First Steps in Meditation
Reprinted from Chalice Issue 4 Page 26 with permission.
Dr David Goodman outlines a simple introductory meditative technique for daily use (by kind permission of Brahma Kumaris).
This article introduces the practical aspect of the practice of meditation so that it can be understood by people with no prior experience.
People want a variety of things from meditation. Some come for peace, others for control, some for power and some for silence. but of all the reasons. the ones which are most often expressed are peace or peace of mind. At first, there doesn’t seem to be much difference between these two but on closer inspection, we find that they are asking for different things. Peace is simply an experience. but peace of mind is a way of life.
At some time or another, we have all enjoyed moments of peace however fleeting. To simply experience peace is not actually that difficult. it is something easily attainable through the practice of meditation because this is what meditation is specifically designed to give. But to attain peace of mind implies that I want to constantly experience peace. Whilst I go about my daily chores 1 need to be in control of myself to the extent that hopefully. I can experience what I want. when I want it.
To experience such peace of mind. something more than just a meditation technique is needed. After all. in the middle of a dispute with the bus driver over change for my rather unfortunately large money note. I can’t just sit myself down and spend 5 minutes delving into the deep recesses of the self the regain the temporarily lost inner peace. I need to be able to use the experience of peace gained when sitting in meditation for later on in the day. when the atmosphere may not necessarily be conducive to a peaceful state of mind. If I can’t use my meditation to bring benefit to my life. is it really being of any use to me?
In the following description, the emphasis will be on two main things. Firstly teaching a simple, and effective method of meditation called Raja Yoga. and a discussion and experimentation on ideas of how to deepen experiences gained. Secondly, I will talk about the reasons for stress and tension in life. so that a change can be made to counteract the root causes. using the power gained through meditation.
What is meditation?
Meditation is the process of getting to know myself completely. both who I am ‘inside’ and how I react to what is ‘outside’. But above all meditation is enjoying myself in the literal sense of these words. Through meditation, I discover a very different ‘me’ to perhaps the stressed or troubled person that seems to be my superficial nature. I can discover an Ocean of peace right here on my own doorstep.
There is a lovely Indian story about a queen who had lost her pearl necklace. In great distress. she looked everywhere, only eventually to find it around her own neck. Peace is very much like this. if we look for it ‘outside’. in our physical surroundings, we shall always be disappointed. but if we learn how and where to look for it within ourselves we will find that it has been there all the time.
The word meditation is used to describe a number of different uses of the mind. from contemplation and concentration to devotion. The word itself probably derives from the same root as the Latin word mederi – to heal. Meditation can certainly be looked on as a healing process. both emotionally and mentally and to a certain extent physically too. The simplest definition of meditation is the right use of the mind or positive thinking – not to deny our thoughts but to use them correctly.
Most forms of meditation employ two main practices. concentration exercises. often using an object such as a flower or candle, and the repetition of a mantra. A mantra is a sacred phrase, word or sound which is repeated constantly. either aloud, silently or in thoughts only. It literally means ‘man’ – mind and ‘tra’ – to free. so ‘that which frees the mind’. Raja Yoga meditation does involve concentration. but no physical object is involved. The object of our concentration is our ‘inner’ selves. Instead of repeatin~ one word or phrase. as in a mantra. we allow a now of thoughts. so using the mind in a natural way. This positive flow of thoughts is based on an accurate understanding nf ourselves and so acts as the key to unlock the treasure trove of peaceful. loveful experience lying within.
To practice meditation: Sit in a comfortable position. (it is not necessary to sit on the floor) away from excessive noise or visual distraction. You may play gentle background music if you wish. It is not necessary to close your eyes. actually it is better not to, we want to learn how to hold this awareness of peace in our daily activity. when we need our eyes open. Focus the eyes comfortably. a little distance in front of you but preferably on the floor so that you are not distracted by the things around you. then. follow these simple thoughts. (It is not necessary to remember and repeat them exactly. the important thing is to catch the feeling behind them.)
Let me imagine that nothing exists outside this room… I feel insulated from the outside world and free to explore myself… I turn my attention inwards and gently focus it in the centre of my forehead… I become aware of the stillness around me and within me… A feeling of natural peacefulness begins to steal over me… The waves of that peace gently wash over me removin~ the dust and debris from my mind… I feel easy and contented… I have returned to my natural consciousness of peace… I sit for a while enjoying that feeling of calmness…
Try to practice these thoughts for ten minutes in the morning before you begin your day’s activities and for ten minutes in the evening when your day’s activities are over. Think of that true peaceful identity as you work during the day. As you practice this awareness more and more. peace of mind will become increasingly natural and easy.