Namaste' readers! I am most happy to be here, sharing my experience and words with you all.
I wanted to begin by giving a description of what the word meditation means to me. That way we won't have to debate over this definition and we all will know I am writing from a space that is personal.
I was asked the other day to do just that; define what meditation meant to me. As I prepared to launch into a lengthy word play, the questioner saw by the shape of my mouth and my deep intake of breath that he was in for more than he asked for. Before one syllable came out of my mouth he tacked on, “in one sentence.”
Oof. So, this is what I said, “It is a way to tune out the external so that I can tune into the internal, and all that entails.”
All that entails is where I SO could have gotten wordy! However, I did not. I choose to save the wordy for here.
I will use a quote from Shambhavananda ((Spontaneous Recognition, Swami Shambhavananda) to establish a ground definition: “Meditation is a conscious process. You are accessing a deeper level of consciousness, which is the source of your energy. The Inner Self isn't the property of any religion. No one owns it. Everyone calls it by a different name. The experience of the Inner Self is pure consciousness and is beyond religion. Try to have your own experience of it.”
To continue with that idea, meditation is not an exclusive practice and there are many different approaches to meditation. Whatever your approach to it is, the benefits are numerous. It can increase a sense of wellbeing, lower the heart rate, lower blood pressure, ease symptoms of stress and depression, increase feelings of compassion, increase harmony between the left and right hemispheres of the brain, and give you an awareness of your connectedness to the world around you.
You can practice meditation while mindfully walking along a path or in a labyrinth. There is tantric meditation where you look at an object, usually a mandala or image of a spiritual teacher. You can use a mala (108 beads) to count breath, mantra, or just keep you from sleep. On an interesting side note, Albert Einstein would sit in his chair with a golf ball in each hand when he was looking for an answer or an idea. As the gamma waves in the brain relax solutions are easier to find. He used the golf balls so that if his relaxed state led him towards sleep instead of inner awareness his fingers would relax, the golf ball would drop and wake him. You can use mantra (repetitive sound to protect the mind from wandering thoughts) incense, candles, even soft music. You can practice alone or with a friend or group. You can practice at any time of day. However you choose, it is important to create a space that is free of distraction, and to find a seat that encourages a long spine and relaxed muscles.
My personal meditation practice starts with a physical yoga flow. Repetitive movement to loosen the body, preparing it to sit comfortably and begin the process of quieting the thoughts. Then I create my seat. I use a cushion or a blanket to elevate my hips slightly above my feet so I don't start meditating on the fact that my foot fell asleep! I light an incense and a candle then read a short passage from whatever spiritual reading has caught my eye. Then I breathe. And breathe. And breathe some more. With the inhale I encourage length, growth, space. The exhales are about surrender, letting go of tension. If my mind is still chattering away at this point I will then use a mantra and/or a mala. I soften my jaw, and with my eyes closed, gaze upward. I begin withdrawing my external senses to tune into my internal senses. It is not so much about not thinking as it is to not be distracted by your thoughts. Putting them behind you, making them unimportant background noise, not judging or condemning them, but not giving them priority either.
If I just made meditation sound easy, I apologize. Through this blog I hope to share some techniques, but also to make meditation real. It isn't easy. It is a discipline. It's a discipline that is worth all the struggle. To make time for you in your day, to make discovering yourself valid and important, to work at unveiling your beautiful radiant light creates a world that we are all happier to live in.
Tamara Millken began practicing yoga in 2003, and teaching in 2007. She trained and is 500 hour certified through the Shambhava School of Yoga. She currently teaches Yoga for Healing, Tibetan Heart Yoga, and meditation at the Mellow Monkey Yoga Studio and the Millwood Community Center.