Early the next morning Charmaine walked with eager anticipation toward the waterfall for her meditation. William stood on the path below, marveling at the morning light on the flowers and watching couples strolling amiably into the day. A couple of small children played frisbee with a large, tail-wagging black lab.
“Hello, my friend,” Charmaine said warmly as she approached William.
“You look uncommonly pleased with yourself this morning. Any particular reason?”
William sighed happily.
“Emily is really nice.”
“It’s just so easy to talk to her. She actually wanted to hear what I had to say! And I loved listening to her, too. We talked for a long time...and laughed together, Charmaine!”
"That’s important, isn’t it?”
“I’d forgotten how good it feels to be close to someone like that. We’re going for a hike this afternoon. I want to show her the lagoon and the waterfall. I feel excited and peaceful at the same time. Am I going wacko?”
“Probably,” said Charmaine, with a seasoned smile. “But it’s a good kind of wacko. Just keep exhaling, softening - letting go of tightness anywhere in your body. And of course, keep being honest. You’ll be fine.”
“You going anywhere in particular?” William asked.
“I was headed to the waterfall for my morning meditation. This would be a good time to show you how to get started. Do you have time now?”
“I do. Let’s go,” said William. “I’ve heard you talk a lot about meditation but I’m not sure what it actually is or how to do it.”
“All the clues are important,” Charmaine said as they turned to take the path to the waterfall, “but in many ways it’s perhaps the most important one because the practical wisdom from all the other Clues can be accessed through meditation.”
“Well, I imagine that makes meditation pretty much an essential skill to learn, then.”
“I think so,” said Charmaine. “All the others are Clues of understanding. And with practice, you develop an awareness of their value - to see how they change your experience of life for the better. On the other hand, meditation is a Clue of practice. It’s something you practice every day and then you begin to understand how it can positively affect your life.”
“How long does it typically take,” asked William, “to understand enough to benefit from meditation?”
“Good news. You don’t need to understand meditation in order to do it or for it to produce positive results in your life. If you do it, you’ll come to understand its value. Meditation is an ongoing practice but the benefits will begin to come immediately. Have faith, William.”
“Faith? Is meditation anything like prayer?”
“Yes, it can be. Some people think of meditation as listening to God and prayer as talking to God. For some people prayer is a form of meditation. Prayer and meditation can help free us from the negative effects of our ego’s fearful and judgmental thoughts. Both prayer and meditation are a very personal experience.”
“I’m anxious to take a shot at meditation! Oh, but maybe I should wait until I’m not so distracted by thoughts of Emily,” William said with a roguish grin.
“Being distracted is not really a problem. It’s just one of the possible states our ‘little mind’ is in sometimes. Most of us have never really given our ‘little mind’ much thought. It is a bit like a mischievous little child demanding all the attention it can get. It takes time and patience to train it to behave in certain ways. I think you’ll be able to handle distractions just fine. It just takes practice.”
“I’ll have to take your word for it.”
“You’ll discover many of the more subtle aspects of meditation for yourself as you develop a daily practice. But for now, let’s go over the basics to get you started.”
“Yep, a little background,” Charmaine said cheerfully. Although it’s much more common in the East, millions in the West meditate too. Meditation is the single most direct way that I know of to bring you to opening your heart and living your life from your soul rather than from your ego. Physicians, mental health counselors, professional organizations and researchers increasingly recommend its practice. And so do I,” she added with a smile.
“It also helps reduce anxiety and depression. Did you know that meditation can also decrease blood pressure?” asked Charmaine.
“I didn’t,” William said. “My blood pressure has risen quite a bit since I started this job. Maybe meditating will help me bring it down.”
Charmaine listed more benefits of meditation on her fingers.
“Meditation also allows deep rest, helps eliminate tension and fatigue, and increases mental clarity - which, by the way, would also contribute to improving your performance at work.”
“Those sound like the benefits of regular exercise.”
“Yes, and similarly, you are not likely to see remarkable results after just one workout. But over time you begin to see a cumulative effect from a regular practice. And just like those who exercise daily, those who meditate regularly will find their mind becoming more agile, sharper, stronger, more clear and finally more peaceful.”
“More peaceful, huh?”
“Tempting, isn’t it,” Charmaine said with a grin. “People who meditate are usually less anxious and tend to view life in a more positive way. Meditation actually helps develop a more friendly and open attitude.”
