A Meditator’s Journey

meditationA Meditator’s Journey
Into the heart of Namaste

People ask me about what they can expect from a practice of meditation. I often suggest that they approach it with innocence, as if they were on an adventure to somewhere that has never been explored. It is certainly different for everyone. Often, new meditators have amazing experiences their first day, like Carol who wrote:

“Learning to meditate was like that moment standing on top of the mountain and seeing the whole world lay out at your feet. A feeling of being a part of something much larger than yourself and at the same time knowing it was always within you. There is this image in my mind of the swirling pinks and purples of the rocks against that dark and moody sky that day when I opened my eyes after meditating for the first time. It was as if the world had polished itself just for me.”

But her experience is only one of many that people can have. A meditation student from Flagstaff , we’ll call R.H. recently shared his perspective as he explores his practice of meditation…. I thought you might enjoy it.

“I have read many books, and talked to a wide variety of people about meditation, and in my practice I have been seeking the peak experience that many describe: the merging with the universe, the transformational experience, the overwhelming realization of my oneness with the spirit that moves in all things, an experience that would change my life forever, but it never came.

“So I would read more books, talk to more people, and take more classes looking for a better way, or for what I was doing wrong. But my practice continued to be filled with thoughts, and my enlightenment remained illusive. I kept seeking, kept up my practice, but seemed to make little progress toward universal consciousness.

“Over time, however, I did notice that I felt calmer and more often at peace with myself, my circumstances and with others. I noticed that sometimes walking felt more like dancing, a sweeping ballet of movement that filled me with wonder.

“I started to notice a voice within me, that wasn’t a voice I could hear, but was more like a knowing, that helped me to see the way though my days. I notice that I stopped wanting things, or doing things that did not serve me, from the foods I ate, to the TV I watched, and the ways I invested my time.

“As my awareness of these changes grew, my disappointment at not having a transformational experience faded, and I rejoiced in the growing quality of my life, and it was enough.

“Then one day I realized my whole life was changing. While I was looking for an ecstatic experience, it had come to me, not all at once, but in the breath of daily living. What I saw when I looked around, what I felt when I talked to people, what I experienced when I went within, was a connection, a oneness that is at the heart of Namaste.

“The experience I had sought arrived gently, more like the warming breath of spring than the crescendo of a symphony, more from surrendering to the wisdom of the spirit that moves in all things than from my seeking, more like a quarry that appears unannounced in the night, than one you hunt down.

“So my meditation practice continues, sometimes uncomfortable, always interrupted by thoughts and the random sounds of my everyday world, sometimes ordinary, but the peace and connectedness still pervade my life, and this gift is priceless.”

*The translation of the greeting “namaste” that best expresses what I mean comes from Alan Watts:

“I greet that place in you, which, when you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, we are one.”

More

Meditation: Hanging out with your self

lotus_flower

Jeanna Zelin is a student of Sarah McLean’s.  We often get asked the questions what is meditation and how do I meditate in my hectic life.  We would like to share Jeanna’s experiences and explorations with you.          

It’s Saturday morning, and I’m driving north on the 101 to Scottsdale.  Only this time I’m not heading to Scottsdale Fashion Square or to some hip, new restaurant.  I am off on one of my boundary-expanding adventures.  I am stepping out of my daily routine to learn how to meditate.

It’s already around a hundred degrees out, so I figure sitting in a cool, studio suite learning to clear my inner clutter might not be such a bad way to spend the day.  Besides, taking a break from the techno-charged world of cell phones, e-mail, IPODs and Blackberries might do me some good.

Sarah, the teacher, has a very soothing manner, and her eyes dance as she describes the practice of meditation and what we will be learning over the course of the weekend.

My mind wanders as I contemplate how I will ever be able to sit through a class on keeping my mind from wandering.

I would later learn that meditation is not about forcing my mind to be quiet; rather it’s a process to rediscover the quietness that is already there underlying the chatter of my thoughts.

Sarah talks about how there’s no good or bad meditation,  no judgment and no criticism.  “Anyone can meditate,” she says.  “Just bring your attention to your primordial sound, and whenever you notice your attention has drifted to other thoughts in the mind, or sounds in the environment, bring your attention back to your mantra. It doesn’t matter how many times you lose your mantra.”

In just a half-hour spent in my own silence, I learned more than I ever would in my usual, hyper-distracted and information-overloaded life.

So I decided to delve deeper into the realm of meditation.  Here’s what I discovered.

Meditation: What is It?
Webster’s Dictionary defines meditation as “engaging in mental exercise (as concentration on one’s breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness”.  Other definitions I’ve heard describe meditation as a way to tap into the sacred silence that lies within or how to get in touch with your true nature.

The word meditation is derived from two Latin words: meditari (to think, to dwell upon, to exercise the mind) and mederi (to heal). Its Sanskrit derivation medha means wisdom.

I like Victor Davich’s definition from his book, 8 Minute Meditation: Quiet Your Mind.  Change Your Life.  He says that meditation is allowing what is.

