New students often ask how long they should sit or how often they should practice. I always give the same answer. Sitting for 20 minutes is a wonderful practice for those living in a quiet peaceful world. But if you really want to benefit from meditation, you need to take it off the pillow and bring it into your life.
You see, over the years meditation has taken on a mythical status. Sitting for long periods of time are simply not practical for most people. And the benefits from sitting can often get lost in the hectic 24/7 nature of the world we now live in. Don't get me wrong, meditation is a wonderful practice. But it does have its limits. To enjoy meditation in the modern world, it needs to be refined for the realities of the modern world. So let's start by debunking some of the myths that surround meditation so that in my next post I can talk about bringing meditation into your world, your way.
When meditation is practiced in the traditional manner, as a separate part of your life, what it can do is limited. Its benefits can be fleeting. When practiced as a part of life, the opportunities become lasting and endless. It is why I do not teach meditation, per se, but a meditative approach to living. You see, meditation is not just part of my life, it is my life. It is my work, it is my health. It is the underlying approach I use to deal with the every day issues we all face as well as the life changing decisions that I must reckon with from time to time.
It is why taking a Meditative Approach to Living has helped me overcome brain tumors and to figure out what I truly want for lunch. It has helped me make clearer, better choices. Yet even with all the clarity and balance it provides, it does have limits. It is, in the end, simply meditation.
It is why I wanted to write this. To help you explore meditation or to deepen your practice without the myths and the veils some prefer to hide behind. After all, knowledge is power. So empowered and explore all that living a meditative life can do for you. Just do so with your feet on the ground. After all, that is the best way to create a practice that truly works for your life.
Moments of Enlightenment: Before I tell you what meditation cannot do, let me tell you what it can do. It can open you up to moments of insight and enlightenment that continue to astound even me. There are living insights and ever-expanding levels of consciousness that open up when you meditate that I would have doubted had I not experienced them myself. There are wonders to experience and explore once you have quieted down your 40,000-year-old brain. So use these truths to avoid becoming jaded or misled. Just also know that there are things in the spiritual and scientific worlds that still amaze you as they have me. Stay open to the possibilities. Embrace them when they arrive. Just give them time to unfold. For with practice, even your practice will not be what is seems.
The End of Thoughts: No matter how hard you practice or how long you meditate, the thoughts will always come. They will quiet down and become less frequent, but they will never stop entirely. Thinking is simply what the brain is wired to do. The difference is that with proper training you will learn to recognize them before they distract you. You will learn to manage them, rather than allowing them to manage you; and that makes a profound difference in your life and how you live it.
Peaceful Calm: The traditional approach to meditation is to sit for an hour or so before returning to your life. That may have worked 3,000 years ago, but we live in a far more complicated world today. That is also why that wonderful feeling you get after meditating only lasts for so long. Much like the feeling from yoga, it gets lost in the noise of the 21st century world we all live in. That is also why it is so important to not think of meditation as an act, but as a lifestyle. As something you bring into every moment of your life through mindfulness. Only then does meditation help to create a world and a life of peaceful calm. A world you can find happiness and balance in.
Enlightenment is Here: Yes, enlightenment does exist every moment of every day -- if you know how to stay open to it. It is not reserved for the holy or the special few. It does not come in a thunderclap that transports you to a place of nirvana. It happens every day, every week and throughout your life. You simply need to learn to recognize those moments for what they are. When you do, you will start to live an enlightened life. They will expand your awareness of how life works, they will provide insights into yourself and the world around you. So learn to embrace them, enjoy them, and recognize them for the higher consciousness they will give you for your journey.
The Right Way: Many teachers claim that their's is the right way to meditate. Don't believe them. In meditation there is no right way or wrong way to meditate. There is only your way. What you will learn is that even the most confusing, frustrating, and loud meditation is a good one -- just as long as you learn to recognize the empowerment it provides you. Don't get frustrated if you think you fell short of "what a real meditator should experience." The worst meditation you can experience is still a perfect one if you learn from it.
Teachers & Students: Swami, Rinpoche, Harshada, Teacher; they are just words. There are good teachers and not so good ones. It all depends on what you are seeking. Some call themselves teachers because they want to be looked up to. Others because it is an honest description for what they do. The Buddha said we are all teachers and we are all students. So stop revering someone simply because they gave themselves a title or have been at it for longer than you have. Use your own sensibilities to make sure your mediation practice fits into your life your way. ask question why some keep their eyes open and others do not. Find out what works for you, because that is the most important part of building a meditation practice that works for you -- making sure it works FOR YOU.
Throughout your journey you will find moments of joy and pain, birth and renewal. You will witness wonderful things. Just remember that good or bad, they are all moments of empowerment if you learn to look deeply enough. The practice of meditation is strong enough to fit into your life you way. So don't be afraid to adjust it and tweak it to make it yours.
So don't feel as if you have to revere it so much. Pick it up and try it out. Take what you need and create a practice that works for you. It is YOU who are the true wonder. So treat yourself that way. As something far more wonderful than any way of thought.
Modern Meditation is a way to apply traditional meditation practices to overcome contemporary issues.