“Oh, good! It’ll make me a nicer person,” said William.
“If that’s possible,” she said sincerely. “And every once in a while, you may have what feels like a very special meditation.”
“Sometimes you get to a place where you become aware of a very deep calmness, clarity and sense of timeless peace.”
“It is. There’s a very thin veil between the physical and the spiritual realms. Meditation can take you through that veil to the place where the soul resides. Here’s the heart of the matter: All suffering comes from forming attachments. All our attachments are formed by thoughts. Meditation is the moment-to-moment practice of letting go of the attachments formed by those thoughts. Meditation is the single most powerful practice that can help free me from fear and suffering.”
“I thought the purpose of meditation was to quiet the mind.”
“Some would tell you that’s its purpose, but I think that’s an incorrect approach and a tragic mistake if we consider the potential benefits of more people meditating. That false assumption is the main reason most people don’t meditate. They can’t quiet their minds.”
“My mind is incessantly thinking, planning, worrying - making judgments. I don’t think I could ever stop its buzzing and chattering.”
“Well, here’s good news. Although quieting the mind is not at all the purpose of meditation, it can be an occasional and wonderful outcome of it.”
“Not only that, but if we take the position that the purpose of meditation is to quiet the mind, we automatically set up an adversarial relationship with our ‘little-mind’.”
“Let the war begin, right?”
“Exactly. at kind of opposition doesn’t come from the soul. Opposition comes from fear, from our ego. That’s why we don’t want to unwittingly make our ‘little-mind’, with all its incessant ‘busyness’ and clever tricks, the enemy.”
“I get enough opposition in life without adding to it from the inside,” said William.
“That’s why in meditation it’s important to lovingly notice your thoughts, rather than push them away, as a controlling adversary might do. On the other hand, it’s also why we don’t hold onto them like a clingy, attached ego might do. The loving witness within simply allows thoughts to flow through our awareness.”
“I trust that comes with practice for thick-skinned guys like me?”
“Remember, your mind thinks it is you and that its very survival depends on staying in control. The way it tries to stay in control is by thinking its thoughts. Your mind doesn’t want to give up its illusion of control and will do anything to prevent it.”
“Like finding perfectly good reasons not to meditate?”
“Yes, and if you tell your mind you’re going to teach it something that will quiet it...”
“... my mind would say, ‘Yeah, you and who else?’”
They both laughed.
“So in meditation,” William recapped, “I needn’t bother attempting to quiet my mind. I just practice being a compassionate witness to it?”
Charmaine nodded, waiting for him to go on.
“...and rather than trying to quiet my mind, meditation is more about understanding that I am not my mind.”
“Good job, William! at’s why in meditation you don’t push thoughts away nor do you hold onto them.”
“What’s left to do then?”
“You lovingly notice them and return your attention to your breath, and a focus point such as a visual object, a physical movement or a word.”
“A focus word?”
“I’ll explain when we get to a place where we can practice,” said Charmaine. “We’re nearly to the waterfall.”
“Thoughts are the mechanism,” she continued, “that the mind uses to create its experience of the world. In a sense our unseen thoughts - our attitudes, beliefs and assumptions - create the lens through which we view the world. They create all the meaning we add to the world’s neutral facts and events.”
“ Then nothing has meaning except the meaning we give it...”
“That’s right, William. oughts create our day-to-day experience of life. Remember: the world is just out there worlding. Whatever we experience is what we bring to it.”
“So these peaceful thoughts I’m having right now are actually creating my experience of the world while its just out there worlding?”
“Some would be bored or even anxious in this same scenario. It’s all in our perception of it.”
“The world doesn’t feel like it’s out there. Right now, it feels like I’m a part of it.”
“That thought is creating your sense of connectedness with the world,” Charmaine said. “You are really the source of your own experience, not the world. We all are. The world is out there worlding, it’s true, but how each of us experiences it is determined by the meaning we each give it.”
William stopped in his tracks, a still-life of open-mouthed amazement.
“My God! If that’s true... that means... do you realize what that means?” he stammered in stunned realization. “If I got good at letting go of attachments formed by my fear-based thoughts, my old negative patterns of thinking and feeling would change - or even disappear!”
