Meditation can be a tricky business. You sit down, get situated, scratch your nose…now what? On the one hand you feel like you should be putting in some effort in order to get something out of it in return, and on the other hand, we expect to sit there and let the wisdom of the ages flood into our being and bring us to enlightenment. When in reality it’s not that simple.
Many of us enter into a meditation practice with expectations like “I want to increase my happiness” or “I’m going to reduce my anxiety” or “I will quiet my anger and jealousy.” While these are all great intentions, they’re more like happy bi-products from your meditation practice.
Without having a clear understanding of what you’re doing you may end up day dreaming, kicking yourself every time a thought pops into your head, or becoming disappointed when you don’t feel anything happening.
So, the most important thing is that you understand the ultimate goal of meditation.
The ultimate goal of meditation is to immerse yourself in, and fully experience your own consciousness and awareness, or your True Self.
Say what now?
I believe that your True Self, is who you are without the labels of time and space (gender, weight, occupation, race, social status). Ask yourself who you are at your core, without the stuff that can be written down on paper. Your unique you-ness. The part of you that doesn’t change or grow like age, intellect, and height. That is your awareness.
It’s the same right now as it was when you were three years old, and the same as when you’re 90.
It’s the constant backdrop on which the moments of your life are experienced. Like beads on a string. So really, the Self is not some far deep down place we need to journey to, requiring hours of meditation. It’s always there, and all we need to do is recognize it.
As Sally Kempton says in her book Meditation for the Love of It, “The work of meditation is to coax the mind into letting go of the perceptions and ideas that keep it stuck, so it can expand and reveal itself as it really is.”
Here are some tips to deepen your meditation practice without feeling confused or discouraged:
- Do not freak out when you have a thought, try to push away thoughts, judge yourself as a failure for having thoughts, or get fixed on the contents of a thought.
- Perceive with loving tenderness the energy that comes up for you during meditation. Notice each thought or feeling, say hi to it, and let it keep on going. When you find yourself getting too caught up in thoughts, come back to your breath and start again. The practice is really about learning how to starting again when you drift off, not staying fully centered.
- Don’t challenge your “Self” to show up in a big way. “Ok, I’m meditating now, show me what ya got!” You’ll ultimately be let down. Instead, just sit and observe with no expectations.
- Bring forth an attitude of love, gentleness, and trust. The Self is love, and it will draw closer to an attitude of love.
- Don’t force yourself into meditation with a feeling of strict inflexibility. “UGH, I don’t have time for this but I know I HAVE to meditate.” Nope. Not happening.
- Treat your practice as sacred. Create a beautiful space that invites you in. Set it up in a way that makes you yearn for the time you spend in meditation. Many people like to set up an altar, but I find that word can be a bit religious and scare people off. Use another word or phrase if it feels better, like “my happy corner.” See it as a gift from yourself, to yourself so you’ll want to say “Thanks, me!” In time, the good energy you bring to this place will come to evoke feelings of relaxation, happiness, stillness and clarity, every time you go to it.
- Don’t feel Isolated or alone. Cuz you’re not.
- Trust that there is a greater power beyond you that connects all things. I know, just go there with me. There is a grace, a spirit that you connect with during meditation, that will support and guide you. If you prefer to connect to something tangible, go right ahead. Some people like to evoke the energy of a religious figure or maybe an ancient master. You may even want to call forth something more personal like your inner-guide or guardian angels if you so choose.
- Don’t try to stifle your emotions that are going on for you in that moment.
- Ask for help. If you are feeling restless, anxious, skeptical, bored, or anything that is going to take away from your stillness, offer it up to the universe, or your chosen inner guide, and ask for help. If you are struggling with a problem, offer it up at the beginning of your practice: “I offer these feelings so they can be transformed, and I may see this situation differently.”
You may find that when learning to trust your inner experiences you may be guided by your intuition toward a clearer course of action in your outer life. When gaining a deeper understanding of the true self, the fears, negative thoughts and suffering (which are merely products of our own misunderstanding of our ego) may be released. Happy happy, joy joy!
One Healthy Breakdown: meditation is a gift accessible to all, take advantage!
*Caroline O’Neill is a year round Hamptons resident and health and wellness lifestyle blogger of Bloom & Spark with a passion for nutrition, yoga, food, spirituality and personal development.