April 24, 2007
The YouTube video of Father Bede Griffiths speaking of his surrender in the process of almost dying created a profound state of meditation for me. There’s really nothing I can say but watch it!
Note: Father Bede Griffiths, Swami Dayananda, was a Benedictine monk who became a sannyasi in India. You can read his inspiring biography here.
April 20, 2007
I used to feel that relaxation was a somewhat insignificant by-product of meditation. Although I desperately needed to learn to relax when I started meditation, I needed to see myself as a seeker of enlightenment rather than the stressed out person that I was. For years I thought of meditation in very “lofty” terms. It wasn’t until I was recording our Pure Relaxation CD that it began to dawn on me that to be able to be totally relaxed is the ultimate sign of spiritual maturity.
Being able to relax is a reflection of everything that we seek spiritually. Think about what you are seeking on your spiritual path. How would relaxation fit into that picture? When I reflect on what I’ve longing for over the years, they are all the same as the ability to be totally relaxed. I’ve wanted to feel a sense of trust. How can you relax without trust? I’ve wanted to feel peace. If you are at peace, you are relaxed. I wanted spontaneity and freedom — can these occur without relaxation?
Relaxation happens when there is an absence of tension and holding. It happens in surrender. It happens when we let go. The sense that we have to defend ourselves or be guarded in any way is gone. When we are really relaxed, we are open and intimate with everything. There is no more self and other, there is only one.
Can you remember a time when you were totally relaxed? Would you see that as a spiritual experience?
April 11, 2007
My guided meditations arise out of my own meditation practice and exploration. When I sit to record a CD or podcast, I close my eyes and enter a meditative state and see what comes. Currently I’m working on a CD of meditations using the breath. In the process of doing this, some entirely new meditations have come up. As I explore my own inner landscape, new ways of meditating are called forth. I try to assign names to the meditations that capture something of the essence of them.
Inevitably, if I Google a meditation name I’ve come up with, I discover meditations online from various traditions that use similar names and work in similar ways. Often the meditations are based on ancient traditions. It is fascinating to see how in the freshness of my own consciousness the same meditations are born again which arose in minds in the past and became part of long-standing traditions.
This has made me appreciate the saying that “there is nothing new under the sun”. We may learn meditation from a tradition or we may discover it within ourselves. The fundamentals of human consciousness and experience don’t really change. Things such as clothing, language, technology, and lifestyle may change, but the inner reality doesn’t change. Human consciousness, which is where we live our lives, doesn’t change. Past and future meet there as the present moment, and the present moment is all there is.
March 26, 2007
I have meditated for most of my life, I’ve taught meditation, I lead guided meditations and yet I can no longer say what meditation is. Once upon a time I thought I knew a lot about it. I thought I knew the best way to meditate and what the most “worthy” goals for meditating were. I had lots of opinions about meditation, and those opinions were extremely important to me. And now I find myself happily free of all these notions. Meditation means so many different things to different people, and from my point of view, all those meanings are equally valid.
Sometimes people see me as an expert in meditation, and yet here I am unable to answer the simple question “what is meditation?”. My understanding of meditation constantly evolves. The idea of myself, or anyone else, being an expert in meditation is quite funny to me. Although it might serve my interests to pose as an expert (after I do make guided meditation CDs for sale), the idea seems absurd.
Each of us have such a unique journey on our spiritual path, and I can hardly pretend to be an expert on anyone else’s. Perhaps I seem like an expert to someone who is really happy with the experience they have with my guided meditations. It seems as if it is something about me or my words that brought about their good experience, but in actuality it is simply the unfolding of their own journey that coincided in this most delightful way with the unfolding of mine.
The real expert on your spiritual path is you. You are the one having your experiences, and even if a teacher in some way seems to help you along, it is you who find truth or meaning in the teacher’s words or actions. You are an expert on what meditation is for you. The teacher is your mirror.