“Now you begin to see why meditation can be so powerful in affecting the quality of your life,” Charmaine said quietly. “At least you won’t be as likely to give your ego more power to run your life than your soul. You’ll have your negative thoughts instead of them having you. All those negative thoughts are not likely to go away entirely. But over time you’ll notice they become a little less interesting. Does that make sense to you?”
“Yeah, it sure does... because I’m not my mind or my thoughts. I’m the witness to my thoughts.”
“In a sense, you’ll be learning to lovingly relate to your own mind and its thoughts rather than fearfully relating from them. That’s when everything begins to change. That’s when you begin to reclaim ownership of the quality of your own life. Otherwise you’d be like a wind sock: ‘How are you feeling?’ ‘I don’t know - which way is the wind blowing?’”
They laughed, as they entered the clearing beneath the falls. Standing silently for a moment, they admired its towering majesty. Nearby flowers glistened with a light mist.
“It’s hard to believe this glorious setting isn’t creating the way I feel right now, as I stand here soaking up its energy and beauty,” William said, drawing deep breaths of fresh sunlit air. “I sure don’t feel like this when I’m stuck in a crowded freeway!”
“Settings can enhance meditative states,” said Charmaine. “But the setting is not all of it. Our state of mind in each moment also has a lot to do with it. There are indeed natural settings - and even the presence of certain people - that make it easier to open our hearts and see the world through more loving, compassionate eyes. Remember how you felt earlier while watching the little children playing?”
“For most of us, babies are so full of love that fearful and negative thoughts have a hard time getting a grip on our minds while in their presence. Remember, the power of an open heart is that a closed heart cannot stay closed in its presence. For most of us, young ones and natural settings like the ocean, mountains, and this waterfall tend to soothe and refresh our spirits.”
“They seem to take less energy to be around,” William agreed. “In fact, they’re an energizing influence.”
“It’s not news to you that there are some places and people that take a lot of energy to be around, that drain your energy.”
“How would you put it? ‘Soul-robbing’?” said William.
“Like it used to be with my boss. It took a lot of energy to be around him. I used to feel tired just thinking about having to see him. But it doesn’t take as much energy now. I guess he’s just been out there ‘bossing’. Lately, I think I’ve been naturally reclaiming the power I was giving him to determine the quality of my life. And you know what? He’s not so bad.”
“Good, William! You’re beginning to experience the practical value of the Clues. To truly understand the power of meditation is to understand the power of love.”
“I don’t get the connection.”
“Love is your true state of being. The thoughts your ‘little-mind’ has are what take you out of that natural loving state of being. ere’s therefore nothing you have to do to be in your loving self. It’s who you really are - always there waiting for you to come back to it. You only have to undo what took you out of our loving state in the first place. It’s the moment-to-moment practice of lovingly letting go of the attachments formed by your little mind’s fearful, insecure thoughts that allow you to spontaneously come back to your deeper, loving self. Meditation is about identifying with your soul rather than with your ego.”
“How can I do that?”
“You don’t have to do that. It’s simply the way you’re wired-up - the way you’re designed. That’s why meditation is so helpful. Like a softening breath, it’s a path to your center, to your soul. ink of it this way. You don’t have to do anything to make the sun shine. But sometimes you have to get free of the clouds in order to experience the light.”
“I hope it’s easy...”
“It’s very simple, but not necessarily easy.”
“Well, Charmaine, I’m a practical guy. How do I do it?”
“Let’s sit here on this bench, William, and we’ll go over the basic steps to meditating. There are four.”
“Okay,” he said , settling himself comfortably.
Meditation: Step One
“The first step is to find a comfortable place to meditate - like right here. Choose a peaceful place away from phones, pagers, the TV, radio - any sort of distraction. This is most important when you’re first learning. Later, as you develop the skill, it’s desirable but less necessary. Eventually you’ll find you can meditate anytime and anywhere. As you develop your own meditation practice, you’ll probably be inclined to do it at the same time and in the same place every day. Setting aside 15 to 20 minutes twice a day is ideal. But remember, it’s more important that you meditate, than where or how long you do it.
Meditation: Step Two
“Second, your posture is important.”
William pulled his shoulders back and sat up a little.
“That’s right. Sit up straight so your backbone is vertical and your head is upright. is is ideal but it’s more important that you’re comfortable. If you’re not comfortable, your ‘little-mind’ will simply use it as an excuse not to meditate at all.”
