Hello again folks,
Meditation as a practice confuses most people. It is almost as if you have to be initiated into it. The mystery is compounded by the fact that there are many ways of meditating and every teacher has his or her favourite ways. Some have candles or flowers or an object to concentrate on, some have eyes closed, and some say you can meditate in any position sitting or standing, even while sitting in a car waiting to pick your children up. All this adds confusion to what you are supposed to do. Remember most people get their knowledge from yoga teachers and in a class of one and half hours there is hardly time to do whole teaching session on meditation if you are going to go through the yoga routines as well.
I am not pretending I know the ultimate and only way. I will go through how I do it and it is up to you guys to take what knowledge you can out of it. Although I have been lately practicing meditation for only about a year, my first lessons were learnt early in life at the feet of a guru by the banks of a river in far off Ceylon. It is beautiful story and I will tell you it in due course.
Firstly you have to have a room or space to retreat into where you know you are not going to be disturbed. I switch off phones and any other noises in the house. The room has to be comfortable and warm.
Secondly I have on the floor of my room a throw on top of the carpet. On top of the throw I have a 1cm thick foam yoga mat. On top of the mat I have cushion. You will see all this in the photos. Some people can sit cross-legged without a cushion but I need one and if you are uncomfortable at all I urge you to do the same. The aim is to be relaxed and meditate not to endure pain. I also have bolsters and blankets I can use to prop up my knees or thighs to get into a comfortable position if need be.
Thirdly we come to the posture. This varies according to people’s abilities. I get the heel of one foot into the pit of my crotch and keep the other foot in front. I am not an expert at the lotus pose you can see.The aim is to sit as straight as you can to achieve natural S curve to the spine. Imagine your head is being pulled up by its top knot. (Just assume you have one) Concentrate on keeping your shoulders down at all times. They tend to ride up from time to time but bring them down again and keep them relaxed. You can see how my fingers are positioned. This is supposed to be the best way to hold your fingers for the flow of energy. The position of my arms is I find the best way to keep them supported and relaxed. Throughout the meditation don’t be afraid to subtly change position and adjust yourself if necessary. Any hurt anywhere will be a detraction. Throughout the session be aware of the position of you spine and head and correct as necessary. You are of course sitting on you sitting bones. I bring myself forward on my cushion so I am rooted well on my sitting bones.
Fourthly we come to the real mystery of it all. How do you do it? Well I start by being conscious of my breath. I relax and let my breath go in and out of its own pace and try to follow the rhythm. You always follow the breath and not try to adjust the breath to your needs. If you are a little out of breath let yourself calm down and relax. When you have got a natural rhythmic breathing start following it as it goes up and down. The best illustration of this is a youtube video where I saw a blue light go up down from the base of the spine to the throat. The light went down as the subject breathed in and it went up as the subject breathed out. But this sequence does not matter. What matters is you are aware the breath goes right into your body and goes right out of your body again. The breath should go in and out as easily as if your lungs are a set of bellows working alone without any effort on your part (which they are).
Many people are confused as to how to breath. When they breath in they suck in their stomachs and push their chest out. This is how I was taught at drill class way back when I was about 10 years old. “Breath in”, the teacher would cry “stomach in, chest out”! Well this is the wrong way. The stomach has to naturally blow out as the breath goes in. Be aware of your diaphragm extending downwards as the air goes in. So from a sitting position you naturally allow the stomach to come out and be aware of the diaphragm lowering itself towards the floor. All this is done without forcing in any way. This is the natural order in which the body works. Just let the body do its job.
While the body does all this work what does the mind do? I have my eyes closed and concentrate on the breath going up and down and imagine that blue light. But this is not the only way. I do it this way because this is the best way I find to distracting thoughts out of my head. It is easy to keep other thoughts out if you already have something to concentrate on. I do no chant or hum as I find this distracting. But hey, choose what is best for you. My house is very silent and I enjoy the silence.
At first I was advised to attempt to meditate for 5 minutes every day just to get into the habit of it. I did this for about two weeks every day till I got comfortable doing it. The act did not seem a chore once I disciplined myself to go every day into the room and sit for 5 minutes. I extended the time spent meditating to about 10 minutes and then again after got used to that, to about 15 minutes. My aim still is to stay put for 20 minutes. But I must confess I do this only rarely. The moment you get restless and fidgety, there is no point carrying on. I must warn you the first 5 minutes of every time you do meditation is a trial. You will have thoughts and you will scratch your nose and things. Ride it through. The distractions will gradually disappear if you continue to ignore them.
Now what to do about the thoughts that come to your head? I accept them. Fighting them would take too much energy and take you away from the purpose of meditation. I indulge the thoughts for a little bit and place them on what I call my shelves. I imagine I have some shelves beside me on the wall. I gently place them on the shelves and turn away to my breathing. I concentrate on the up and down of my breathing. If further thoughts interfere I do the same. I try not to wrestle with them. That means they have taken over my mind.
Always attempt to attain a state of serenity and peace in your mind. Keep unpleasant thoughts out. You have plenty of time for these or to sort some problem out in your non-meditationary moments. In the picture I may not be appearing to be smiling but believe you me inside I am smiling. Those of you who have more expressive faces than mine will be able to sport a Buddha like smile. It relaxes the face and gives a wholesomeness to the process. I have included a third photo for those of you who cannot sit still for the cold in winter. I have a very large poncho I drape over myself. It keeps my whole body including my fingers and toes warm.
Meditation seems such a complicated subject that I shall come to it again as I think up more ideas.
But let me tell you the story of how I started meditating when I was young.
I was in my late teens when I and my girlfriend met a guru who invited us to his cottage by the river. He was a yogi who taught foreigners the principles of yoga. He did not accept any payment, only a donation if we wanted. He lived, as I said, by the banks of the river and grew his own vegetables. These he cooked and served us with a bit of rice. We had to get up at 4 in the morning and follow him to the river for our ablutions. Then started a series of chanting and exercises. Before breakfast we would go back to the river. It was only a shallow flowing stream, almost ankle deep. In the river were a series of flat round stones, around 2 to 3 feet in diameter. On one of these stones the guru sat and we would all sit facing him. There were rock musicians from California, drop outs from Sweden, beats from New York. It was a mixed crowd. The stream flowed merrily by as we sat and listened to our teacher. We finished off with a 20 minute session of meditation. The dream did not last long. After four days we had to leave to make room for others. But that experience has made a big impression on me.
Sorry folks, the photos will come later. They refused to mount!