Although meditation has been described as a reflective mode of thought, a more accurate definition would be a mode of "no thought," not unlike that of an employee at the Department of Motor Vehicles. The goal of meditation is to journey to a quiet place beyond the thought-filled mind. When we reach this thought-free place, we find peace and happiness, and, invariably, reality television.
Meditation is a change of focus from the outer world to the inner world. It has been used for centuries in many philosophical and religious traditions as a way to pray, commune with nature, contemplate God, and as a path to inner peace, or at least a calming down from that last conversation with your mother-in-law.
Even major corporations have integrated stress reduction programs into their agendas and have found that by introducing meditation-based techniques, production improves, people function more efficiently, and Stanley, from Accounting, swipes 30% fewer office supplies.
One of the many advantages of meditation is that nothing could be simpler. Try it and see for yourself. Sitting comfortably, with your spine straight, close your eyes and breathe deeply and evenly. Picture whatever it is that makes you the happiest. Realize that that particular activity is illegal in many states. But never mind that right now. Just focus all of your attention on it anyway.
If it is being with a particular person, envision yourself sharing a wonderful moment with him or her. Create it fully in your mind and feel it in your heart. How does it feel? What are you wearing? What are you doing, and how many times? Are wrist or ankle restraints involved? Is anyone riding someone around the room? Is there any barking taking place? Did you take any photos, and could you send them to me? But perhaps I digress.
By focusing on what makes you happy, you entered a light level of meditation where you could experience that happiness inside yourself. The power of meditation is its ability to release tremendous joy and happiness from within--without the need to visit an unlicensed massage parlor. Or so I've heard.
In India, they tell a story about the musk deer, which has a beautiful fragrance emanating from its navel. The deer falls in love with this fragrance and, not knowing that the source is its own navel, it runs through the forest in search of the intoxicating scent until it collapses in exhaustion. I forget the story's point, but any time "musk deer" and "navel" appear in the same place, I'm amused.
Let's try another brief meditation. Take a few deep breaths to center yourself and to make absolutely certain that you are still alive. As a thought arises, watch it. Watch as it dissolves. As you watch your thoughts rise and dissolve, realize that they are duplicating the pattern of Kirstie Alley's career.
Each time a thought arises, repeat I AM silently, affirming that you are not your thoughts. You are I AM. Identifying with the words I AM each time a thought arises will put a distance between you and your thoughts--as well as one between you and your spouse, especially if you're meditating before the garbage has been taken out.
A friend recently shared that there are times when she finds herself sitting at home sulking, wallowing in negative thoughts. She noticed that when she got locked into negative thoughts, she experienced a dark, heavy feeling in her stomach, not unlike that created by the ingestion of McDonalds' Quarter-Pounder with cheese.
When she chose the happy thoughts instead, a lightness began to arise in the heart region. She realized that she always has the choice of what thoughts she wants to keep in her mind. She immediately set about banishing the negative thoughts and welcoming the happy thoughts. This worked perfectly, except for Willie Nelson's version of, "Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys," which she couldn't for the life of her seem to shake.
The power of meditation is perhaps best illustrated through the following Zen puzzle: Close your eyes and in your mind picture a duck inside a narrow-necked bottle. Now, without breaking the bottle, get the duck out. (For those of you who saw the last "Swami Muktananda Variety Special" on ABC, please don't give away the answer.)
Okay, time's up. Did you get it, or did I already lose you four paragraphs ago? The answer is: the duck is out. Just like that. You put him inside the bottle in your mind, you can take him out the same way. Just one precaution, based on personal experience: do not rely on this technique to pay your bills.