Before I start I must make it clear that this is my own personal view of meditation and as such I know many will disagree with my views and approach. As with all things in life I ask you to exercise your own judgement if what I say makes sense to you give it a go, if not find your own way…
It is my belief that for many, meditation is very misunderstood. It is seen as some mystical answer to life’s problems. Many see meditation as a process to gain something, but I would suggest that if you approach it from this mindset you are going to be very disappointed.
I would also ask you to put aside any images you may have in your head of what people look like whilst meditating. These stereotypical images of monks on mountain tops are all well and good but they have very little relevance to the life we are living at this moment in time.
Let us start by focusing on our thoughts in everyday situations. I would suggest that during the course of the day most of us are quite literally out of our heads – let me clarify what I mean – let’s just say we are not in our right mind. First, I believe that most people are using their minds in a very self destructive manner. Secondly, most of us are literally living in the left side of our brain. The left side of our brain is obsessed with logic and analytical thinking. It only wants to name stuff, categorize things and make everything fit. It is a problem solver. And there lies the problem. In the West, we worship the left brain and believe it has all the answers, but of course it doesn’t. We almost think the more we think the better life will be. This is madness and has been likened to ‘Rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic…’
Everyday we are simply dealing with millions of factors that are out of our control.
We deal with other people who don’t think like us: parents, kids, friends, neighbours, and pets. We wonder why they can’t just do what we want, when we want them to. What is the matter with them? Of course they are thinking exactly the same thing about us. Then there is the weather, the government, the car in front, the stock market and even Time. We have no control over any of this. We can’t even truly control our health or our bodily functions from an intellectual stand point. Would you know how to keep your heart beating or you liver working? To know even this is beyond us …
No wonder we are stressed. We are operating from the side of the brain which wants to sort everything out. Yet in truth we can’t really sort anything out, so we are in constant state of anxiety and fear.
If you really became aware of your thoughts on the way to work it may sound something like this:
Great it’s raining, well that gone and ruined everything.
I wonder if that lump on my back is skin cancer. Great I am going to die and I haven’t done anything yet.
What did Sue mean by that?
Why is that bus driver looking at me?
Yes I know! I know! mum but…
Now did I pay that bill?
Can I pay that bill?
Why didn’t I get a bill yet?
I wish Dave would make a decision,
What is that pain in my head probably a tumor?
That curry was disgusting last night…
I really fancy some chocolate…
Come on my god can’t he see the light has turned green….Yes moron it’s turned green… Don’t apologize; just get moving …
What a stupid looking dog? Why would you get a dog like that? Etc. etc. etc
So your biggest problem in life is life, from the left brains point of view that is, it just won’t all fit.
You may have thought that this was a beginner’s guide to meditation and being present not a time and motion study of the human brain. It is important to take time out to highlight what is going on in your head. Most of us are just absorbed with chatter and drama, and we don’t even know it’s going on.
In a popular spiritual book ~ The Course in Miracles, one of the most common quotes used is ‘Seek not to change the World, but choose to change your mind about the World’ What does this have to do with becoming present? I believe it has everything to do with it. Meditation is all about silencing as much mind chatter as possible but most of all it is about focusing our mind, body and soul in the Now. To do that you have to convince the mind its ok to change the way it thinks
Ok, this is all well and good but how does it work, I hear you ask, that all depends on you. If we can agree that all this mind chatter and worrying about the past and the future is not conducive to calm, enjoyable life and that all this noise really helps no one we have taken our first step forward.
Enjoying the Silence
Many people are afraid of silence. Are you a noise junky? Do you wake to a radio and fall asleep to the TV? Do walk around with an ipod blasting your brain or are you one of those with a phone permanently clamped to your head? Do you start up the TV, computer or radio as soon as you walk through the door? Do you ever even hear the car engine, or is it obscured by news, music, phones, sat navs? …..If all or some of this is you then you have your first obstacle to overcome.
Your first step to becoming more present and more at peace is to start removing the sound pollution from your life for as long as you can …Drive to work without the radio on. Eat breakfast in silence. Take a walk around the block with just yourself or a pet (no electronics). You may be surprised how you feel…
Your egoic mind may try to convince you that you’ll be missing out on something but are you? Unless you can enjoy the silence how can you even hope to be able to meditate? Yes you will always have back ground noise: dogs barking, radiators clicking, sounds from next door – but that doesn’t matter you just do what you can to introduce as much peace into your life as possible for as long as you can. If you only can manage a few minutes at first that is a step in the right direction. Don‘t set yourself up to fail. This is not some test you have to pass; this is just you trying to return to your natural state.
Once you have reduced the external noise you can move on to your mind. This will not be easy at first, because the more you think about not thinking the more you will think. So let us setup a limitation on thinking – try as best as you can to only think on what you are doing.
If you’re looking out the window only think on that view. If you’re washing the dishes only focus on that. Whatever it is your doing for as long as you are doing it, only focus on that and before long you will have radically reduced the chatter. Of course every now and then something other than what you are doing will shoot into your head, but don’t panic just focus back on what you are doing…
This is may seem silly but it is extremely powerful because you are becoming one with the Now. You are aligning yourself with nature and a Universe that only ever knows the Now. You are focusing on this very second, the moment the whole of creation has been working towards and the only moment you truly have any control over.
If you can reduce your noise and focus your mind on the moment, you will have taken a step into a place few people can embrace because they feel it to be boring, dull or lacking in some way. The more peaceful and present you become the more you will be able to see and hear. You will notice things even in your immediate surroundings you may have never even seen before. What you are doing by become present is building a space in your life and who knows what will now be able to come into your life. You may be present enough to see all the opportunities life presents to you, that before in your insanity, you will have missed.
While I said this was a beginner’s guide to meditation, I must point out that if you lived everyday in the Now and in Peace would you not be as focused as many monks. Yes there are deeper ways to meditate some religions and cultures have strict rules on how to sit, breathe and focus. If you can learn to embrace silence and focus on the Now you may wish to explore these other practices but unless you can do these two vital things you will be setting yourself up to fail at anything more disciplined.
Many people use my artwork for contemplation, which is just another word for exactly what we have been talking about .