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Joy of Meditation
As I mature in my meditation practice, I find that I am enjoying it more and more, reaping the benefits, and learning to make meditation – like all of life at its best – an experiment in joyful living and learning. Mindfulness has taught me that there is a path to peace. It is right here and right now, free for the asking, no coupons to clip, bags to pack or airplanes to catch.
There are many paths to a mindful life. Meditation is certainly not the only one, but it is a primary one for many. It is for me. I like to experiment with various formats and visualizations, as part of my meditation. All of my meditation practices have two elements in common.
1) I always begin with conscious breathing. Conscious breathing is the opposite of what most of us do most of the time, which is unconscious breathing. In conscious breathing, we deliberately focus on the breath, that life giving, unpretentious, humble act without which we cannot survive more than a few seconds. Focusing on the breath means tasting the fresh air as we take it in through our nostrils, sensing the expansion as the air fills up our lungs and belly, then letting go and witnessing as the air leaves. That’s all. And that is ALL.
Conscious breathing means letting go of all other thoughts and feelings and hopes and fears and stories from the past and fantasies of the future. Conscious breathing means not judging ourselves if any of these enter, but just noticing and letting them go. Conscious breathing means allowing ourselves just to BE in the present moment, accompanied by the must fundamental act of life: breathing.
Conscious breathing is the ultimate vacation. No responsibility. Nothing to carry. Nothing to think about. Nothing to achieve. No mistakes, only breathing. You know how to do that.
2.) When I sense that with the help of conscious breathing, I have slowed down enough, let go, moved inside my own skin, become fully present to my own life force, then I move on to phase two, mindfulness. I have many different formats for practicing the mindful meditation, but they are all manifestations of the same two wings. Opening the Heart and Quieting the Mind. Based on a lifetime of experience, I am convinced that if I will live true to these two principles, then I can let go of everything else, knowing that life will work out for the best. This is as true in times of sorrow as it is in times of joy; it is true in times of health and times of sickness. It is true for the rich and true for the poor.
The only time when these principles are not true is when I forget that they are true. When I separate from this essential truth, then my mind fills with a thousand devils of anxiety and strife and poor, useless me, and fear of this and that and nothing and everything, and oh, dear, oh dear.
I don’t mean to say that it is easy to follow these principles. I do mean to say that it is possible and desirable. In future blogs, I’ll discuss more detailed meditation scripts. There are also many books about the path I am discussing. In future blogs I’ll talk about more of them. One of the best is Tara Brach’s Radical Acceptance https://www.tarabrach.com/books-cds/.
But for now, I urge you to turn your imagination loose on these two wings of mindfulness. What would it mean to “open your heart”? What would that be like? How would it feel? What might be difficult? What might be easy? Now do the same with “quiet the mind.” What does that phrase mean to you? Have you experienced a quiet mind? What words describe the usual state of your mind? Stay tuned to learn more about how to open your heart and quiet your mind.
What do you think. I’d love to hear from you.