“You’re leaning a little and your chin is drooping. I believe it’s important to be symmetrical in your sitting position, rather than leaning one way or another. I personally have noticed that it’s easier to be spiritually centered when my body is centered.”
“Seems logical,” William murmured as he readjusted his weight on the bench.
Meditation: Step Three
“The third step is to close your eyes.”
William closed his eyes.
“Take a few moments. Now soften your eyes, your tongue and your belly.”
“No problem with softening my belly,” William said, chuckling as he followed her instructions.
“Then you lovingly begin to watch your breath.”
“Watch my breath?”
“Yes, gently follow your breathing,” said Charmaine. “Feel your breath come in and go out of your body. Become your breath. Let it have you. I know that may sound a little strange right now but as you develop your meditation practice, even after only a few weeks, it will make more sense. You may soon notice that you don’t have to breathe at all. You can simply begin to lovingly notice what it feels like to allow your body to breathe itself. It knows how to do that just fine without any help from you. There really is nothing for you to do. Just be that loving observer, a gentle witness to your thoughts and awarenesses. It’s like sitting on a train and passively watching the scenery go by. Lovingly noticing is your soul smiling at your ego with all its thought-filled distractions and saying, ‘That’s okay. Let’s just let the thoughts go for now. We can come back to them later if you still want to.’”
“Okay, I’m not my mind and I’m not my body. So I lovingly notice my body breathing itself. What about all these unrelated thoughts flitting around right now? Should I lovingly notice my mind thinking those thoughts, too?”
“That’s exactly right,” said Charmaine quietly. “The next part of this step is to choose a short word or phrase to use as a soulful point of focus as you breathe.”
“That must be the focus word,” he said, looking a little uncomfortable.
“Choose a simple one, something that helps you identify with your soul rather than your ego.”
“I don’t even know where to start...”
“You can use any word that helps you connect with your deeper self. Like ‘love’, ‘peace’, ‘joy’, ‘one’, ‘om’...
“Some Christians use the word ‘Jesus’. Some Buddhists use the word ‘Buddha’. Some Hindus use the phrase ‘Hong-Sau’. Some Muslims use the word ‘Allah’. Some Jewish people use the word ‘Shalom’. It really doesn’t matter. One of my dear old friends says ‘wave’. For her, God is like the ocean and she is a wave. Her life represents her unique journey that eventually takes her to the shore and back into the One. Any word that helps you connect with your deeper self will work fine.”
“How about ‘clappernoseflight’,” William suggested, chuckling.
“Try to keep it to one or two syllables,” Charmaine said, smiling. “It’s simply for a soulful point of focus, but if ‘clappernoseflight’ helps you connect with your deeper self, go for it.”
“I’ll have to give it some thought,” said William more seriously. “Tell me again how it’ll help me meditate?”
“You say it each time you exhale. Your focus word is your secondary point of focus. Your breath is the primary point of focus. Continually refocusing on your breath and your word are simply a way to lovingly bring your attention to the moment. Bring your attention back to your breath whenever you become aware that you have a thought and your attention has strayed. As you get comfortable watching your breath, begin to meditate by quietly saying your focus word with each exhalation. is can be done silently in your mind or as a quiet whisper.”
Meditation: Step Four
“Now here’s the tricky part,” continued Charmaine. “The fourth step is to take an absolutely loving, unconditionally accepting attitude toward this soulful-activity we call meditation. Remember you can’t do it wrong. Whenever you become aware of having a thought while meditating, gently notice you had that thought, no matter what it is, and return all your awareness to your breath and your focus word on the next exhalation. If you’re annoyed or discouraged that a stray thought crept in, then lovingly notice you just had that critical thought and return your attention to your breath and your focus word. No matter what happens while meditating, lovingly notice it and return your attention to your breath. And as you exhale, quietly say your focus word.”
“Keep in mind that your mind thinks it is you and thinks its survival depends on staying in control. So it will do anything it can to persuade you not to meditate. In a way, your ego mistakes meditation for nonexistence or death.”
“So can I try it right now?”
Charmaine smiled at William’s impatience to ‘patiently’ meditate.
“Well, William, not really...”
“Meditation doesn’t involve trying. It’s about just being. But I know what you meant,” she laughed, “and we can certainly meditate for a bit and then talk about it, if you like.”
“Remember, you can only meditate or not meditate. And if you do meditate, you couldn’t do it wrong even if you wanted to.”