Of course, we feel gratitude those who help us along the way. That we are ultimately our own authority does not diminish that. I feel tremendous gratitude for all of those teachers who have inspired me on my path. I also feel gratitude to those who thank me for what I have given them. Nothing is more fulfilling than feeling that we have helped another. We are walking this path together and our learning is mutual, and yet in this mysterious play of life we play the roles of teacher and student and the reward is love and gratitude.
What is meditation for you?
March 18, 2007
My most recent podcast episode is a guided meditation for “emotional ease”. Those words may conjure up a vision of euphoria or floating in a comfortable cloud, but that’s not what it means. Although you’ll hopefully feel more relaxed and at ease after the meditation, it will be a result of being able to actually stay present to your emotions rather than resisting them or becoming mentally involved with them. Emotional ease is about being present to what is happening without struggling with it, and that includes feeling all emotions including those you may not want to feel, such as sadness, grief and anger.
Ease in living is not about life being easy. Life isn’t easy! It’s about the ability to flow with what happens, the “good” and “bad” events and the “pleasant” and “unpleasant” reactions to those events. While some guided meditations give us some respite from life’s storms and a chance to relax by encouraging visualizations of beautiful, relaxing places, my approach is to encourage surrender to whatever is happening right here, right now. While it can be helpful at times to escape, peace in life ultimately comes from being able to remain right in the heart of the storm (whether it is a storm of events or an emotional storm). I hope this latest meditation will help some of you with that!
February 28, 2007
I was listening to a CD of Adyashanti and he talked about meditation as our “natural state”. He defined it as a state in which we are not involved in manipulating our experience in any way. I love that description. My sense is that suffering and lack of ease with living comes from resistance to what is happening, whether it is resistance to events or to our own internal process. That resistance leads to constant attempts to try to change what’s happening — trying to change the way are or the way we feel or even what is taking place. In meditation, we run away from some experiences and try to create or hold onto other experiences. It is such a relief when we can let that all go and be in the “natural state”!
From another angle, though, absolutely everything is our natural state. Whatever happens is happening naturally, spontaneously, even the resistance to what is happening. We really can’t be out of our natural state. That’s the trouble with trying to talk about what meditation is! There may be a word or phrase that for a moment captures something and causes an inner “aha”, but it slips away when we start to pursue it with our minds.
When I lead a guided meditation, I don’t really have an idea in mind about what meditation is or what people should or shouldn’t experience. I do encourage freedom and much of what I say has to do with letting go of resistance to the natural flow of experience. But the experience that someone has when listening to my meditations has nothing to do with me and everything to do with them. If someone becomes very relaxed with my meditations or goes very deep, it is because that was ready to happen for them.
For me it’s all a mystery. How did it come about that I lead guided meditations and now have CDs and podcasts and people listen and meditate with me? It’s all about the Life that holds us all in its embrace and brings us together in the most interesting of ways! When I lead a guided meditation, it is as much for me as for those who listen. Even though I “teach” meditation, I’ve come to know that I don’t teach anyone anything. We’re all in a process of learning together.
Again and again as I write this blog, I realize how impossible it is to talk about meditation and say what it is. It’s at once a state of being and a process. It’s a word that means many different things to different people. For me, it has many meanings and meanings that change over time. Defining it as the “natural state” feels good today and certainly started off an interesting stream of thoughts for me. What does the “natural state” mean to you?
February 22, 2007
I’m quoting naturalhigh‘s comment on my last post. I just love the sense of trust she has in her own process. She has obviously felt a freedom in her journey to try lots of meditation styles, do what works for her and develop her own ways of meditating. Here’s what she said:
“I use meditation to let go of tension, worry, doubt, fear, all the stuff that keeps me stuck and unable to be fully present. I use many different forms of meditation – not the same one for months on end. Sometimes a walking meditation or Sufi dancing can release emotions best. Sometimes getting deeply into my pottery work. Throwing pots is a great meditation. So my best tip is to continually learn and grow and expand your awareness of techniques, and after awhile, develop your own.”
