Silence. Sshhhh…..a quiet mind. It can be so difficult to obtain in today’s world where jobs, errands, demands on our time rarely give us a moment to even enjoy a cup of tea, never mind finding 30 free minutes to do nothing but sit, empty our mind and be silent. Let’s say we do manage to squeeze a 30 minute period out of our day to do with whatever we’d like. The negotiation begins: I should do a workout. I should scrub the shower. The dog needs a walk. Should I start dinner? What about the clothes that need to be folded? Oh, gosh, I’m supposed to call the mechanic.
The promise is, when we meditate, we balance. And when we balance, our time becomes abundant. We have time to do the chores, walk the dog, exercise, work, pick up the kids, run errands and enjoy a cup of tea. That is the promise. That is the truth. Our wellbeing is enhanced. We are not spinning in despair, stressed out, pulled tight. People like us better and we are offered greater support, more help. The kids pitch in without a fight, we notice our spouse is smiling at us more often, rinsing the dishes after dinner. That is the promise and it proves itself out every day for those who practice meditation.
One of the most intimidating factors about meditation is ‘trying’ to be quiet for any length of time. We think we’d do better to be productive with those 30 minutes and besides, there are so many thoughts banging around in our heads we probably can‘t get quiet anyway. What to do about those? And then our leg cramps up and our feet fall asleep when we try to sit in the lotus position.
Meditation is a practice. We are practicing, that’s all. We’re not perfect at it or we wouldn‘t have to practice. We may miss some days of practice and some days we may only meditate for 10 minutes instead of 30. But we come back to it because we have committed to the practice. We are committed to our inner sense of wellbeing and we recognize that as our practice grows, our life becomes easier, kinder, gentler. We are easier, kinder, gentler. Our inner life begins to come into focus and our shoulders and head become softer.
Breathe. If sitting in the lotus position is distracting you, adjust your sitting position to something more comfortable or lie down. If you fall asleep, it just means you needed a nap. Practice meditation while soaking in a tub. Practice while walking the dog. The more you practice, however you practice, the more you will seek it. Eventually you will want to sit up with your legs crossed or dropped over a cushion because you won’t want to fall asleep this time. You’ll want to actually ‘see’ what happens if you stay awake for the whole thing. You will naturally gravitate into the lotus position as your practice grows because it aligns the spine to the passages of the central nervous system that connect the brain with the rest of the body. All parts of the body are controlled through these passages. The upright and undisturbed position of the spine is important in order for the nerve impulses to flow freely during meditation. There are valid reasons for learning to use the classic yogic poses in meditation and these poses will come to you as you advance in your practice. When first starting, however, you will gain great benefit by learning to chant to yourself while walking the dog or doing the dishes, to empty your mind while taking a long bath, to sit or lie in any pose and simply meditate.
Meditation is simple to do. Following is a guide to help you begin your practice.
Begin by quietly reading this passage from the Upanishads:
“Bright but hidden, the Self dwells in the heart.
Everything that moves, breathes, opens, and closes lives in the Self-the source of love.
Realize the Self hidden in the heart and cut asunder the knot of ignorance here and now.”
The Upanishads (Translated by Eknath Easwaran, Nilgiri Press, 1987)
Within yoga, mantras are based upon sounds that reflect the energy of our divine nature. Om is considered to be the universal, consummate mantra. The following meditation is based upon the mantra “so hum,” (“I am that”) used within the traditions of Tantra and Vedanta. Since “so hum” also indicates the sound of the breath, it is a mantra that repeats itself effortlessly.
Find a comfortable posture for meditation (seated on a cushion or blanket, in a chair or against a wall). Place your palms facing up in jnana mudra (forefinger and thumb touching) with your palms facing up to open your awareness or facing down to calm the mind. Scan your body and relax any tension. Let your spine rise from the ground of the pelvis. Draw your chin slightly down and let the back of your neck lengthen. Bring your attention to the rhythm of your breath, feeling the rise and fall of your inhalation and exhalation. As your focus settles on your breath, begin to employ the simple mantra “so hum.” As you inhale, say “so” silently to yourself, and as you exhale say “hum.” Keep your focus on the sensation of your breath while silently repeating the sacred syllables, “so hum.” As you drink your inhalation, gently drawing your breath along the base of your throat, listen for the sound of “so.” As you exhale, listen for the sound of “hum” as your breath is amplified in the throat.
Let your mind become absorbed in the sound of so hum in your internal chanting and your actual breath. Be as if you were watching the waves of the ocean, let your mind be naturally drawn into presence and stillness-no place to go, nothing to do, so hum, so hum. If a thought (vritti) arises, come back to the mantra “so hum.”
In the beginning, it may be helpful to set an external timer for 10, 20, or 30 minutes so you are not distracted. When you are finished, bring your hands together in anjali mudra (prayer position) and close with a moment of gratitude, reflection, or prayer to soak up the energy of your meditation into your being and life.
We wish you peace and quiet from all of The Retreat Company