Meditation for Transcending One’s Mental Activity
BACKGROUND: This kind of meditation practice has been the basis for the development of most of the saints or enlightened people throughout the ages. In modern times it has been shown to improve happiness, health, and performance. Moreover, this kind of meditation gradually helps us become more connected with others and with nature at a deep level, and this improves our ability to get along and work with others – in our families, at work, and anywhere.
Our minds are constantly active, even chattering away when we aren’t focusing on anything. So the first part of the meditation is to quiet the mind. Every spiritual tradition has meditations or practices to quiet the mind, allow it to settle down into quietude, so that deeper awareness can dawn. As we learn to go to ever quieter levels within, deeper awareness increases. Deeper awareness is also broader: it takes into account more than we usually see about ourself or the world around us. It also connects us with others at a deep level.
The second part of this kind of meditation is that our body and mind come back to the surface as stresses of the day and old stresses are released. We come off onto thoughts or sensations. This release of stress is helpful to our health and well-being.
By regularly practicing deep meditation we gradually have more of that deeper, broader awareness and connection even when we are intensely focused at work, and we live stress-reduced lives.
• Think of a one- or two-syllable sound that is easy to say and doesn’t necessarily mean anything to you, or choose what you consider to be a name of God (e.g., God, Jesus, Allah, Shiva). Use this sound every time you meditate.
• Find a quiet, undisturbed, comfortable place to sit with your eyes closed.
• Choose a length of time to meditate. Many people find 20 or 30 minutes is a good length of time. 15 minutes is the minimum in almost every tradition.
• Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Allow yourself to relax for about 30 seconds. If you have trouble relaxing, simply pay attention to your breathing. Don’t try to make your breathing change in any way, just quietly notice as your breath comes in and goes out. You might notice your chest or abdomen moving, or the sound of your breathing, or the temperature of the air coming in and going out. (It can take a number of times until this awareness-of-breathing technique is easy to do and relaxes you.)
• Gently, quietly inside, begin to repeat the sound you chose. Intend for the sound to continue repeating, but allow the sound to repeat or to fade away. Intend and allow. Eventually it will fade away and you’ll realize that you’re off on thoughts or noticing sensations. Whenever you notice that you are off on thoughts or sensations, gently, quietly, favor allowing your sound to arise again and to repeat itself – and then maybe fade away again. In this meditation practice you will often be going back and forth between beginning the sound and allowing it to repeat itself, and being off on thoughts or sensatins. Just remember to favor gently returning to the sound when you notice you’re off on thoughts. It’s that simple.
• When your time is up, take a full minute or two to come out. Breath a little more fully, wiggle your toes and fingers, stretch, smile, take your time, and finally open your eyes.
When you allow the same, simple sound to repeat itself (not forcing it or pushing it), the process will allow your mind to settle down to ever deeper levels inside, much deeper than relaxation. By going deep inside mentally, the body deeply relaxes and reacts by releasing some recent or old stresses. Releasing stresses cause thoughts or sensations to arise in the mind. When the process of releasing stresses dies down enough for you to realize that you’ve been off on thoughts, you can usually come back to your sound easily and gently, and allow it to repeat itself so that you go deep inside again. Sometimes just one mention of the sound brings up the release of stress and thoughts; sometimes you can be going deep inside for minutes at a time until stresses are released.
Note: the content or meaning of your thoughts are irrelevant in this process. Thoughts are simply an indication that your body has been releasing some old stresses. When this process dies down enough for you to be aware of being off on thoughts, instead of continuing the thoughts (you can do that any other time), allow yourself to go deeper again by picking up your sound and allowing it to repeat itself.
As your mind and body get used to diving deeply inside during meditation, you will find this depth gradually, increasingly being embedded in your daily life.
Len Tischler has meditated for about 40 years and has taught hundreds of people to meditate. He has written and given talks about spirituality and meditation in the business world. Send your meditation questions to asklen [at] greenchicafe [dot] com for individual help. Stay tuned for The Daily Practice newsletter.