As humans we talk constantly to ourselves, our minds are humming with thoughts. We plan for the future, daydream, prioritize and often pass silent judgment. Many of us have existential thoughts that are so complex and confrontative, it consumes us completely. The analytical rational mind is always deciphering the world around it.
What about the messages that are not verbal? Our bodies are much more subtle than the bombarding thoughts from the mind. We meditate to listen to the body; it’s pleasure, discomfort, and sometimes sharp pains. To quiet the mind allows one to dive deeper into our human vessels. It is easy to overlook the signals of communication the body provides us since they are not as pronounced as the ever-talking mind.
We often receive strong signals that go straight into the gut (the second brain) when making key decisions. Many times when we get goosebumps it is an affirmation of what we are feeling, whether that be from pleasure or fear. Just like our minds, the body communicates with us. Using the body as a compass is our deepest form of intuition. Meditating helps us listen to the subtle body.
Mediating can be frustrating at first. The looming thoughts, becoming easily distracted and the occasional aching pains from sitting still can be difficult to work through. I have compiled a few notes for those who are beginning the practice of meditation and how to stay in a meditative state throughout your day.
- Observe without attachment: Observe the noise around you, you do not have to pretend it is not there. If you hear music or the shuffling sounds of feet, just listen. Acknowledge the sounds around you and allow your thoughts to simply become the other surrounding sounds. Let these sounds come and go. Once you start judging your thoughts is where the meditative state becomes lost. Do not judge thoughts or negative or positive, just think of them simply as background noise. We are so used to being in a reactive state, tending immediately to our thoughts and emotions. Do not react, there is no need to control your thoughts when you just see them as noise.
- Focus on one part of your body at a time: Place all attention on a part of your body or a specific chakra and move upwards. A light tingling sensation can often occur. I often start at my toes and feel the warmth of each toe pressing against one another. I will then move upward and focus on each of the chakras, or energy centers. Many times this exercise will allow you to see which parts of your body feel stiff or loose. There can sometimes be a dull aching pain, observe the area and move on. You can still be an active participant in your meditation without passing judgment and allowing yourself to be a witness.
- Maintain a comfortable posture: Keep a strong tall back and a relaxed lengthened neck, this yoga posture is called asana. For some people, it can be painful sitting so erect for long periods. Try putting your back against the wall or using blocks to sit on. Roll your shoulders back and let your chest be pulled open by an invisible force. Your breath will act as your guide, be aware of its irregularities.
- Set a calming atmosphere: Start with a guided meditation beforehand if sitting alone with no sounds can be intimidating. You can even listen to a mantra on repeat and focus your attention on the words. If chants do not resonate well, light soft music can cultivate a relaxing atmosphere. This is your practice, different things work for different people. Usually, an uncluttered space is most beneficial to sit in for it brings an uncluttered mind. Think of what brings you to your calm center. Lighting incense, soft candles, and a quiet space usually work well.
- Practice realistic goal setting: This practice is for you, going inward in the way that feels most pleasurable to you. We often get discouraged when setting unrealistic goals. Set realistic meditation goals, start with meditating for fifteen minutes before attempting to do a full hour. Quality matters more than the amount of time. The more you practice the longer and more fruitful your meditation practice will become. It is okay to meditate for only a few minutes if you are completely present in your practice.
The most crucial part of any practice is integration, taking what you have learned and weaving it into the facets of your life. During mediation we are in our least active state, a place of stillness and quietness. Bringing this awareness into your daily activities is possible when remaining mindful. In meditation we un-clutter the mind, and through self discipline this becomes doable in our daily lives.
The less one overthinks, the more the necessary and useful thoughts will arise. In mediation when we begin to think, we turn back to our breath which provides instant relief. This is our prana, or the vital life force, think of this as your center of calm. Outside of your practice if you become anxious or start overthinking, simply return to your breath. Focus on the rising and falling of your chest.
When meditating we do not judge the thoughts that come, we allow them to come and go. This practice of being a witness rather than a critic can be brought into one’s relationships. We accept the other instead of judging them or wanting to change them.
Mediation is the act of turning inward. Rather than accepting the world’s realities, you begin to understand your own. You awaken into your body as opposed to becoming a slave to your mind.We listen quietly in our hridayam (heart center) and become attuned to the complexities of the subtle body.