If you would like your thought processes to work in a more organized and orderly fashion one of the things you might try is meditation. Now, meditation has mostly been thought to be a thing mystics would do. As time has passed it has come about that more and more people are exploring this wondrous tool of self-growth.
The benefits of a course of meditation are manifold. A regular practice will enable you to see changes occur in your physical condition, in your emotional well being and in the richness of your relationship to Spirit, to the Godhead.
How to meditate? Many people say they would like to meditate and do so briefly, but cannot seem to bring themselves back to it. We would say in part it is because when you meditate you have bought a ticket to ride the highway of the mind and spirit in a way you might not have experienced before. Essentially, you are walking through a door into an expanded reality. No matter what anybody says to you so that you know what to expect the reality of this shift in consciousness is abrupt and dramatic and sometimes just a bit too much for Sensible Self to take in one fell swoop.
So, there are some guidelines to remember when you plan to undertake a course of meditation.
Allow yourself to make it a regular part of your day. Set aside a bit of time so that you can be quiet and not be disturbed. This is actually a terribly important part of the process for in doing this you have made a commitment, both to yourself and to your household, that you are going to do something important and wish no intrusions. It might help you if you were to assign a level of importance to meditation equivalent to the importance of something else already in your life. For instance, you could say that meditation is now as important to you as going to work is important, or going to school is important.
The amount of time you spend in a meditation session will be different as you become more comfortable with it. You might find in the beginning it takes you a while to move into a meditative state. As time goes by you might find it won't take as long for you to make the shift into meditation as it did when you first started. The progress you make is unique to yourself, so we would advise you not to compare yourself with others.
One thing to remember, though, is that you are not unreachable when you are meditating. You can say to yourself that if an emergency occurs you can come out of the meditation easily, tend to business efficiently, quickly and with a calm manner.
People tend to think the longer and more intensely you meditate the better you are. Granted, people might begin to experience what they feel is a deeper connection to Spirit immediately, or an abrupt awakening of psychic senses they could, rightly so, attribute to meditation, but, it is in the long haul that the most benefit is derived.
Meditation is a way to achieve and maintain a balanced emotional well being. Not, by itself, of course, for there is other work that needs to be done as well. But, having meditated, your thought processes might seem to be a little bit clearer and sharper, enough so to allow you to begin to remember the things you need to remember to make headway toward a better psychological health. You'll find yourself to be a bit calmer. You might not be such a tense driver or as aggresive on the road as you once were. People cutting you off in heavy traffic just won't seem to bother you anymore. You'll catch the sales as they start with money in your pocket to spend. We jest, but the benefits of meditation are many.
What you might bear in mind is there are many different ways to achieve a meditative state, but there is only one meditative state. So, the way you get there really doesn't matter; that is your personal choice. What you have when you get there is the same everybody else has. The reason there are so many different ways to meditate is because you are so culturally diverse. Also, because there is not a tradition of meditation in the West.
Additionally, there is a perception that one method of meditating will ensure a better all round meditation than another. We tend to disagree. What a person experiences during a meditation is going to be different than for somebody else who already has 2 years of meditating practice behind them even using the same meditative technique. It just won't always be the same for you and yet it is the same. It's like saying all humans are the same and yet you are all as individual as you can be. Same idea. The important thing is that you do it.
As you develop you will probably see and sense wonderful and wonder-filled things happening. Enjoy, and continue to meditate. It's like having the benefit of flowers alongside your path. Enjoy and continue on your way.
People tend to expect results quickly, but it is a more gradual process. It is also difficult for people sometimes to get past the hurdles they find. When a person first begins to meditate they tend to encounter many reasons why they should not be meditating. First of all, their thoughts won't be quiet. Yammer, yammer, yammer. Do this. Do that. Remember this. Remember that. Next comes the physical discomfort. Ah, my back itches. I'm hot. I'm cold. I want a drink. I want a cigarette. I'm hungry.
Then, there are sometimes visions. Wild, distorted faces. Anger, pain, loss and despair all showing itself to you. You think, "This is what people say is good for me?" Roll with it. It is merely a stage and will end as you continue your practice of meditation. It might take a week or more, but it will stop.
The key is the commitment. Don't give up. So you miss a day or two. Get right back on again. You'll find some resistance. So, pick a better time to do this. 4:45 in the afternoon, right before dinnertime, when everybody is just getting home from work, when your neighbor hasn't seen you all day and wants to talk, when Jerry Springer is on and people in your family want to watch television? Maybe not such a good time. Perhaps you could arrange to awaken an hour earlier in the morning. Or, come bedtime, set aside 45 minutes to sit quietly in another room.