It took me many years to find that kind of freedom and trust in myself, and I suppose that’s why when I lead a guided meditation I try to do it in a way that someone can flow with their own unique process and eventually develop their own style.
I also like naturalhigh’s reference to throwing pots as a meditation. Any activity can be a meditation. Although I still sometimes sit specifically for meditation, I now see my whole life as meditation. If I need to get grounded, I can close my eyes and do a grounding visualization, or I can walk barefoot outside paying attention to the feel of the earth. The possibilities are limitless!
I’d love to hear more comments on peoples’ experiences with meditation.
February 18, 2007
It’s hard to imagine that anyone who has ever meditated has not felt this at one time or another. We are sitting in meditation and everything feels so perfect. We may describe the experience in different ways — peace, calm, silence, bliss, love — but whatever we call it we want it forever! We want it every time we meditate. And then we sit to meditate and begin to look for it and when it’s not there, we try to get it back. Perhaps we have a theory about how we “got there” before, and yet despite all our efforts, it isn’t happening.
We feel we’ve lost the knack. We’re failing. Yet the more we look for that special experience and the more we try the worse we feel. Apparently all our best efforts can’t get us back there. And if we can see the obvious, we’ll see that our efforts didn’t get us there in the first place!
So many times in my local guided meditation group, people will say something like this — “When I started meditation it seemed like I’d never settle down. It seemed hopeless and I said to myself, ‘oh well, this just isn’t going to work today’. The next thing I knew, I went so deep!” Once they had given up, the mind shifted into a meditative state on its own. And that’s the “trick” of it. A meditative state happens when we stop trying to make it happen. It happens when we let go of attachment to “good experiences”. It happens when we are in a state of non-resistance, not trying to stop whatever is naturally happening and not trying to create something in its place.
How do we stop trying? We certainly can’t try to stop trying, but a kind of backing off can happen when we see that we are caught up in the effort of trying to get somewhere. As we practice meditation more and more, self awareness can grow. Having guidance can help, and guided meditation can be helpful as well.
What has been helpful for you? Share your experiences and comments!
February 9, 2007
When you listen to our Meditation Oasis podcasts, it’s best to leave all your ideas about how to meditate behind. Forget about what you think meditation is or how you think it should be done. Most definitely let go of any expectations of what the experience should be like. Let it all go and listen with a “beginner’s mind” and open heart!
One goal of my guided meditations is to create a space where you can be effortless, allowing the natural flow of life and living. Coming to the meditation with the idea that you have to breath in some special way, that you should not be having thoughts or even that you should feel a certain way during meditation can make meditation into a struggle.
I recently received an email from someone who said she was having a “hard time breathing” during the meditations. It soon became clear that she was trying to breath deeply and do it “correctly”. I responded that she didn’t need to breath in any particular way, but simply to allow the breath to go on its own naturally.
In a sense, my guided meditations are about being in the “allow mode”, not resisting what arises. Thoughts, emotions, sensations in the body come and go. Noise happens around us. All of this is part of the natural flow of the energy of life. The instructions are just gentle suggestions which are not meant to be followed in a rigid way. If the attention wanders, that’s fine. Just bring it easily back to the meditation.
There is no “correct” experience. There are no mistakes in these meditations. If there is a sense of strain or struggle, it’s just a sign of effort and the formula is to let it go. Take it easy, take it as it comes!
January 31, 2007
Yours for the enjoying is an episode from our Meditation Oasis podcast. It’s the first track of our Pure Relaxation CD, a guided meditation with music to use anytime you need a relaxing break but don’t have a lot of time.
Most of the people viewing this blog are already listening to our podcasts on iTunes. This is for those of you who aren’t. Hope you enjoy it!
If you’d like to hear more, find us on iTunes or visit our Meditation Oasis web page.