I recently heard the results of a five-year-long study on the benefits of meditation: hot off the press is the news that yes, meditation definitely benefits your mind and health!
Of course, this is not news; it is something all meditators and some of the greatest minds in history have known forever. The study was likely undertaken by the usual skeptics who require quantifiable, scientific evidence of benefits before you would even consider it.
Meditation was a part of the journey I began on when I became aware that something was missing. Despite having many wonderful things in my life, I was discontented and restless. I began to be interested in things other than what I had been shown by life. Investigating meditation was part of the journey I was drawn to.
Any of this sound familiar to you?
I found that there were many different forms of meditation out there - so many in fact that it was confusing. Which one should I use, are they all the same, are some better then others? These were some of the questions my much younger self faced.
All things must start from a point of beginning so I chose the one that was right in front of me: transcendental meditation.
Popular in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, transcendental meditation involved using a mantra; this is the use of a word with spiritual meaning, like the name of a god or spiritual deity. The word is repeated over and over. The purpose of this, and indeed the purpose of all forms of meditation, is to focus the mind on something. If this can be done, then the meditator will enter an altered state - this is the state of meditation.
From this introduction, I went on to investigate and practice many forms of meditation. Some I found wonderful, others useless, but it is only through trying that you will find what works for you. Just because some famous teacher uses a particular method doesn’t mean it is for you.
However, unbeknownst to this early me I had been given the key that first day I went to a meditation group. The crucial part of meditation was focus. If you can achieve this, then you will find yourself meditating.
What follows is a short summary of some of the things that I found useful in the process of finding my way into the art of meditation.
To meditate you will need to use your senses. Just as you use your eyes to see, your ears to hear and your sense of feeling through touch in the 3-dimensional world, you can also use these same senses (albeit on a deeper level) to navigate your way through the inner worlds of meditation.
1. Walk in nature and practise focusing: look and see everything that is around you; listen and hear everything; feel everything around you. This is how you use your senses to connect with nature. If you truly focus on what you can see, hear and feel, this is meditation.
2. Now do the same thing with your eyes closed. Look, listen and feel. Of course you are no longer looking into nature, you are looking into the inner worlds; you look into the darkness with your eyes closed; listen beyond the physical sounds and feel the energies around and within you. In time you will come to understand that you really can see with your eyes closed.
When you look, listen and feel with focus you will enter the silence that is meditation.
This is my simplified attempt to describe that which defies description; it is only through practice and more practice that you will understand what meditation really is.