You might find you cannot sustain a connection to meditation, that you seem to drift between a quiet place and the noisy Grand Central Station of your mind. Imagine your consciousness to be a small child walking beside you. The idea is to remain on the path and the child will wander, their attention caught by any little thing. Your job, as the responsible adult is to gently take the child's hand, over and over again, as patiently as you can be, and bring them back to the path again. So, your mind wanders and you begin to think about all the things at work you want to do. Have by your side a pen and a pad of paper, break away and back into the room and write down whatever it is that occurred to you. Go back to meditating. Now, you're thinking about the button you want to remember to sew on your husband's shirt. Ah, go ahead, break away and write that down too. What you've done is in writing down these things assured your subconscious that you will not forget and have made a pact of sorts to attend to business at the next convenient opportunity. Go back to meditating, gently. Don't huff and puff. Just gently fall back into it.
After awhile the mental and physical disturbances will become less and less frequent as you become more and more accustomed to being in a meditative state.
There are so many benefits to a practice of meditation that if all were realized a person might wonder why they had not consciously been meditating all along. We say consciously for it is a natural state and during the course of a person's life they will be in meditative states many times. As a fetus and as an infant a person spends a great deal of time meditating. As a young child playing by herself a child will focus so much concentration upon her tasks that she will see only her play and nothing of what goes on around her. This is the single-mindedness of meditation at play or, when a person is older, at work. A person gives themselves up to a meditative state just before they go to sleep. It is a surrendering.
So, too, can you consciously emulate these conditions and create a space for you to actively and purposefully pursue a course of meditation.
The most common complaint heard is that of, "I've tried and tried and I can't seem to do it." So, a golf pro shows you how to make the shot. And, you try. And, you can't. So, you break your clubs and throw them away? Hmmmm. Is that a good way to lower your handicap? So, with meditation investigate a few different ways to meditate. Try one. A few things happen. First, you might not get to a place you consider to be Meditation Alley. Second, you came away from the experience hungry and proceeded to down a huge glass of chocolate milk and five, count them, five chocolate chip cookies. We would say that is a common enough experience for someone new to the practice. It takes a bit of doing to move into a place of meditation. And, it takes awhile for your subconscious self to realize that the place you are directing traffic to is a safe place. That's why you came away so ravenous. For many people, food is a comforting thing and used to console, heal and encourage. Don't worry about it just now. Progress is made in that you might have realized you turn to food in that manner, but the best next thing to do would be to meditate again, using the same technique the next day or even later on the same day. After a bit, and for some it might be 3 times, for others a span of 3 days, you'll find you can last longer with it, you move into a noticeably different place and you come away from the experience not hungry. Congratulations. You are on your way.
So, too, using the same technique you began with you might find one day nothing works right. Try a different technique. There are all kinds of ways to get there. Hop on a different bus.
Meditating is like spiritual and mental calisthenics. The first time you undertake a course of aerobic exercise your body let you know that what you'd done was totally unacceptable in that you were sore for 3 days. But, everyone knows if you begin a course of exercise slowly and keep at it you will eventually begin to see results. There will come a time when you will be surprised to see that you can climb that hill without having to stop 3 times as you make the ascent. It is the same with meditation. You will find as time goes by that the place you find and can begin to identify as "my meditation place" is a place that takes you less and less time to get to. In the beginning, perhaps it takes you 15 minutes to attain a peace filled feeling. Later, you close your eyes with the intention of meditating and 45 seconds later you are there. That place will change, too, as time goes by.
You will experience many, many different stages of meditation as the years roll by and you will also see that you change in your every-day walk around in life. Things that before had irritated you no longer bother you. You seem to have a much better control on your temper. Your dreams are interesting. Your ability to be amused is at an all time high. Your health is actually affected.
Examining your heart's needs will show you a purpose or a goal for meditation. Is it peace you need? Is it a sense of fulfillment? Is it a connection to God or to the Universe? When you set out to go to the store you have in mind what you are going to do. You get your purse, your keys, your list and you make preparations to go to the store. You dress appropriately and you are out the door. You don't spend a whole lot of time preparing for this, you know already what it is that you need. This, that and the other thing. So, too, with a meditation are you prepared in that you are wearing clothes that are comfortable, you've removed your glasses and your wrist watch. You've taken off your shoes and the phone is going to be quiet, either in the refrigerator or the ringer has been turned off. Nobody is listening to the television and it's just nice and quiet. So, you're prepared. Got a place to go to? Got a purpose? A purpose to a meditation? Yes, that's a good one. Select one word. Love. Meditate on that word. Or another of your choosing. God. Healing. Pick a person to meditate on. Jesus. Gandhi. Buddha. Mother Theresa. Pick a mantra to meditate on. Over and over and over in your mind say the word or the phrase. Bring before you the vision of the personality you are meditating on. Bring before your mind's eye the place you want to go to. For the meditation focus all of your attention on where you would go with this.
What will you see? It just depends on what is appropriate for you to be shown. For one person meditating upon the word Love will experience something entirely different than another person meditating upon the same word.
One thing that happens is that people can't seem to find a time when they won't be disturbed while they do their meditation. It is necessary, at least in the beginning, that you find a time and a place where you won't be disturbed. One's family sometimes doesn't always appreciate or honor the fact you want to do something different, at least in the beginning. Even your pets will conspire to wreck your attempts at meditation. You can do one of several things. You can give up completely and wait 15 years for the children to grow up until you return to the idea that you'd like to try to meditate. You could get angry at everybody and rant and rave at the world in general that it's just totally unfair that you cannot even get a moment's peace.
