By Jillian Maas Backman
Life coaching and counselors alike emphasized the importance of devoting a portion of your day to quiet time. These insightful reflective moments are a way to release stress and help maintain a stable mental equilibrium. The practice of meditation is a perfect way to start.
Meditation dates back thousands of years and has ties to eastern philosophical thought. Spiritual processes that transcend cultural diversity and encourage all human beings to explore focused detachment and obtain lasting inner peace.
I am thrilled this ancient art has hit a mainstream cord with thousands of individuals who are seeking out how-to classes and attending group mediations with sincere passion. However, with every new trend comes a significant nuance that skews original translations and water-down the overall effects. This does not necessary qualify this trend as bad. It does however; create deviations from its original teachings, meant to create a calm inward environment for the mind, body and spirit to flourish.
There are some who cast a discouraging net over this holistic practice with an over active imagination and implied implications who suggest that one can escape into a world of trances without personal consent and render a person incoherent and powerless over his or her own human choices. Suggesting that delving into an esoteric altered state of consciousness where one looses all control is somewhat nonsensical. To assume a person can become that incoherent from sitting in quiet reflection is rather naive. Do not get me wrong here. There are times when you can experience a sense of boundlessness and escape to a world of quiet nothingness. However, I can honestly report from years of meditating I have never experienced anything the naysayers have to offer as a reasonable reason to refrain from this powerful exercise. In fact, I attribute much of my soul expansion to this daily practice.
I have been meditating on a daily basis for many years. Way before it was the “in- thing” to do. I consider meditation as one of my spiritual tools for sustaining my own wellness. As my life filled with beautiful gifts of family and career, I found myself being irritated by circumstances. Letting go of the little stuff was difficult and I waited until they were blown way out of proportion and became big stuff. It was becoming more difficult to separate my issues from everyone else’s and found myself heading down a road littered with human negativity and disappointment. This set me on a search for something that would create wholeness again.
We are bombarded with constant stimuli from the moment we wake to the moment we retire for the evening. It is virtually impossible to accidently create downtime with this action packed reality. Like exercise, one has to commit and schedule contemplative sessions every day.
Meditation can assist those who live in or with stressful situations and partners. It is a gentle way of tutoring yourself to detach mentally and emotionally from the worries around you. Like unraveling a tightly wound ball of twine one session at a time, it can help separate out issues you could not sense before and provide linear clarity to what is truly in front of you. It may not provide the exact answers one is searching to find. It can help isolate truths you need to examine by eliminating “background noise” from others, de-clutter the mind and regain control for the future. A clear head will prevail affording you the ability to connect with your own inner knowing and sense the right answers for yourself.
The Art of Meditation
When we think of meditating, the first mental picture that comes to mind is a thin structured person, legs crossed in front of them in the lotus position with palms together over the heart area. This image is synonymimous with what people perceive as the proper way of achieving Zen. Although this exercise is suitable for some, it is not necessarily suitable for everyone. There are dozens of ways people can achieve the same quiet results.
Are you an extrovert or an introvert?
Not all meditative practices are done in the same manner. The ultimate goal is to be able to sit in comfortable position for extended periods relaxing and letting go of all the cares in the world. This is proven the most effective way the body, mind and soul can reach a state of complete energetic calm and tranquility. However, if you are an extrovert and attempt to begin your practice with this form of meditation in particular you may be setting yourself up for possible failure.
Extroverts, those of you that have to be in constant motion will be fighting a mind-chatter battle if you start with the common sitting position mentioned above. These kind of people love to exercise and be active most of the day. Calming down and sleeping at night can sometimes be a challenge. The traditional sitting position will leave you unfulfilled and you will probably give- up from boredom.
It would be to your best interest if you started with a “walking meditation” instead. When I say walking, I mean walking, not running. Walking infers a slow and methodical rhythm. This kind of rhythm will take you into a more serene tempo and begin to bring the energy level in your mind and body to a more subdued state.
