Meditation: Is There A Right Way to Meditate?
By Dr. Tom Stempel, MD, a graduate of Southwest Institute of Healing Arts' Associate of Occupational Studies Degree in Mind/Body Transformational Psychology and the Hypnotherapy and Life Coaching programs.
Many people don't meditate because they can't "do it right?" The truth is that what you are envisioning is not the RIGHT WAY to do it. It is ONE WAY to do it. Many people envision a person sitting in the perfect lotus position with fingers held in a mudra pose. That is a traditional Hindu and Buddhist posture for meditation. It is not required.
Many have minds that are continual cacophony of babble, thoughts racing through at dizzying speeds. Thoughts of yesterday and tomorrow - shoulda's, woulda's, oughta's and coulda's. We are so busy worrying about what we or someone else did or might do, that we spend virtually no time enjoying the present moment. We don't appreciate what we have in the present until it is past, and we realize our missed opportunity. Then we joyfully add it to our monkey mind of thoughts and worries about yesterday and tomorrow.
Meditative practice slows our thinking and clears our mind of all the useless thoughts that cloud our thinking process. On the conscious level it allows one to be in the present moment and appreciate what is happening in the now. Subconsciously it frees our mind to search for deeper truths and answers. Meditation gives us the opportunity to connect with God, the Divine, Universal Wisdom, Tao, or whatever label your belief system places on an eternal source of truth and wisdom. It frees the conscious mind to analyze and act clearly and confidently, and opens the subconscious mind to inspiration and creativity.
If you consider the truly spiritual people you have encountered in your life, whether they are religious figures or every day people, you will recognize a common thread. They have a gentleness to their character. They tend to have a calmness and peacefulness in their manner of being. These characteristics allow them to approach the stormy periods of life with a strength and grounding that allows them to be centered and think calmly about what they need to do and how they need to be in response to any situation.
Any repetitive action or thought is a meditative practice which aids in clearing the mind and can help one to find a deep, peaceful, quiet state. This could be a physical activity such as knitting, sewing, running, or even chopping wood, or a mother gently humming or softly singing while she is cooking or cleaning. Knitting and sewing involve not only physically doing a repetitive motion, but a conscious or unconscious repetition of some phrase, such as pearl one, knit two. This is no different from repeating a mantra which is used during meditation. Runners focusing on their breathing or their footsteps, find the "runner's high" or just drift off into a state of altered consciousness. People chopping wood, or carpenters or metal workers perform repeated motions, which are accompanied by recurring sounds. Humming a tune, repeatedly singing a jingle or favorite line from a song is the equivalent of chanting.
These activities of everyday life lead to a meditative state, although most people do not necessarily reach the same depth that true practitioners reach. Of importance is becoming aware of activities that bring you to this state, appreciating what you are unconsciously doing for yourself, and examining how you might expand your possibilities.
Repetitive prayers, like Hail Mary's, are a form of a mantra, which quiets the mind and allows one to open up to the Divine, When asked by a reporter what she said during prayer, Mother Teresa responded, "Nothing, I am listening to God." He then asked her what God was saying, and she responded, "Nothing, He is listening." Her response exemplifies one of the deepest forms of meditation, no different from the Hindu or Buddhist forms. Many of the faith traditions talk about becoming an open vessel. Mother Teresa was opening her mind to all possibility.
There is no right or wrong way to meditate. There is only the way that works best for each individual. It is simply a matter of finding what works best for you, perhaps through sports, music, art, craft-work, physical work, mental work, praying or traditional meditation. Determine what brings you to a place of peace and quiet. Try doing it more frequently, or more consciously, or experiment with another form that speaks to you.
The most important step is practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes and the deeper you go. You must decide, do I want to be frazzled by life's waves and tsunamis, or do I want to be that placid, rooted coral reef they flow over, rooted in the knowledge and truth that exists in your central core. In future articles we will explore specific forms of meditation and the impact that meditation can have on our everyday lives.