Sounds too easy.

Of course I would find out that it’s not that simple.  Meditation requires patience (with yourself) and practice (by yourself).

Meditation usually involves slow, regular breathing and sitting quietly for 15 to 20 minutes.  While there is no right or wrong way to practice, most instructors agree that it’s best to find a fairly quiet place free from distraction.  Sitting is sometimes preferred to lying down (in order to avoid falling asleep).  Then simply relax your muscles and breathe in a free and natural way.

In his book, Getting in the Gap, Dr. Wayne Dyer explains meditation as a way to get in “the gap,”  which is a place between your thoughts.  It is the place where you can be still and release yourself from the 60,000 thoughts hurtling through your mind during the course of a day.

Practiced for nearly 5,000 years in Eastern religions, meditation seems to also have become more mainstream in Western cultures.  Americans are learning to take the time to sit and say “Om.”  Probably in part due to the scientific evidence that shows how meditation produces long-lasting changes in brain activity, improves health, and reduces stress.

Benefits of Meditation
Recent research indicates that meditating brings about dramatic effects in as little as ten minutes.  Meditation can reduce the effects of such illnesses as stress, anxiety, high blood pressure, chronic pain and insomnia.

In people who are meditating, brain scans have shown an increase in activity in areas that control metabolism and heart rate. Other studies on Buddhist monks have shown that meditation produces long-lasting changes in the brain activity in areas involved in attention, working memory and learning.

According to Dr. Herbert Benson, author of the Relaxation Response and professor of medicine at the Mind Body Medical Institute at Harvard University, found through his research that meditation acts as an antidote to stress.  Under stress, the nervous system activates the “fight-or-flight” response. The activity of the sympathetic portion of the nervous system increases, causing an increased heartbeat, increased respiratory rate, elevation of blood pressure and an increase in oxygen consumption. This fight-or-flight response has an important survival function. It helps an organism run quickly to escape an attack or to fight off an attacker. However, when this stress response is activated continuously, as happens for many people in today’s over-scheduled world, the effects are harmful. And the flight or fight response does nothing to help when you have too many emails or are stuck in a traffic jam.

Through his research, Dr. Benson demonstrated that the effects of meditation directly counteract the fight-or-flight response.  Meditation decreases the heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure and oxygen consumption.  Those who practice meditation report feeling more relaxed and generally experience an overall state of wellbeing.

Types of Meditation
There are many traditions and countless ways to practice meditation.  I googled “types of meditation” and got 2,110,000 results.  There is not just one way to meditate. You must find the way that is best for you personally. It does not matter what technique you choose, the foundation of all techniques is focus and attention.

Some of the more widespread types of meditation include: transcendental meditation, vipassana meditation, Zen meditation, Taoist meditation, mindfulness meditation and Buddhist meditation.  There are perhaps hundreds more methods out there.

The course I took is called Primordial Sound Meditation.  Derived from the yoga tradition of India and recently popularized by Dr. Deepak Chopra, this technique is based on the basic sounds of nature.  Once you learn the unique vibration of nature that corresponds to the exact time of your birth, you repeat this as a mantra.  Focus on this mantra helps take our awareness away from the repetitive thoughts of daily life brings our awareness to our own inner silence.

This place of being still and connecting to something deeper within ourselves is available at every moment.

And given our current manic pace and over-scheduled lives, a little “being” sure beats more “doing.”

Article by Jeanna Zelin

Follow your Path

Finding Your Life's Purpose, Your Path to Self-Discovery

Follow Your Path

How to Open Yourself to Your Life’s Purpose

“Why am I here? What is my purpose in life?” Asking these questions marks the beginning of your search to finding your life’s purpose. Following the path toward a life of meaning and purpose is different for everyone. Here are some steps that have been taken by many who live a fulfilling life.

Become more self-aware so you acknowledge how you really feel. Are you fully  fully satisfied, or it is time for a change? One of the keys to living a life of meaning and purpose is acknowledging the nagging feeling that there was more to life than what you are doing now. Perhaps you don’t feel satisfied, and nothing on the horizon looks like it will do the trick. Do you sense there is a greater reason for being but don’t know what it is?  Have you had enough? Do you dread going to work? Do you feel unfulfilled? Do you feel bored and unhappy?

Ask yourself these important questions: Begin your day with meditation or prayer, and ask yourself these questions:  What is my purpose in this life? Why am I really here? What is my heart’s desire?  Then listen. The answers might not come to you right away, but be patient, and look for clues. Don’t try to come up with the answers intellectually, or figure it out; these are questions that you want to be answered in a more expanded way.

Listen to your inner voice. Listen to your inner voice above all. Meditation is a key to unlock your intuition. By spending time in silence every day through meditation or prayer you can expand your awareness and quiet the noise and distractions from the outside. Listening to your inner wisdom takes practice, and anyone can do it. Intuition is a very wise, yet quiet voice. It is very real, and doesn’t steer you wrong. When you act on your intuition and respond authentically to the cues around you, you’ll begin to trust your own wisdom and unlock the keys to your happiness.

