This painting is one of my very favorites ever to be created. Painted by Frederic Edwin Church around 1860 "Twilight in the Wilderness" is a combination of many outdoor spots that Mr. Church loved about America. (If you're a Clevelander, it is housed at the Art Museum)
I noticed "Twilight in the Wilderness" in my late teens and became obsessed with it as I grew up. If there was a first moment I meditated it was while I viewed this painting.
The museum was kind enough to position a bench directly in front of it and when my life went out of whack I would make my way there, plop down and stare into this oil covered canvas wilderness. Seeking out each little sparrow, creature, rock, ripple, and pigmentation that took me away from the things that were bothering me. Yes - the space I found in that landscape helped me to find space in my mind and in my life.
That space is meditation. For me I found it in a painting, maybe for you it's petting your dog, swimming for hours, practicing on your mat in the park. Most people think meditation is a hard practice, but in truth, it's simple - just like most truths often are. It's accepting the fact that we need to let go to move forward.
And until we learn to control our minds, we can't ever be fully in control of our lives.
Spending all our time trying to control the things outside of us won't change how we feel or who we are. Taking that path is like painting your house in order to fix a fracture in the foundation.
Paint may look pretty, but the if the foundation is cracked its only a matter of time before you have many more problems with your house.
Meditation helps mend wounds. It allows us to see what needs to be fixed and what we can leave behind. It can help fix the fractures in our foundations, which will allow us to paint everything else the pretty colors we love.
The chaos in our minds, the karams and baggage we carry with us from day-to-day, year to year, life to life, is only as big as we ALLOW it to become. Assumptions we make about things, people, experiences accumulated and grow into monsters that keeps us up at night. They fester into worry and rob us of, well, us.
When we silence our mind we can find space between those thoughts, and then we can see what's real and what's a shadow of nothing.
No, the first time you sit you won't be able to make it 60 minutes with freedom, but you can make it for 5 minutes and then the next time you'll make it 6 minutes.
So whats the secret to meditation? The "trick" we're all looking for is persistence. Don't give up on yourself because the first time is hard. Keep trying and working and follow these few steps:
#1 - Find a quiet spot, one without a TV, that is not a path of traffic and isn't by a phone. If you're cell phone is with you - turn it off. You don't need it for 5 minutes. (& if you have children, find someone to watch them so they won't come looking for you.) And sit.
Find a comfortable seat with your legs crossed. Place a pillow under your butt to elevate your hips closer to your knees. Sit with a tall spine. Image your spine is an antenna and it should be erect, with your shoulders on your back, so your intentions can float up and away into the air and off like a cloud.
[Note: if you have back problems, knees problems and sitting like this hurts, find a comfortable spot to lie down. NOT ON YOUR BED - YOU WILL FALL ASLEEP. Meditation is NOT sleeping. Meditation is that spot between sleep and being awake.]
#2 - Follow your breath. We breathe every day. Our bodies take in the vital air we need to stay alive and never once do we consider that it's happening - day in and out. Watch your breath. Watch the inhalations. Watch the exhalations. Which are longer? Are you breathing from your chest or your belly?
Allow your breaths to grow longer - breathing in to a count of 4 and exhaling to a count of 4. Drawing the breath evenly and constant. Image it flowing throughout your entire body. Down your arms and legs. Into your fingers and toes. Breath into your sore back and tired shoulders.
Begin to count your breaths. Each number is a full inhale and exhale, and as thoughts pop us - because they often do - just come back to #1. See if you can make it to #10, and if not this time, maybe the next - but keep breathing.
#3 - Mantras. These words, these prayers, help us concentrate on something else, something bigger than our daily lives. They move our energies toward something positive - health, love, faith.
#4 - Guided Meditation - when we're new a meditating and finding the strength to quiet the mind is a daunting task, using guided meditation is a wonderful way to begin and a useful tool to continue. My very favorite guided meditations are from Meditation Oasis. Mary Maddox is a beautiful spirit. They have free podcasts you can download onto your ipod so you can go sit in the middle of the woods (if you'd like) and let go.
These 4 steps will help you add meditation into your every day. It is suggested you meditate at the beginning of the day (and after time at both the beginning and the end) - but I think you should meditate when you can. Maybe on your lunch break, maybe for 5 minutes before you go to bed.
The most important thing is to do it.
As your practice builds you will begin to notice the days you didn't meditate. You will notice that change almost immediately.
Meditation is give yourself the love you deserve and the time you need to be the complete you that you deserve to be. Be love, be free, be you to the best of your ability.
Always smile because it's a gift we can share with strangers and loved one.
The light in me honors and respects the light in you.
Shanti! Shanti! Om....