“That’s good to know.”
“I’ve meditated thousands of times and each time is different. My mind would tell you that some meditations were better than others. But the reality is that each was a perfect reflection of my state of being in that moment. Conclusion?” She waited expectantly for his response.
“Can’t screw it up! Gotcha,” said William quickly.
“So let’s give it a ... go.”
Charmaine moved to a grassy spot beneath a nearby tree, crossed her legs, yoga-style, resting her upturned palms in her lap, closed her eyes and drew a long, slow breath. She ‘softened’. William sat down beside her, straightened his back with his head resting comfortably upright. He wiggled around a little until he got comfortable.
Charmaine glanced over at William. She smiled at his sincerity. “Good. Now close your eyes, soften and begin to bring all your loving attention to your breath. Remember, choose a focus word to say each time you exhale - one that helps you connect with your deeper self.”
He closed his eyes, softened as Charmaine had explained, and began to ‘watch’ his breath. It felt good. Then he became aware of the sound of the waterfall. It amazed him that for a few moments before, he’d been completely unaware of it! How could he have been unaware of a sound that close? Then he realized that he hadn’t decided on a focus word. At first, he thought ‘peaceful’ would be good, but then ‘free’ also had a nice ring to it. He had been struggling with which word to use for several minutes and lost track of his breath.
“Damn,” he thought. “I’ve already messed this up. No,” he reminded himself. “Charmaine said I can’t do it wrong; I can only do it or not do it. I just need practice. My ego would do anything to distract me from meditation. Ah ha! at’s what’s happening right now!”
William felt a twinge of compassion for his ‘little mind’ which was earnestly working its usual control strategy.
“That’s okay, little guy,” he chuckled inwardly, “we’ll just choose the word ‘peaceful’ for now.”
And he brought his attention back to his breath for the first time since they started. As William exhaled he silently thought ‘peaceful’. He continued to ‘watch’ his breath and as he exhaled he repeated his focus word.
“Hey, I think I’m getting the hang of this! Charmaine was right about my ‘little mind’ trying to distract me. Maybe this won’t take a lot of tedious practice after all...”
Then he realized that a couple more minutes had passed and again, he had not ‘watched’ his breath nor had he used his focus word. He tenderly laughed to himself. “Well, you slippery little bugger! I can see this is going to be a bit trickier than I thought.”
Once again William returned his attention to his breath and as he exhaled he thought ‘peaceful’. He continued like this for a while and was feeling just fine when he realized his butt itched. He squirmed a little, but it didn’t stop the itch. William didn’t know what to do so he kept ‘watching’ his breath. Yet he couldn’t help thinking about his rear-end itching.
“I sure would like to be free of this itch,” he thought. “And I’m still not sure which word is really the best for me.” Then he noticed that the itch had disappeared from his awareness and he thought surely that was a sign that he should use the word ‘free’ rather than ‘peaceful’ for his focus word. He thought about how enlightened he must be to have intuited that wisdom. Once again, William realized that he had not been ‘watching’ his breath or saying his focus word. And once again, he gently brought his attention back to his breath, thinking ‘free’ as he exhaled.
“Yes,” William thought happily, “that feels right. ‘Free’ is clearly a better word... but I do like ‘peaceful’ too... maybe I should make a list and... damn! I’m doing it again,” he thought with intense exasperation. “Charmaine,” he said aloud. “Can we talk for a few minutes?”
She gently brought her attention to her friend, anticipating the struggles all beginners typically experience.
“Of course, William. What’s on your mind?”
“You mean my ‘little mind’, don’t you,” he muttered. “How long was that, Charmaine? It felt like forever.”
“Well, actually it was about five minutes.”
William rolled onto his back and laughed.
“Are you kidding? It seemed like a big chunk of my entire life all rolled up into a small package. I went through self-doubt, confusion, impatience, flip-flopping, putting myself down, and even spiritual pride, if you can imagine that! at’s exactly the way I’ve been at work much of the time. Geez! Is that what meditation is - a microcosm of my life?”
“Yes, it is. Sometimes it is, but it’s okay. Pretty soon you’ll get familiar with your ego’s favorite tricks for avoiding being fully present.”
“I couldn’t stay focused more than a few moments at a time before my mind raced in and did everything from beat me up to compliment me on what a good meditator I am!”
