Mindfulness in the busy world of externality often eludes us. We forget about the quiet, inner side of life. This quiet place is not easily found for many even when we try, as our minds are full, wandering uncontrollably from one subject to the next. This is called mind chatter as we mostly think in the language of words that represent the outer world we contact each day. When the mind is on automatic, jumping from one topic to the next, it is like a cup overflowing, spilling out of control. This allows no room for the silence, awareness, or the presence of sacred moments.
Releasing the incessant chatter provides relief from the burden of worry, fear, judgments, gossip and limiting concerns. This place of silence is where the true self resides. It is where we merge with a higher consciousness beyond what thoughts and words can express.
To visit this unlimited and sacred space within your self some effort must be made to calm and quiet the flood of words that rush through our mind. Meditation comes from the latin word Ď meditari í which means frequent. Each time one meditates, the easier it becomes to quiet the mind, thus regular, frequent meditation is an important part of the process of letting go. Detaching ourselves from thoughts takes time because like a habit we get absorbed into our thoughts unconsciously, suddenly realizing we have wandered off once again with our thoughts leading the way.
The goal of meditation is to have no goal, no expectations, no preconceived notions it is to simply be, to be aware of the moment. When we allow ourselves to observe the moment, unique changes in our consciousness may occur spontaneously, but to seek after this as a goal will only lead to chatter and frustration. Thus, a balance of release and detachment is required to fully allow the mind to get to the state of silence. The changes in consciousness are usually not perceptible during meditation, it is how our daily lives change as a result of meditation that these changes are noticed. Meditation teaches us to enjoy the journey and to not live for the goal. When meditating, just be in the moment, simply live in the now, with awareness.
When beginning the journey of meditation one may feel that meditation is actually making the mind wander and chatter more than it does regularly. However, it really isnít, you are actually becoming aware of how much our mind actually races rather than being consumed with it. You are observing it with awareness. In these early stages of meditative practice you may notice you can not help from following these thoughts with much frustration. This shows us how little control we have over our mind including our thoughts and emotions when we are living without self discipline. When thoughts are out of control it may also be a reflection of how our lives may be out of control.
When the thoughts wander it is best to simply watch them as clouds passing by, without getting attached to them. When we attach ourselves to these thoughts of the external world we are breaking ourselves off from the infinite space of inner peace. The best way to come back to the silence is through the breath. The breath represents our connection to our bodies, the outer world and the life force that runs through us. Our breath is both under unconscious and conscious control just as our thoughts are. By working with the breath we realize our ability to be conscious of our interaction with the external world rather than being directed mindlessly. Focusing the mind on the inspiration and expiration of each breath offers a connection to the moment and release thoughts of the future and the past.
Only a few minutes on a regular basis, as little as five minutes each day, will provide the benefits of experiencing inner calm and centering the self. Momentarily turning off the rush of the external concerns and connecting with the deeper side to ones self provides a sacred space within our lives that is infinite. Keeping ourselves open to the experience of the journey, whether it is five minutes, half an hour, or more, on a regular basis changes us on a deeper level that can not be explained within the limits of vocabulary
Meditation has benefits that change us within and we can see the effects in our lives through our daily interactions. Meditation may make you calmer, more peaceful, more optimistic, more grounded, more relaxed, more patient and more self disciplined. Other known benefits have been an increased attention span, improved focus, and improved self esteem and self image. Mindfulness is a key benefit to meditative work, and this mindfulness will reach into many aspects of our lives.
Finding a space to meditate should be where you will not be disturbed. Turn off all external disturbances you are able to such as the television, telephone ringer and radio. As meditation can be done anywhere there is no preparations that are absolutely necessary, however, some people choose to make their area comfortable or spiritual in nature. Others make meditation as part of a larger ritual such as a cleansing bath, smudging or after practicing yoga.
Beginners should make their practice as simple as possible to begin and work it into their routine without making it difficult. The key is to be comfortable and practice frequently enough that it becomes a natural habit. Sitting is one of the most common ways of meditating, propped up on a pillow with legs crossed and feet touching the floor, is an easy, comfortable pose. Keeping the back straight is recommended as part of your focus and discipline during meditation, to assist keeping the mind from becoming lazy and wandering. The hands may be placed on your lap or extended out to the knees depending on your preference. This is generally a comfortable pose that keeps the self centered. (We will get further into meditation pose postures in future submissions on meditation.)
Once comfortably seated, sitting with a straight back, begin focusing on the breath entering and exiting the body. Feel your chest and abdomen rise and fall in a natural, rhythmic motion. Rather than trying to control your breath just go with your bodyís natural flow. This will allow you to connect to the moment.
For just five minutes (or longer if you are able to) keep your mind focused on your breathing, when your mind wanders, bring it back to the centered self through the focus on the breath, without judging your thoughts or your wandering mind. Again, letting go of words may be difficult, but simply returning your focus to the breath will help keep you in the moment. Gradually your distracting thoughts will slip away. Over time, you may be able to go beyond this state of awareness to a state of complete focus and attention on the silent, peaceful place.
By doing this frequently, every day, you may begin to notice it becoming an essential part of feeling connected and grounded. When you connect with this deeper, inner self you will eventually awaken to seeing the external world in a different light and your connection to others will be brighter because you are becoming lighter within.
Many people are so dependant on external stimuli that even a few minutes may seem like an eternity for people who rarely, if ever, spend time with themselves in silence. But what could be more important than taking time for your self? Letting go of stress and connecting with your true self, the inner witness, is necessary for a more peaceful inner and outer world.
The Lotus position of crossed legs, arms extended, palms facing up place on the knees, with index fingers and thumb touching, is the most commonly used position for beginners. For this position it is best to use a cushion such as a folded blanket or comfortable pillow. This will allow the buttocks to be raised slightly allowing the legs to lie more comfortably on the ground. The cushioning usually allows for better circulation of the legs as well so your meditation wonít be disturbed.
A beginner may also wish to be seated in a sturdy chair that is upright. Lying down or reclining in a chair is not recommended as sedation will easily set in. This will cause the mind to wander, daydream or fall asleep. The key is to be comfortable so the mind can stay focused and relaxed instead of thinking about discomfort and changing positions.
Botanicals offer assistance when focusing on your breath during meditation. Incense, resins, herbs and botanical oils are useful in changing the energy of your inner and outer environment for a more intentional practice and sacred space. As you inhale the scent of nature and the unique properties of plants from the earth, you are making the conscious connection between a harmonious external world and a balanced inner world. Focus on the Breaths balance and the mind will follow.