Or, our suggestion is that you get creative. Feed the animals a little something before you begin to meditate. It gives them something to do and maybe they'll spend some time napping or whatever it is they like to do after they eat. Give the parakeets some wet curly lettuce. They love that and it will please them no end to have extra lettuce. Bribe the children. You know what works best with your own kids. Or, do some of your morning chores before you go to bed the night before and arise an hour earlier the next morning. That way everyone is asleep, you're not concerned for the moment about starting your day and you've got a bit of time to call your own. If you are concerned that you will fall into a meditation and won't be able to come out, set your kitchen timer to ring and give yourself 20 minutes. The hardest part is the first time. After that, it's easy as pie.
You've heard the expression, "Where there's a will, there's a way." Yes, if you have made the commitment to meditate you will find a way that will inconvenience no one to have the time, the space and the quiet you crave to do this.
That's when you sit there and nothing happens. Now what? Just try a different technique. Sometimes listening to soothing music will get you into a good frame of mind to meditate. There are many artists who have created their music with a view toward inner peace. There is even music available with subliminal messages on it that helps to jump kick you into the meditative state.
You could select a picture to look at, perhaps a mandala that someone else has made or that you made. You could just pay attention to your breathing. In and out. Just focus your attention on it. There are lots of ways to move into the meditative state.
Over time what you need to do to "meditate" will change. In the beginning it might take you 30 minutes or more to even get into the mood and be in the right place. A year later you might find you are ready to go at the drop of a hat. It is the same as any other thing a person learns new, in the beginning it is a bit slow and awkward and later on it is easy. If you have that to look forward to at the beginning, sometimes it is easier to last through those first difficult days.
Now, the goal of your meditation deserves some comment. You might think that meditating is meditating and that's it. You can mediate with the idea of being in a closer contact with the Godhead, with Spirit. And, that is open to interpretation by many theologians, for they might tell you that the only way to effectively do this is to do it their way. We would say they have a point in that their way will indeed work. However, there are many ways which will work. Use the one that is most comfortable for you. Your relationship with Spirit is as individual as you are all individual. We say only the Godhead and Spirit to encompass whatever your belief system might happen to be. And, that can change too over time. It is sometimes upsetting to people to think that who they thought God was before isn't quite who they think of God now, but that's all right. God doesn't mind. So, be with Spirit, it's who you are anyway.
You can also meditate upon a theme; love, for instance. The many different forms of love are available for you to meditate upon. You could meditate upon peace. You could meditate with a view toward sharing in the oneness of the universe. You could meditate and pray and send healing energy to any who might be in need of it and who are open to you sending it to them. This brings up something else we would speak of later on to a greater extant than we will here, but you cannot make someone heal any more than you can make someone love you. So, you might phrase this in terms of the person being open to healing energies.
Another meditation might involve the quest for a solution to something you are working on. Prior to the meditation think about the situation that has you in a quandary. Consider it and with the intention of coming up with a new angle on the matter move into the meditation. When you come out of the meditation you might find that you either have the solution to your problem or you have a new way of looking at it.
Another meditation might involve your own physical aches and pains. You could say to yourself, "I'd like a bit more information about what is going on." Actually, the more clear and concise you can be in your request the better the information you will receive. A bit more information could involve pretty much anything. Asking, "Am I taking enough calcium supplements?" might get you the information that, for you at this point in time, the supplements are enough, but more exercise is warranted. The answers you receive might come to you as a brief vision, as a whispered word, as a sudden knowingness, as an actual written word you can see in your mind's eye. This technique might also work with some problem you are wrestling with. Say, you have a co-worker in your company who is causing you grief. You're not sure how to handle him or her. Try a meditation. You might suddenly realize there is nothing you can do but accept the situation. You will know in your gut, literally, if the answers you get are the right ones for you. It will just feel right.
You need not receive all of your information immediately upon coming away from the meditation or even within the meditation. It might be something that just needs to slowly trickle into your awareness. So, that, when it finally occurs to you just what the solution is you might not, in fact, associate it with the fact that you'd been meditating.
This is why we say the benefits from meditating are great and spill over into many areas of your lives. Our blessings to you.
Resources For More Information
There are many books on the market, both in print and out of print, that are available if you'd like more information about meditating.
Complete Meditation by Steve Kravette
Creative Meditation - Inner Peace is Practically Yours by Richard Peterson
How to Meditate: A Guide to Self-Discovery by Lawrence LeShan
Meditation by Richard W. Chilson
101 Essential Tips - Basic Meditation by Naomi Ozaniec
Here's a short list:
You might also like to hear guided meditations from Orin's Meditation Room . Surf to The World Wide Online Meditation Center . Hear planatary mantras at SFYoga.net Also, check out Talking To Spirit's Meditation Resources for lots of links.