Notice what you are attracted to, pay attention to your internal yes and no, or your yums and yucks, and act on them. Your body is wise, just think, it exchanges oxygen molecules for carbon dioxide molecules, constantly replaces the cells in your body, controls your temperature and your heartbeat, and so much more. Your body is wise; it is your best friend. You can tune into and become more aware of your sensations of comfort and discomfort, listen to the quiet voice inside, and really pay attention to what you are attracted to. Becoming aware and honoring how you feel in each moment is vital to a successful journey toward a more fulfilling life.

Tune out the “should’s” from those around you. Take a leap of faith and trust in your dreams. A bad habit is when we are dependent on others people’s opinions of us, and defer to their idea of what we should do rather than following our dreams. Finding your purpose sometimes means going against the advice of close friends and family.

Gandhi once said,

“There are times when you have to obey a call which is the highest of all, i.e. the voice of conscience, even though such obedience may cost many a bitter tear, and even more, separation from friends, from family, from the state to which you may belong, from all that you have held as dear as life itself. For this obedience is the law of our being.”

Look for clues and be open to possibilities: Clues to your life’s purpose might be found in the answers to these questions: How do you spend your free time? What were your hobbies were when you were a kid left to express your own creativity? Perhaps you’ll find clues in books or cds that catch your attention. Spend time with people who are living their dreams and are talking about things you are attracted to or are thinking about. When you are onto something, synchronicities may become more frequent, that is a big clue. An opportunity to find and express your passion might be revealed or serendipitous event that reminds you of what’s important and what makes you happy.

Richard Bach, author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull writes:

“Nothing happens by chance, my friend… No such thing as luck. A meaning behind every little thing, and such a meaning behind this. Part for you, part for me, may not see it all real clear right now, but we will, before long.”

Notice who you admire, and put your attention on what kind of person you want to be. You might admire your mom, or grandfather, or a mythological or biblical figure, or a world leader or boss. Make a list of who they are and what qualities they have. Those who you admire are showing you the qualities that you can bring out in your own life. Determine how you already show those qualities and acknowlege that. What you put your attention on grows. So check your list and aim to embody the qualities of those you admire.

Be patient. Trust the wisdom of the universe. You will sense that you are onto something when you experience joy or peace in the moment, feel energized by your activity, or sense that you are being supported in your efforts by the universe, nature, God or your higher power. Know that life is on your side. Have faith and patience. Be open to signs and wonders, coincidences and opportunities. Keep your commitment and take small steps to make it happen.

Practice gratitude. Putting your attention on what you have and then asking for what you want will keep you from regretting the present moment. Grateful people do not deny or ignore the negative aspects of life. According to the experts, it’s easy to regret the time you’ve spent being unhappy or unfulfilled. Research has found that those who practice gratitude report higher levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction, vitality, optimism and lower levels of depression and stress. The disposition toward gratitude appears to enhance pleasant feeling states more than it diminishes unpleasant emotions.

Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple Computer, shares how he found his passion:

“I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love…. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

How do you know when you are on the ‘right’ path? Here are some of the signs people cite:

“It took me quite a bit of whole-body tuning-in to learn to feel it, but there’s a physical sensation of sweet ease in the center of yourself, between your chest and belly, that will let you know you are moving in the right direction.” Gay Hendricks, author Conscious Loving.

“The first sign would be a feeling of general happiness and satisfaction. If you drag out of bed in the morning and can barely face the day, then you’re definitely not on the right path. If you hop out of bed and you are enthused about what you are doing, then you are.” –Deborah King, Ph.D., author of Truth Heals: What You Hide Can Hurt You.

In his book and DVD, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, Dr. Deepak Chopra shares that everyone has a unique purpose in this life:

“We all seek our unique destiny, our place in the cosmic plan. It is known as dharma and it is more than seeking work that you love. The root of the word ‘dharma’ in Sanskrit means ‘to uphold.’ This is a valuable clue. You know you’ve become part of the cosmic design when the universe upholds and supports you. Every principle of nature comes to your aid, every power supports you spontaneously.

“The universal mind choreographs everything that is happening in billions of galaxies with elegant precision and unfaltering intelligence. Its intelligence is ultimate and supreme, permeating every fiber of existence from the smallest to the largest, from the atom to the cosmos. You are an impulse of the universe.”

“Everyone has a purpose in life, a unique gift or special talent to give to others. When we blend this unique talent with service to others, we experience the ecstasy and exultation of our own spirit, which is the ultimate goal of all goals.”

Sarah McLean, founder and director of the Sedona Meditation Training Co., was the education director of the Chopra Center in California and has taught hundreds of people to meditate. Find out more, call (928) 204-0067, or visit http://www.SedonaMeditation.com.

Share this Blog

Bookmark and Share