Take a deep breath, everyone: we’re about to discuss meditation.
What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘meditation?’ Over the years, I’ve watched with great interest how the word alone can evoke an intense response within a person.
That response tends to lean one of three ways:
For the meditator, it may give rise to a feeling of calm by simply connecting to the sense-memory of what meditation has offered them in the past.
For the non-meditator, it can awaken strong feelings of anxiety and intimidation because they imagine the standard of meditation to be far higher than they could ever meet (‘so why even bother trying?’).
Finally, for the meditation-curious, the word entices and confuses at the same time.
Should you find yourself relating to one of the latter statements, allow me to allay your fears. As a long-time practitioner and teacher of meditation, I can tell you this in no uncertain terms:
There are no rules and you cannot do it wrong.
Read that last sentence again.
An exciting thought, isn’t it? There is infinite freedom to be found in the practice of meditation, and it begins in how you choose to do it.
Let’s take it a step further. Before you read on, I’d like you to stop, close your eyes and take three slow and intentional, deep, continuous breaths.
Well done. You’ve just practiced meditation.
Had you ever imagined that it could be that simple? It surely is. So, what does it mean to meditate? Merriam-Webster offers us this explanation:
Definition of meditate:
1: to engage in contemplation or reflection
2: to engage in mental exercise (such as concentration on one’s breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness.
I tell my students — particularly those who are determined to make meditation more difficult for themselves than it needs to be — that the act of meditating is simply to intentionally take pause and to consciously connect.
That is it.
I can assure you that you are capable and that the gifts meditation has to offer are well within your reach. My entire catalogue of spiritual teaching is built on one simple belief. This belief runs so deeply within my veins and is so tightly woven into the fabric of my being, that I can’t help but say it every chance I get, to whomever will listen. That belief is this:
As a Spiritual Being having a human experience, you are your own greatest healer.
If you don’t believe me, I encourage you to give it a try. First, decide. Then sit down, close your eyes and begin to listen. Focus on the breath.
Let go. Allow. Be.
Listen to the thoughts. Listen for guidance. If the thoughts are filled with “I can’t” and “this won’t work,” then that is your guidance. THAT is where you begin. The healer within has spoken.
The traditional images we see imply that meditation is only achieved by sitting cross-legged, hands held at the knees, fingers in Gyan Mudra, mind devoid of any thought. And I have no doubt that for many a mindful master, this is the path.
It is important to know, however, that it is not the only way. We are unique beings, and there is never one right answer for everybody.
The practice of meditation can be found in anything that affords you energetic space and quiet.
Being your own greatest healer means that however you choose to meditate is the right way to meditate because s/he knows exactly what you need.
We can get there by coming to a place of stillness. (Just sit. Be still. BE.)
We can get there by connecting to the waves of breath that move in and out of our bodies. We can get there by closing our eyes and setting the intention to ‘get there’ then allowing ourselves to relax into the rising and falling of our chests as we breathe.
We can get there by gazing at a focal point, letting the peripheral vision soften. We can get there by diving inward, listening for the natural rhythms within. There is truly a multitude of ways to achieve a meditative state. To expand the field further, depending on what resonates with you, we can get there by walking, running, counting from 1 to 100, cooking, vacuuming or sweeping, observing, singing, dancing, creating, chanting, praying. I could go on and on.
My mother needlepoints and nobody is going to tell me that she is not in a meditative state when she does; it is near impossible to get her attention mid-session.
If you pause right now and look at your life, it’s likely you’ll find that your inner healer had you practicing a meditation in some form or another, at some point along the way. The beautiful thing about it is that anything goes really. As long as it offers you respite and calm, you can call it meditation. The traditional imagery of meditation is certainly not how my daily practice looks. Yes, I sit cross-legged. No, I don’t use mudras every time (though I love them and find them to be powerful), nor do I rest my hands on my knees (they prefer to rest, open-palm, in my lap). As for a mind devoid of any thought? Hmm, my mind, well, even after all these years…she can be busy. Thankfully, through consistency, I have learned to tame her. When the thoughts rush in, I can redirect them, quiet them or banish them altogether.
Until the next wave floods in.
This is being a human, meditating. It is imperfect — and we do it anyway. It’s rinse and repeat — and we continue anyway. It’s unique — we allow our individual energetic needs to be met. It’s hard work and it can press upon our tender spots when it challenges our patience — and we do it anyway.
Like breath, it rises and falls. Coming back to it again and again is the work and the medicine and the gift. They don’t call it a “practice” for nothing.
The benefits of meditation are many. The first is that it gives you permission to connect to yourself, to listen to yourself and, very importantly, to learn to trust yourself.
May you allow yourself the room to play with the practice; to experiment and explore. It is available to you anytime, anywhere, under any circumstance. And it is likely you are already doing it to an extent. May it serve your highest good, for this serves the highest good of all. May you connect to yourself in gratitude and grace. And may you always breathe deep.
For more information about Cyia and her work, visit cyiabatten.com.