Your next step is to eliminate the internal mind- chatter with the use of predetermined power words. Begin this process by asking yourself this internal question every time you prepare to walk. What power words or statements best describe the state for which I aspire to achieve? Spiritual clarity, calm, or patience. It may or may not change with each walk. I will share an example of my own power statement I have been using for several years now. “I am safe and at peace with who and what I am. I relinquish my ego to the highest truth.”
Once you have your power statement focused in your mind, it is time to start walking. Time your words with your steps. By doing this action in cadence, the mind noise will naturally fade away and emptiness will set it. You will be amazed how simple this happens without struggles. Walk as far as you need until you feel an inner sense of balance making its way back into your mind, body, and soul.
The more you repeat this exercise, the quicker you will hop into the meditative zone without effort. It will be entirely up to you if you want to move into the next stage of training yourself to sit or stay with walking. Either way you will succeed on finding that quiet universe within.
Introverts, those of you who prefer a less vigorous way of life and relish in a more cerebral existence. This kind of person can go to sleep easy and have some command over turning off the inner mind- chatter at will. Lucky!
You would be an awesome candidate for a more traditional way of meditating as I described above. Sit quietly undisturbed in an environment conducive for releasing stress after a busy day. Expect the mind chatter to peak when you first begin. This is your first clue that you are doing something correct! It is simple brain activity reacting to internal cues signaling it is time for conscious rest. Like any little child when you put them down to sleep, their first reaction is to resist. Let this spike run its natural course. If you attempt to fight against the word-filled stream of consciousness, it will only intensify. It will settle down after a few moments. Most people give up right at this point with frustration. Believe me, once you get through this common stage the world inside will open up in ways you cannot predict. The struggle is worth the pay-offs. There are years of experiential baggage built up and ready to be released. Relax and take it in stages.
Position yourself in a place where you can feel both emotional and physically safe. Close your eyes slowly. Make this action very deliberate to signal to yourself “I am going to mediate now.” Place your hands at your side or in a prayer position. After you master this casual method of meditating, you can search out more formal training on the proper way of practice. Leave those techniques for later when you become proficient and ready to step up your level of meditation. For now, do what feels right in the moment.
Again, have a power word, phrase or even sound prepared. Internally say the word to yourself with each inhale of your breath and exhale the energy that comes up from inside. Repeat this process until you feel yourself letting go of stress from the inside out. This will send out signals to the body’s internal mechanism to settle down. Sit as long as you can stand it. The first couple of attempts may be nothing more than mind purging. This is still incredible progress. If you are willing to stick with either meditative method over time you will reach spiritual bliss.
Lastly, the breath. This probably is the most crucial part of meditation, but not necessarily, in the way you think. The breath does bring down all body systems simultaneously. For most beginners, anxiety sets in the minute they sit down to do this exercise. The anticipation of doing it right overtakes their need for relaxation. Expect your heart to race with the excitement of your anticipated meditative experience. Deep breathing will force you through this initial reaction and into the meditative zone. It is exciting once you figure out how to get into that zone with a few simple breaths.
Try the breathing technique I have taught many. When you take a breath inward, the inhale, aim the breath towards the back of your head. Like a diagonal line beginning at the roof of your mouth and extending to the crown of your skull upward. On the exhale, imagine the breath releasing from the highest point on your head into the body downward covering the entire body with oxygen. Some of you may experience light-headedness. That is ok! I Repeat and let the energy move in and out with each breath. Eventually, nothingness will replace your conscious attempts at breathing. The more you can teach yourself this breathing technique the quicker you will enter into the quiet zone. Stay as long as you want. Your mind and body will signal you when it is time to come back into the real world. P.S. No need to hurry back.
There will always be a fine line between living in the world and living of the world. Living in the world is a life too consumed with minute dramas and no daily meditation. Thus, risking the chance of missing opportunities for growth. Living of the world is a life with meditation and being somewhat detached from the dramas around us. Granting one the possibility to see all options clearly from a neutral point of view.
Meditate with no expectations; it is the only way to see clearly the chosen way.
In loving gratitude,
Jillian Maas Backman, Author, Beyond The Pews, Breaking With Traditions and Letting Go Religious Lockdown. www.jillianmaasbackman.com