“It gets easier,” she assured him, “easier to return to your breath and your focus word. If that seemed like a long time to you, remember it’s just one of your ego’s illusions to distract you from meditating. Soon, you’ll have time when the minutes seem to fly. Even an hour can seem like only a short time. In deep meditation you’ll discover that time is not linear but relative. There is only a sense of being.”
“In twenty-five words or less,” William said, scratching his head, “draw me a picture of what that is like, so I’ll recognize it – if I ever get there...”
“This is not a magical experience and it’s not a place where you arrive. It’s found in any moment free of anxiety and fear. We all spend more time in this state of being than we may realize. Meditation is simply a way to deepen and cultivate a state of being that is natural to all of us. It’s found in those moments of peacefulness, tranquility and calm that occasionally occur in our lives.”
“I probably do have more of those moments than I tend to realize. It’s just that those bad feelings used to take up most of my day. So tell me Charmaine, what word do you use for your point of focus?
“I use the word ‘one’ for my meditation. It came out of a moment in meditation many years ago. In that moment I saw that I was one with all that is. So the word ‘one’ has a very powerful centering effect for me. And yet, I occasionally hear a little voice while I meditate that says, ‘One? Why one? Wouldn’t ‘two’ be twice as good?’ Or I’ll see little ‘ones’ flying by with beautiful little wings...”
“You get distracted during meditation, even now?”
“Sure. My mind will do whatever it can to distract me. Remember, your ego is not the enemy. It’s innocent but misguided. Sometimes I’ll get an itch. It’s just one more attempt by my ego to stay in control.”
“That happened to me! All of a sudden my butt itched.”
“So what did you do?”
“Well, after a bit it just seemed to disappear. I was thinking about wanting to be ‘free’ of the itch. is confused things because I really couldn’t decide between the words ‘peaceful’ and ‘free’ en I realized I hadn’t been ‘watching’ my breath or using either ‘peaceful’ or ‘free’ as a focus word. My mind had just taken me on another ramble.”
“Sometimes I get an itch or a kink in my leg, too,” Charmaine said. “I consider any distracting physical awareness as a ‘body thought’. So, I just lovingly notice I have that awareness, as with any other thought, and bring my attention back to my breath, saying ‘one’ as I exhale. If it happens again, I do the same thing again.”
“What if it won’t go away?”
“I usually scratch the itch or stretch the leg and rub it for a moment. Then I simply return my attention to my breath and lovingly say ‘one’ as I exhale. The idea here is not to set up an adversarial relationship with your mind/body, the ego structure.”
“Kill it with kindness, huh?” William grinned.
“Not really. It’s a matter of loving its innocence. at automatically helps us identify with our soul rather than with our ego in that moment. Anyway, if you’re not reasonably comfortable, it’s not likely you’ll continue to practice.”
“True. I’m a ‘comfort’ kind of guy,” he agreed.
“You may be aware of how often I use the phrase ‘lovingly notice’.” “Yeah, I ‘lovingly noticed’ it,” said William.
Charmaine liked William’s emerging sense of humor. She smiled appreciatively and continued.
“Lovingly noticing is important because meditation is not a neutral activity. And it’s certainly not an adversarial one. It a soulful activity. The soul, the loving witness within, is not neutral and it’s not adversarial. It’s actively loving, patient, merciful and compassionate. So you see, the soul does not just notice. It ‘lovingly’ notices.”
“I see the distinction,” he said with sudden comprehension. “The ego would just notice or more accurately, judge, while the soul would ‘lovingly notice’. That is an important difference!”
“It’s not just an important difference. It is an essential difference.”
“What about changing my focus word in mid-meditation? Was that okay?
“At one level, nothing you do in meditation is ‘not okay’. But generally I wouldn’t change my focus word in midstream. My ‘little mind’ has invited me to do that many times. Dealing with your own ego is a little like dealing with an innocent but tenacious and mischievous child.”
“Uh-oh!” William grimaced as he thought of his own ‘inner child’, or was it ‘inner children’? Yikes.
“But when you’re not meditating,” said Charmaine, “feel free to think about it and experiment. See which word or phrase feels right. As you first develop your practice, there are many things you’ll un- doubtedly personalize for yourself. Eventually, you’ll begin to settle into a way that feels comfortable. Remember, it’s more important that you meditate than how you meditate.”
