A few years ago I thought meditation was something for quacks and weirdos. Now I know that’s not true. In fact, meditation is a rather normal thing that we do naturally from time to time. Here, I’d like to share with you some of my recent progress with meditation. Today I know that meditation is a key tool for pointing my life in the right direction and I’m sharing this in case my experiences can be helpful to you.
I can remember when Rani first suggested that I should meditate. I wasn’t very open to the idea as I’d been conditioned to think that meditation was for quacks. She told me she had a meditation track that took thirty minutes and I should relax and go through it (you can find this meditation track at the bottom of the post – Patanjali’s Eightfold Path). Eventually, after a bit more prompting from Rani, I tried this meditation and I found almost immediate benefit. I wanted to find out more.
Meditation isn’t so weird
Actually, meditation is really just the process of quietening down our lives, removing external distractions and the incessant chatter of our minds and spending time, in peace, with ourselves. It can really be done anywhere, on the bus, in the car, while walking and it’s closely related to mindfulness (see The Miracle of Mindfulness) but, of course, it’s easier to achieve in a quiet place.
Meditation is just being. Strip away everything else and you’re meditating. Just being. Being who you really are. Being what you’re meant to be. Allowing inspiration into your life.
I really like what Caroline McHugh said in her talk – The Art of Being Yourself ;
When you think about your identity, when you think about what it means to be alive, when you think about why you deserve to exist – you’re not your thoughts because you think them, and you can’t be your feelings because otherwise who’s the you that feels them? You’re not what you have, you’re not what you do, you’re not even who you love or who loves you. There has to be something underneath all that.
So, for me, meditation is the process of stripping away all of things that we attach to our true selves, all the things that have been added during our lives so far, and getting in touch (at least for a while) with the “something underneath all that”. Using the imagery of the “The Story of the Golden Buddha” , meditation is peeling back the clay and letting in the fact that there’s gold underneath.
To make progress with meditation, you really don’t have to do anything. Just quieten down everything. Quieten down the mind (which can be hard) and remove external distractions. Then there’s nothing to do. Just be. Enjoy the time beneath everything else. This is the space where true inspiration can spontaneously occur.
Loving-Kindness Meditation – Metta Bhavana
Quite some time ago, way back in February, Tom recommended to me that I should look into”Metta Bhavana” meditation as he’d been using it to help relieve stress at work along with “Mindfulness of Breathing Meditation”. I’m really very grateful that Tom took the time to push me in this direction. I had no idea what “Metta Bhavana” meditation was and I had to start investigating. I also have to thank Rani for reminding me again about this type of meditation in her comment to the post The Road to Loving Ourselves back in August.
Metta Bhavana meditation is also known as “Loving-Kindness Meditation” and here are three useful reference webpages;
- loving-kindness meditation from “the buddhist centre” gives a simple introduction to the practice
- Loving-Kindness Meditation from “Mindfulness Meditation” gives some more extended views, and,
- The Practice of Metta Bhavana by Francis Story is a nice essay on the topic
I find some of the quotes from Francis story to be very inspiring;
“…in metta bhavana a point can be reached at which it becomes impossible even to harbor a thought of ill-will”
“…no one who hates or despises himself consciously or unconsciously can feel true loving-kindness for others”
“…if one’s attitude towards oneself is not a wholesome one, the spring of love is poisoned at its source. This does not mean that we should build up an idealized picture of ourselves as an object of admiration, but that, while being fully aware of our faults and deficiencies, we should not condemn but resolve to improve ourselves and cherish confidence in our ability to do so.”
“Metta, karuna, mudita, upekkha: loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and detachment, these four states of mind represent the highest levels of mundane consciousness. One who has attained to them and dwells in them is impervious to the ills of life. … he moves and acts in undisturbed serenity, armored against the blows of fate and the uncertainty of worldly conditions. And the first of them to be cultivated is metta, because it is through boundless love that the mind gains its first taste of liberation.”
How I’ve been practicing Loving-Kindness Meditation
Trying to keep the whole process simple, here’s how I’ve been trying to practice Loving-Kindness Meditation.
- Lie or sit quietly
- I find sitting is best for awareness. I’m trying to get myself into the lotus position and I’m getting closer, but my stiff knees will take a bit more time. Anyway, with the aid of a pillow, I’ve learnt to get into a comfortable position approaching the lotus position and it really is stable and comfortable. It does seem to be an excellent position for sustained concentration.
- Concentrate on sending loving-kindness to myself
- I think of a warm beam of light coming down upon me. I accept it openly. I think along the lines of “let me be happy and healthy and live a life of abundance”. I allow the positive energy in and feel the warmth of goodness deep inside.
- Send loving-kindness to my close family and friends
- Now I try and move the same sentiment to the people that are dear to me. I imagine them with the same warm beam of light shining down on them. I wish that they are happy and healthy and living a life filled with abundance.”
- Send loving-kindness to some people I feel neutral about
- Here it gets slightly harder. I think of someone that I neither like or dislike and try and repeat the process. The same beam of light and the same wishes for health, happiness and abundance.
- Send loving-kindness to people I regard as enemies
- Now it get’s really hard as I choose someone I actually dislike. The same beam of light and the same wishes for health, happiness and abundance. This is where I can feel my own capacity to love expanding. This is a really significant step.
- Send loving-kindness to the wider community and even the whole world
- Having got through step 5, it’s now possible to widen the perimeter of loving-kindness influence, to people in the wider community we don’t even know. To particular locations, cities or even the whole world. Imagine the same warm beam of loving light coming down on these places and wish everyone there lives of happiness, health and abundance.
When I get through this successfully, I feel that something has shifted inside me and in a positive way. It’s easy to argue that there can be nothing behind such a process, at least from the scientific point of view it seems silly, but there’s no denying the positive influence I feel it has on me. And, there can be nothing bad about trying to generate positive energy and sending it to everyone in the world.
More progress with meditation – full circle
Coming back full circle here, I have deep gratitude for Rani and Tom who pushed me in the direction of making more progress with meditation. As I said earlier, I was conditioned to disregard meditation and I needed a push to get me moving in that direction.
I am far, far from being an expert meditator and I have a lot more to learn and a lot of difficulties to overcome, but I feel like I know where I’m going. I’m going in a direction of an improving life.
In the spirit of this blog, I know that more progress with meditation is one of the steps along the path of Life in the Right Direction.
If you have any experiences that could help inspire me or others to continue making progress with meditation, please consider sharing them in the comments below.