Meditation is absolutely essential to spiritual development. Before you shrug your shoulders and decide it’s not your thing, let’s talk about what meditation actually means. The very word generally conjures images of yogis dressed in robes, sitting completely still for hours on end, thinking of nothing. Well, that is one kind of meditation, but most of us just can’t stop thinking on command, and that’s totally normal.
There are several ways to meditate, and the goal is only to stop the monkey mind from chattering incessantly in our heads. To-do lists, self-deprecating comments, judgements, drama… all that noise! To go from that to having no thoughts at all is asking a bit much, and really the point isn’t to stop thinking entirely, just stop the babbling. This can be accomplished in several ways, some of which you may already be doing. Try a few of the options, and see what works for you. We are all different.
Breath Work – Breathing meditations are a great place to start. The very basic technique is to breath in deeply to the count of four, then exhale in four counts, concentrating on the breath and the count. Then you can try inhale, hold, exhale, hold, each for four counts. There is no limit to the breathing meditations you can find online. My personal favorite is from Kundalini yoga, called Shabad Kriya. Just look up breath meditation, or take a class on breath work at your local yoga studio. Conscious breathing is a sacred practice by itself, and can lead to a deep meditative state.
Moving Meditation – This is usually done with walking and counting steps or synchronizing with the step and the breath, but it can be any movement. For some, the mind automatically empties when engaged in a physical activity, like swimming, running, or biking. For me, dance (especially ballet) is very meditative. I start to move with the music, and my mind thinks of nothing but the steps… no chattering monkey mind at all, just becoming the movement.
Working Meditation – I call this puttering. Sometime it is easiest to clear the mind by concentrating on tasks. Do some gardening, some light housecleaning. Some people get very frustrated with “chores”, but others can get lost in the moment if their hands are busy. Some days this works well for me, other days not so much. Do you “putter” to calm down? It can be quite meditative.
Guided Meditation – Another of my favorites. Here you take a little mental journey, guided by yourself or someone else. Again, there are many options online. I recommend starting with something about 5-15 minutes long, and working your way up when you feel ready. If it gets too long, you will either want to sleep, or your mind will begin to start chattering again. My favorite is the Unity Breath meditation, that unites heaven and Earth in your heart.
Tips – No matter what type of meditation you do, it takes dedication and practice to improve… set aside time, at least twice a week, to quiet the mind. No matter how long you have practiced meditation, some days will be better than others, and that’s normal. If you are meditating with your eyes closed always be sitting or standing upright (no lying down), because of magnetic alignment. Keep your eyes still even when closed (focused up and in, for example)… as the eyes wonder, so does the mind. If meditating to music, pick something soft without words to allow your consciousness to go beyond the limits of language.
Try a few different ways to meditate to find one that works for you, then dedicate yourself to a practice. In time, the chattering monkey mind learns to relinquish control to your Higher Mind. This is key to awareness and spiritual development.