Meditation is such a popular word it seems. What does it really mean when someone says "I meditate"? In my travels the past few years I have investigated this word, and have come to an interesting understanding of what meditation means for me.
- Is it prayer? When I first had the idea to meditate I assumed it was pretty much the same thing as prayer, just that you didn't talk as much. This didn't really motivate me, and I was always concerned if I was doing it right. There didn't seem to be much guideline here, and I knew "Meditation" surely had some methodology to it that I wasn't getting.
- Is it the Buddhist thing? I read a book on how to meditate in the eastern, Buddhist tradition, where you attempt to quiet your mind and bring all your attention to your breath. This led me over and over again to frustration. I am a master of multitasking in my mind, so I could count to 121 breaths and still have about 221 different thoughts at the same time. "Let them go like a cloud passing by", they taught, yet I'd ride that cloud around the timeline of my entire life before I even realized I was on it! I abandoned this method in frustration.
- Is it repeating a mantra? I looked into Transcendental Meditation and seriously considered joining, and then found other methods that used mantras for meditation. I got bored out of my mind! Dare I admit this? It is like I'd rather clean the bathroom with a toothpick than say a few syllables over and over a minimum of 108 times...!!! At this point I was fearing I was a hopeless case.
- Is it listening to a guided meditation? I found I did better with these kinds. At the end of yoga, for example, when a teacher would walk us through a beautiful scene, or when I would listen to a 10-20 minute recording of someone describing a beautiful place with lovely music and rushing water sounds beneath her voice, I could stay more focused, and usually at the least come out relaxed and feeling like I didn't utterly fail. It was through a guided meditation that the first magic happened for me, where I first received significant life guidance while I was in this relaxed state. I was getting closer...
- Is it Hypnosis, Binaural beats, Brainwave music, Shamanic drumming, Intention holding? All of these things were important stepping stones as I learned to meditate in the way that works best for me, in the way that I would actually choose meditate on a regular basis. I had a lot more success with auditory assistance including all of these things. In fact, I often use many of these aids.
Finally, in a moment of great necessity, I got it. It was in an ashram in Bali, where a beautiful local had brought me and a few friends to participate in a full moon ceremony. After paying respect to their breathtaking shrines, we sat in the ceremony room and were told to meditate for an hour before the ceremony began. OMG an HOUR!!! I almost freaked out at the thought - I had reeeeal trouble meditating for 15 minutes, a whole HOUR - in a room where many other people were gathering!! Necessity is the mother of invention, yes? I sent out the loudest silent scream of help to the universe and closed my eyes. What happened was insane.
I saw myself going down a very long spiral stone staircase. It seemed to start at my heart and descend from there. Two beautiful goddess-like beings were behind me giving me instructions. For several minutes I was descending, descending, complaining in my head that I don't know how to meditate and this was really some silly way for me to tell myself I was meditating. After maybe 20 minutes I heard the (let's call them) goddesses say, "in 40 more steps you will be at the bottom. Time a breath with each step and when you reach the bottom go through the doorway."
And then it began. I entered another world! It felt like I was in a movie, except for the fact that I could constantly hear my brain telling me that this was no way to meditate and I wasn't doing it right. (Haha. The cute grouchy critic in my head only wants the best for me, and everything I saw and experienced was so exciting that I was able to let him chatter without getting too distracted.) I saw beings, structures, heard sounds, words, felt the floors, walls, gates, feelings, and most excitingly I received great wisdom and assistance for where I was in that moment in my life. When I heard singing I realized the ceremony had begun in the room where I sat. I did it? That was a whole hour?! I had discovered my way to meditate.
For me, it starts with a kinesthetic sensation. Walking down stairs for example. These stairs were really big, differently sized stairs so I had to pay great attention walking down them. My body and mind were engaged, and after a little while all my other senses became engaged too - sound, sight, touch, smell, (I don't think I tasted anything that time). In order for me to (1st) desire to meditate, and (2nd) enter the meditative state, I have to feel inspired or excited and feel kinesthetic sensation - physical body movement sensations.
This makes sense. In western culture, we are not trained to value a quiet mind like in many eastern cultures. We are trained to value a hyperactive, multitasking mind that thinks all the time, solves problems, comes up with ideas, and sees situations from 17 different angles. For me it is through engaging all my senses, feeling physical and emotional sensations, and being active in my mind, that I am able to achieve the meditative (relaxed/silent) state of mind.
I have begun meditations by becoming a droplet of water, merging with a dragonfly, swimming with whales, flying on the back of my very own Phoenix (!) among many others. If it feels fun, or magical, or excites me in my heart center, then the meditative state is almost instant.
May you soar into the sunrise over a red ocean as a beautiful golden phoenix or whatever else excites you to giddiness, and receive all the magic and wisdom that awaits you!