“When I was trying to... oops... I mean when I was meditating, I noticed a familiar pattern to the distractions,” he mused. “They were pretty much just like the rest of my life, especially at work.”
“You’ve just touched on the very heart of why meditation is the most powerful and practical tool you can use to improve the quality of your life! We all have what I call sub-personalities. ese are dif- ferent facets of our ego structure. And, no, it doesn’t mean we’re all ‘schizo’,” Charmaine added as William opened his mouth to make a wisecrack.
“I’m glad to hear that.”
“There’s nothing wrong with these sub-personalities or roles we play in this life. They really are wonderful parts of who we are. For example, in me I see a mother, a little girl, an athlete, an artist/musician, a dancer, a teacher/coach, a passionate lover and an old spiritual seeker. These are all fine aspects of my being. But when my heart closes and I’m in a reactive state, these aspects of me will use all their methods to try to stay in control.”
“I understand the concept of different roles all rolled up in one person. But are we really all possessed by a gaggle of naughty sub-personalities who are constantly trying to control us?” William asked, perplexed. “ at sounds somewhat daunting - even a little scary!”
“They are all wonderful aspects of your being, William. When your heart is open and you’re coming from love, your soulful presence is manifested through these various parts in wonderful ways such as patience, playfulness, tenacity, curiosity, and creativity. When your heart is closed and you’re coming from fear, they manifest in ways that negatively affect the quality of your life, such as impatience, rigidness, stuckness, arrogance and boredom.”
“This is a very important point, William. In fact, it’s the reason meditation is the single most effective thing you can do to enhance the quality of your life. Your ego uses a vast array of tricks and dis- tractions in order to try to stay in control in your every day life. During meditation it will use all the same strategies to get you not to meditate. So, in aggregate and over time, when you meditate you will have the inescapable opportunity to face and move through all of your ego’s favorite controlling, fear-based thoughts.”
“Illustration, please,” said William.
“For example, if one of your sub-personalities tends to get bored easily, meditation will bore you to tears. If a part of you tends to get a little cocky or arrogant, you might begin to think you’re so good at meditating you don’t need to do it anymore. If part of you tends to get angry easily, you may initially find meditation irritating. If an- other part tends to be critical and self-deprecating, you might think you’re so lousy at meditating you may as well not bother. If a part of you tends to get lots of bellyaches or headaches, meditation might initially also give you a bellyache or a headache. If one part never seems to have enough time, it will try to convince you that you don’t have time to meditate. Our sub-personalities’ ‘little minds’ are very clever and more than a little slippery at staying in control. They’ve had years of practice!”
“My God! You’ve just described my inner rabble to a tee!”
“It’s really not such a mystery. We all have a similar crowd running around inside us.”
“So then, what’s your practical, do-it-yourself secret of crowd control?”
“I believe the practical value of meditation is this: if we meditate through all these attempted takeovers, through all the tendencies our various sub-personalities use to try to control our lives, we’ll begin to see them retreat and become less interesting.”
“That would be nice...”
“And here’s the ultimate clincher, the practical power of meditation. The fear based thoughts don’t just begin to disappear or become less interesting in your meditation; they eventually stop showing up in your everyday life.
“Meditation isn’t intended to solve all of life’s problems, though it does tend to give us a larger perspective from which to bring our best resources to manage those problems.”
“For example, Charmaine?”
“You may notice in your everyday life that you begin to take things a little less seriously, without losing passion in your activities. You may notice you begin to take things less personally even when someone is right in your face. You may notice you are listening better and are more able to set boundaries and to ask for what you want. You may notice your intuition and your creativity are available more often. Because meditation is a practice that cultivates being present in the moment, you may notice your sense of taste, touch, smell and sound are heightened. These are only a few of the many benefits of meditation. And most importantly, there is no other single activity that will bring you more directly to your soul. Meditation creates an inescapable opportunity to move through all the fear-based pat- terns in your life. And all you have to do is do it! You can’t even do it wrong. You can only do it or not do it. It simply works.”
“Thank you, Charmaine. You’ve given me a great gift!”
“Believe me, William, sharing with you has been a gift for me as well. We’re both blessed.”
Clue #8: Practice Some Form of Meditation
Meditation is the single most powerful practice that can help free ourselves from fear and suffering. All suffering comes from the ego forming attachments. All attachments are formed by thoughts. Meditation is the moment-to-moment practice of letting go of the attachments formed by those thoughts. Meditation can take many forms. Find what works best for you. It simply works. We can only do it or not do it. We can’t even do it wrong. Ultimately, the purpose of meditation is to help us identify with our soul rather than with our ego.
