THE ART OF MEDITATION
You have within you a depth of peace that transcends the ups and downs of the material world. You carry that stillness with you wherever you go, and you can never lose it. But, your mind, busy and analytical as it is, can cover up your innate calm.
Picture an ocean. Your mind’s thoughts are the waves: predictably chaotic, rising and falling in a repeating pattern of highs and lows. When you’re caught in them, you get pushed and pulled.
And yet, if you dive just below the surface, you find an infinite depth of stillness. The waves are still crashing - your thoughts are still running - but they no longer affect you. You can watch them from below; from a place of peace.
Meditation helps you settle into that stillness. It’s the practice of returning to your natural state - one of unshakeable inner calm, regardless of what’s going on around you.
THE TUMULTUOUS MIND
Meditation is beautifully simple. It has one step: watching your mind.
Your mind is a tool and nothing more. It thrives on things to do, problems to fix, puzzles to solve.
When there are no problems in your immediate life, your mind will sift through the past and relive old situations, or project possible situations in the future. As long as there are problems for it to work on, your mind is content.
Here’s the thing: your mind itself is generating those problems. It creates a cycle of anxiety and stress by staying busy. Meditation offers a way out of it.
SHARPEN YOUR SENSES
We explore two ways to build inner stillness. The first involves presence - paying careful attention to what is going on in the world around you, right now. When you are present, you give your full focus to what is going on in this moment, so there’s no room for your mind to creep in with doubts, anxieties, or thoughts of the past or future.
Try this: choose two daily rituals - making your bed, brewing your morning coffee, brushing your teeth, driving to work, cooking dinner. When you do them, focus on them with all your attention. If you’re making coffee, for example, become aware of every detail involved in the process: the hum of the beans grinding, the rich aroma of the fresh grounds, the way the steam rises off the boiling water, the weight of the mug in your hands, the taste of the first sip.
You’ll notice it’s actually quite beautiful. Take a couple habits you would normally do without thinking and immerse yourself in them. You’ll find your mind quiets, allowing you to tap into the extraordinary richness of sensory experience that’s always available to you.
This is one way to meditate.
SINK BELOW YOUR THOUGHTS
Close your eyes right now and try to stop thinking.
You’ll find you don’t make much progress. Your mind will continue to generate thoughts, and then it will generate frustration that you can’t stop those thoughts.
Peace comes when you realize that you are not your mind. You are you; your thoughts are external to you, and you don’t have to listen to them.
Try closing your eyes again. This time, allow your thoughts to flow freely. Don’t try to control them, but don’t latch onto any of them, either. Simply become aware of them and watch them go by. You’ll get caught up in thinking at first. Each time you do, simply notice that you’ve been sucked into your mind again. Don’t judge yourself. Just relax, take a deep breath, and return to watching. There’s no hurry or goal here.
As your mind feels its grip on you slipping, it will bring up stronger things try to pull you back: embarrassing memories, intense emotions, shameful or painful experiences, ‘80s pop song lyrics, boredom, lust. Recognize that they are not you, and watch them pass by. And again, if you find you get caught up in a thought or emotion, simply notice that you’ve been pulled back into your mind, without judging yourself. Return to watching.
This is meditation. Your thoughts are actors on a stage. Sit back in the quiet of the audience, and watch them play out, from a place of peace.
Take ten minutes every morning to meditate. Do it consistently. Before long, you’ll realize that you can leave your thoughts and external situations behind you, slipping into a depth of unshakeable inner calm.