I will be the first to admit that meditation can be a frustrating subject. I personally had a very difficult time learning to like meditation. If I hadn’t been forced to develop my meditation skills (in my Spiritual Counseling training) it never would have happened. Beginning the process was incredibly frustrating because the different meditation practices we were assigned were either completely confusing or emotionally provocative, forcing me to tap into stuff that I didn’t really want to deal with. I spent months feeling like I had no idea what I was doing and that I was never going to figure out the whole “meditation” thing. But thankfully I was forced to stick with it I eventually began to notice that I had developed a capacity to sink into a place of centeredness when I wanted to reflect on something or settle myself, and that I had started to understand my own inner workings in a way that allowed me to begin to help myself when I was in pain, and relax when I was happy. I began to be able to check in with myself and figure out what was bothering me at any given moment, and I learned how to plug into a part of myself that didn’t take things personally and had a sense of trust and confidence in the way the world was working (my “higher self”). So it took some time (about two years) and a lot of practice before I began to feel more comfortable in my meditation practice, but I actually did get there.
So what have I learned about meditation since I began the whole process?
I’ve learned that there are a million different ways to meditate. Each culture and Faith has developed different meditation practices so don’t get too hung up on just one. Different philosophies will have different strengths. Find a practice that makes sense to you and helps you accomplish your goals.
I’ve learned that meditation is a highly individual activity. It takes time to find the right meditation “recipe” for you. If you’re highly visual then guided visualization might be the way to go. If you’re kinesthetic then you might get more out of a movement meditation. Just don’t get stuck thinking that there’s one right way to do it and that you’re a failure at it. Give yourself permission to explore.
I’ve learned that meditation is about cultivating our consciousness. In any given day we spend a great deal of our time on autopilot. Meditation challenges us to actively reflect on our world, taking in things that we wouldn’t otherwise experience or appreciate. Meditation also challenges us to see the world as it really is, rather than how we think it should be. And by doing that we are enabled to see and appreciate ourselves as we are, rather than how we think we should be. This is incredibly liberating and lays the foundation for real and lasting happiness.
Meditation gives us the opportunity to explore our deepest inner self – our spiritual self. This is the person that we are when there is no one else in the room, when there are no distractions, and when we have no goal to accomplish. This is who we are when we cannot be defined by anyone else or by any accomplishment. This can be a very frightening thing for some of us because we take comfort in those external criteria. Yet ultimately our reality comes from within us, not from outside us, and we are best served by cultivating an experience of peace and contentment that is not dependent on any other living or non-living thing in this world. This, I believe, is the spiritual definition of freedom.
There are so many different aspects of meditation to touch on that I hope to continue this discussion in the future. But for the time being I challenge you to take another look at meditation if it isn’t already a regular part of your life, and even if it is, maybe try something new this week. See what guided meditations you can find on YouTube or look for a piece of music that settles you more deeply into yourself. Take a half an hour and browse through the meditation section at your local New Age bookstore or simply try sitting in silence for five minutes and see what happens. Let it be a fun exploration and maybe you’ll learn something new about yourself in the process.
Here are some of my favorite meditation teachers:
And here is an example of a movement meditation