- All suffering comes from forming attachments. All our attachments are formed by thoughts. Meditation is the moment-to-moment practice of letting go of the attachments formed by those thoughts.
- The purpose of meditation is not to quiet the mind. It is to lovingly understand that you are not your mind. Be a compassionate witness to it.
- Meditation has a cumulative effect. The benefits accrue over time.
- Meditation is about identifying with your soul rather than with your ego.
- Meditation is not intended to solve all of life’s problems. But it does tend to give you a bigger perspective from which you can bring the best of your resources to manage and deal with those situations.
- You can only meditate or not meditate. And if you do meditate, you can’t do it wrong even if you wanted to. Even if you meditate thou- sands of times each time is different. Your mind will tell you that some meditations are better than others. But the reality is that each is a perfect reflection of your state of being in that moment.
Find a comfortable and peaceful place to meditate. As you develop your own meditation practice, you may feel inclined to do it at the same time and in the same place every day. 15 to 20 minutes twice a day is ideal. But it is more important that you do it, rather than where or how long you do it.
Posture is important. Sit up straight so your backbone is vertical and your head is upright. is is ideal but it’s more important that you’re comfortable. It’s important to be symmetrical in your sitting position, rather than leaning one way or another. It’s easier to be spiritually centered when your body is centered.
Close your eyes and soften your eyes, your tongue and your belly. ‘Lovingly’ begin to watch your breath. Feel your breath come in and go out of your body. Become your breath. Let it have you. Just be that loving observer, a gentle witness to your thoughts and awarenesses. It’s like sitting on a train and passively watching the scenery go by. en choose a short word or phrase as a soulful point of focus to accompany your breathing. Try to keep it to one or two syllables. Say it each time you exhale. Your focus word is your secondary point of focus. Your breath is the primary point of focus. Your breath and your word are simply ways to ‘lovingly’ bring your attention to the moment. As you get comfortable watching your breath, begin to meditate by quietly say- ing your focus word to yourself with each exhalation. This can be done silently in your mind or as a quiet whisper. Bring your attention back to your breath whenever you become aware that you have a thought and your attention has strayed.
Take an absolutely loving, unconditionally accepting attitude toward this ‘soulful-activity’ we call meditation. You cannot do it wrong. Whenever you become aware of having a thought while meditating, ‘lovingly’ notice you had that thought - no matter what it is - and gently return all your awareness to your breath and your focus word on the next exhalation. If you’re annoyed or discouraged or critical that a stray thought crept in, then just ‘lovingly’ notice you had that thought and gently return your attention to your breath and your focus word. No matter what happens while meditating, lovingly notice it and return your attention to your breath. And as you exhale, quietly say your focus word.
We all have what might be called sub-personalities. These are different facets of our ego structure. ere is nothing wrong with these sub- personalities. They are wonderful aspects of who we are. But when our heart closes and we’re in a reactive state, these aspects will use all their methods to try to stay in control. e practical value of meditation is that if we meditate through all these attempted ‘takeovers’, through all the tendencies our various sub-personalities use to try to stay in control, we’ll begin to see them retreat and become less interesting. They don’t just begin to disappear or become less interesting in our meditation – they eventually stop showing up in our everyday life. Meditation creates a constant opportunity to move through all the fear-based patterns in our life. This is ultimately the practical power of meditation.
The Benefits of Meditation
- Meditation decreases blood pressure.
- It helps reduce anxiety and mild to moderate depression.
- Meditation allows deep rest, helps eliminate tension and fatigue, and increases mental clarity.
- If you meditate regularly you will find your mind becoming more agile, sharper, stronger, more clear and finally more peaceful.
- You will find you are less anxious and tend to view life in a more positive way.
- It actually helps develop a more friendly and open attitude.
- You may start to notice in your everyday life that you begin to take things a little less seriously, without loosing passion in your activities.
- You may notice you begin to take things less personally even when someone is right in your face.
- You may notice you are listening better and are more able to set boundaries and to ask for what you want.
- You may notice your intuition and your creativity are available more of the time.
- Because meditation is a practice that cultivates being present in the moment, you may notice your sense of taste, touch, smell and sound are heightened.