Thoughts by Richard Bleil
A friend of mine posted a question about how to meditate on her social media page. Full disclosure: I am not an expert. You can take this in at least a couple of ways, the first being to question by what right I am blogging on a topic of which I am not an expert. The reality is that I have no intention of telling you, my readers, the “right” way to meditate. Rather, I will discuss how I did it, and the results. Maybe it’s right, maybe it’s wrong, but it worked for me. The other way to take it is one of hope, where if somebody with no training or knowledge in the topic, like, me, can have success in his efforts, then maybe it’s worth trying. I believe it is.
I guess I first learned about meditation in the Beatle’s little-known song called “Tomorrow Never Knows”, where they sing, “Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream. It is not dying. It is not dying. Lay down all thought surrender to the void. It is shining. It is shining.” This is what I tried to do.
There are marvelous stories of mediation masters that meditate for hours, days or even years at a time. Don’t try this, and don’t make it a contest. There is no goal, save to relax and clear your mind, and calm your soul. When I first started, I only meditated for maybe thirty seconds at a time. As I practiced, this period grew, but I didn’t make it a goal. I never thought, “I want to get up to seven years” or whatever period of time you like. I just found that, naturally, the meditation time expanded.
First, there’s a little bit of preparation I like to do. My home infotainment system has an “app” for meditation music. This is simple, rhythmic music designed to be calming. Keep the volume down; it’s meant to help clear the mind, not invade it. Think of restaurant music. Some restaurants keep the music so low that all it does is fill in the blank spaces of the conversation, as it should. Others have the volume so loud that it drowns out conversation. You want very low, barely audible, just soothing.
Second, get into a comfortable sitting position. Some will say that you must be in the perfect Lotus position, with your legs crossed one over the other and so forth, but the fact is, when I tried this, it was just distracting. I focused too much on how I was sitting, and frankly, it hurt my knees, which is definitely distracting. You do, however, want to align your chakras, or energy centers. These flow down your body from your “third eye”, to your heart, to just below your belly button. Find a comfortable way to sit, but at the same time, keep your spine straight so the chakras align.
I find it helpful to take several cleansing breathes, in through the nose, out through the mouth. In these breathes, prepare your mind. Clear your thoughts and relax. Settle into your sitting position and find a comfortable position for your hands. As you finish your breathing, clear your mind.
Meditation, then, is just sitting, quietly, free of your thoughts. Let go of your worries, they don’t exist as you meditate. Let go of your fears, you’re perfectly safe as you meditate. Let go of your to do lists, there is nothing you can do as you meditate. Free them. Picture them flying away. As you meditate, just let them go.
The challenge, and the reward, comes in having no thoughts. This takes practice. As thoughts creep in, just let them flow through and right back out. Listen to the silence of your soul. It’s an exercise in having no thoughts at all, and it’s so calming but, even if you have a thought “this is so calming”, just let it go. Let it disappear. If there is a distraction, let it flow out of your mind. Learn to let go. No thoughts, just calm.
I’ve reached it, which is kind of amazing considering how full of anxiety and active my mind is. What’s fascinating is that, when I meditate, this calming feeling lasts. I sleep longer and better, with fewer nightmares, and I feel better the next day. It’s astounding to me how such a short period of time with a calm mind extends into the next day. For the doubters, I respect your skepticism, but I also encourage you to give it a try, a legitimate try, before making your final decision.