Your life lit us up and your death too. This morning I asked my husband what he would do if he thought he only had 5 years left to live. He said ‘Stay in bed. It would seem longer that way.’ Ha. Each to their own. Your life is yours to spend as you wish. So how are you going to live your life this year, five years left or not? Maybe that staying in bed idea is not so daft after all. At least you need time for reflection, time for your mind to rest, if you are to make your outer life reflect your inner potential. You need to dig in and see what that potential is at your core. My daily medicine is meditation – what my husband once called my ‘medication’. Here’s why.
Meditation has been described as ‘weight training for the mind’ and I suppose that’s a pretty accurate description. But in case that makes it sound as though it’s a chore to you, pause a moment and think about who you are.
You are part animal. You have senses that are tuned to your survival. All your external senses : smell, taste, sight, touch and hearing are there to help you survive in the world: to protect your body, to keep you fed, and to stop you from walking into danger. They are pretty useful and generally they do the job effectively. But this is not all you are. You have thoughts, feelings, memories, beliefs, imagination, ideas, desires.. None of these senses can be located anywhere exclusively in the body, in the way that our external senses depend on the function of specific organs. For a long time scientists have behaved as though our inner senses are restricted to our human brain, but our language shows that this is not what we experience. When you feel fear or dread your ‘heart sinks’. When you are angry you ‘stomach twists.’ When you feel love your ‘heart melts’. The elements of our body know and reflect our inner feelings and faithfully speak this language if we listen to it.
So which of these senses do you feel defines your life and your sense of who you are, the outer or the inner? Do you feel more a reflection of what you eat or a reflection of what you feel or desire? Without question, I think , the answer is that your life reflects your inner senses, and yet how much time do you give to examining this inner world?
What you live in the external world is a reflection of your inner energy. You need to know what your memories are. They have shaped your feelings. You need to know what your feelings are. They have shaped your beliefs. You need to know what your beliefs are. They have shaped the world you experience. You need to know what your desires are. They are shaping the world you are creating. This is what the daily practice of meditation is all about – deliberate communication with your inner world, the activities of your mind, so you can see how things are, and if you don’t like what you find, you can make a decision to change it, and this change will inevitably bring a change in your experience of life.
When a general fights a war, or a builder builds a house, or an artist paints a picture, he or she needs to know before beginning what the lie of the land is and how the materials at hand will behave, otherwise the physical result will not match the initial aim. You are creating your life with your own inner energy. You do to others as much as they do to you. How can you live the life you want if you don’t understand the materials you possess? How can you reach that understanding? You can give yourself time, on a daily basis, to look, explore and understand the activities of your mind. That is what people call meditation.
So how do you do it? There are many guides to meditation, none of which really capture the experience, because the experience is unique for each one of us. You are not trying to reach an externally measurable goal, as ‘weight training’ suggests. You are trying to reach yourself, the mind that you possess, and that is a lot more interesting, and a lot more complicated than you might have thought. I would recommend something simple for anyone who is new to meditation.
First, find a place to do it. Make yourself a space in your home that is your own, somewhere you can be private and relaxed. That may be just a corner of your bedroom. That will be fine so long as you can relax there. Don’t meditate in bed. Meditation is not sleeping! You need to be able to watch where your mind is going and you can’t do that if you’re asleep.
Second, make a daily appointment for yourself: 15 minutes in the morning, when you get up, or after you get home from work, or last thing at night before you go to bed. Whatever time you choose commit to giving yourself that time, even if you have to get up a little earlier than usual, and tell other people in your household that you would like to take this time for yourself every day. Commit yourself to a period of time to try this too, even if you find it very hard going at first. That is part of the process too. So decide before you begin that you will do this for at least three or four weeks, come what may.
Third, start with something simple. At the appointed time each day, sit down, get comfortable and warm, so you’re not distracted by your body, keep your back upright, propped against a chair or a wall if you need to, close your eyes and breathe out. Keep your eyes and mouth closed and focus your attention on the way you breathe in and out. Is there any restriction? Is it easier to breathe out than in. What are you breathing in? What are you letting go when you breathe out? How long can you do this for without thinking about something else? What do you find yourself thinking about? Try to make your breathing rhythmic and even and keep bringing your focus back to the way you are breathing. Notice what comes up while you refocus your mind on the breathing process. What feelings emerge? Where in your body do you feel them? Can you let them go, just by imagining that the feeling is something tangible like a balloon that you can cut loose from your body that has been holding it? Let go of everything that comes up, and note how you feel when you do.
For most people this simple activity is a lot harder than it sounds. At first you can keep a watch or a timer next to you so you can keep yourself to the time you have promised yourself. Soon, I predict you will begin to enjoy the space and the activity you find within yourself and you will easily fill the time you have allocated yourself and more. Breathing, simply in this way, is the way I began to meditate on a daily basis and this simple activity led me eventually to a world of understanding that brought me healing and transformed my life. My husband described my daily meditation as my ‘medication’ ( I was suffering from a brain tumour at the time ) and so it proved to be. The tumour eventually disappeared and I never needed pills or surgery!
Soon you will get to know the furniture of your mind better and detect progress in clearing unwanted thoughts or feelings. You may want to find more and sharper ways of cutting through old baggage, and you can find these in my book ‘Change Your Mind Heal Your Body’ pub. Watkins, or on my website: www.annaparkinson.com/heal/meditations I wish you joy and leave you with one of my favourite quotes:
‘Keen intelligence is two–edged. It may be used constructively or destructively, like a knife, either to cut the boil of ignorance or to decapitate oneself.’ Sri Yukteswar, yogi teacher of Paramahansa Yogananda