts, keep in mind that part of meditation is get the subconscious involved. The subconscious thinks through thousands of steps in the time the conscious thinks through one. A heightened awareness of the conscious may be allowing greater connection between the conscious and the subconscious. There are numerous mental exercises you can research that will aid this connection that work well with meditation.
There are some external stimuli that may aid in the mental efforts of meditation. Background noises were mentioned in the prior entry. Some music may aid as well. Music, though, must be used with care. Feel free to play music, especially music that is spiritually significant. In my case, hymns and certain classical pieces are a spiritual and mental boost. I would recommend something like the first movement of the Moonlight Sonata or the Second Movement of Symphony No. 3, both by Beethoven. Do not listen to the whole Sonata or Symphony while meditating. The other movements, while delightful, are not conducive to meditation. One of the best pieces of music to aid studying according to scientific research is Handel's Water Music. I have found it can aid meditation as well. If you are getting out of the meditation and to into the music, pick silence for now. If the music aided for awhile, consider turning it down. Consider making some meditation play lists in the online music source of your choice.
Other mental aids revolve around your other senses. If you enjoy a slight breeze on your face, have a fan blowing on you from a distance. If you find darkness relaxing, meditate in a darkened room. Whatever will keep your focus from drifting is something you add in your meditation routine.
Once you understand the reasons and goals for your opportunity to meditate, you can build the environment and the method for your meditation. You push yourself into the meditation, so keep it short. Once meditation pulls you in, you can begin to extend your meditation. While meditation has been used to solve some of my problems, directly through a workable solution or indirectly through a willingness to pursue options, I don't view meditation as problem solving. I view it as problem sorting. A problem can be sorted and sifted without actually looking for a solution. And that brings a peace of mind that can lead to efforts outside of meditation that leads to a solution. Although, frequently, the only solution I seek is a peace of mind. And even if all I've done is sit and ponder in a comfortable location without necessarily meditating, the mental respite has been worth it.
Next Time: Prayer, Fasting, and Meditation