Posts Tagged ‘meditation’

“Success” in Meditation – A Dialogue

Written by Heal Your Heart on . Posted in Meditation

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Question: I have previously tried a couple of different meditations, but was not successful with either. Do you think the technique you teach will be different?

Response: What do you mean by success?

Question: It means that my mind does not quiet down when I sit to meditate. It also means that I am not motivated to be committed to a practice.

Response: Thank you for your candidness. How long did you meditate before quitting?

Question: A few days..

Response: Well… Let us explore this issue for it is a common one..

Question: Ok. So, how does meditation work?

Response: The purpose of meditation is to cultivate inner silence. What is this inner silence? This is the timeless gap between thoughts, which is available to us throughout the day and frames the doorway to our inner self. Since this is always available, we do not create anything new with spiritual practices; we only become adept at recognizing what already is and has always been. By returning again and again to the object of meditation (breath, mantra, etc), we cultivate one-pointedness of the mind. The ordinary state of mind is that of diffusion – multiple and conflicting trains of thought which are often colored by specific emotional signatures. One-pointedness is the process by which the mind comes to focus on a single object. As we progress further, the object becomes increasingly “refined” whereby it is picked up at subtler and subtler levels. Additionally, the silent gap between thoughts increases, not because the gap is invented (it always is) but because the combination of one-pointedness and refinement leads to diminished thoughts.

Question: How long will it take for me to get there?

Response: The most accurate answer to this is this – as long as it will take. There is no timeline for progress in meditation, because it is dependent upon our individual make-up of tendencies consisting of our personalities, upbringing, culture, influences, desires, emotional imprints, repressed and suppressed issues, etc etc. In general however, the initial results of calmness, reduced stress, health benefits and sleep regulation occur relatively early within a few months. These benefits continue to deepen and evolve over time. Technically, there is no “there” to get to. As Yogani, my beloved teacher states, “the journey is from here to here”.

 Question: I’m not really sure what must happen while meditating. Can you elaborate?

Response: The truth is that every single practice will be unique. While one practice session may be “deep” with relatively fewer thoughts, the next one may be “mind-y” where it feels like no progress was made. It is important to remember that no sitting practice is futile – simply making the time and effort to sit still has been a worthwhile endeavor. Meditation works on the neurobiology (consisting of not only the brain and the nervous system but also the subtle body where the thoughts/impressions are stored) at various levels – at the surface level of thoughts and mind one day and the deeper level of subtle energies on another day. Thus, there is no set thing that “must” happen during any given sitting practice. The beauty of this unpredictability is that it makes us more pliant and forces us to let go of control, an all-important necessity at later stages of spiritual practice.

Questioner: So then, what is the sign of “success” in meditation?

Response: The only true sign of success in meditation is what happens in daily life. Whether one attains depth in meditation or not is irrelevant if their life is not being transformed as a result of the practice. This transformation occurs slowly but surely, often first noticed by those around us. Transformation becomes evident in the subtle ways in which we carry ourselves, behave with others and handle day-to-day matters. Success is noticed when old patterns of reactivity, judgment and ill-will begin to fall away and in an increasingly greater capacity to look beyond our narrow selves. These changes occur whether or not we are achieving perfectly still minds in meditation. Furthermore, achieving a perfectly still mind in meditation is a well-propagated myth. Yes, there are times when this does occur and the meditator disappears (such an event is called samadhi in yoga), but this is neither common nor necessary to make progress.

Questioner: Of all the nuances (posture, timing, duration, etc), what is the most important factor for progress?

Response: It is the deliberate cultivation of the habit to meditate. This is the most challenging factor for most of us in the context of already busy lives and over-committed schedules. It does take effort to make time to practice everyday and to make adjustments to our lifestyles to accommodate this. However, this great self-effort is eventually replaced by the meditation taking over the effort and directing itself. This too happens without a set timeline. Unfortunately, most people quit before this magical shift occurs. The key is to keep up the practice and have faith that it is working. This applies to any meditation technique – give it enough time (at least a few months) before deeming it a “failure”.

Building a daily practice of meditation

Written by Heal Your Heart on . Posted in Meditation

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The most common initial hurdle with taking up meditation is finding the time and motivation for it. Most often, there is the expectation that somehow life will drastically change overnight by merely taking up the practice. Obviously, this is not how it works. As with everything else, there is a need for commitment, diligence and willingness to “go the distance” with meditative practices. Just like we do not take up an exercise program today and hope to lose 20 pounds by tomorrow, we also do not expect instantaneous changes from meditative practices. Unlike lifestyle changes, spiritual practices certainly can result in sudden changes and insights; however, we must be ready to dive in with the faith that transformation is gradually occurring and will continue to unfold as we cultivate inner silence. The first step to this is to build a daily practice in a stubborn sort of way. Such consistent effort is the cornerstone to all transformative behaviors, be it taking up an exercise program, sticking to a healthy diet, quitting addictive habits or maintaining a positive attitude.

Yogani explains this process beautifully; the following is an excerpt from aypsite.com:

Whatever system of practices we are following, chances are that we have heard, or figured out on our own, that daily practice is the key to success. The journey of transformation takes time, and the inner changes that lead to our progress require daily cultivation.

So, no matter what our approach or level of attainment is, reaching our destination in a reliable fashion depends on having daily practices firmly in place. Wherever we may be, we can close our eyes and meditate – in trains, airplanes, waiting rooms, just about anywhere. If we are willing to be flexible and compromise on our practices from time to time, we can keep up the habit under the most adverse circumstances. There is great value in this, for it assures us of a continuation of practices over the long term, which is the key to success.

We do not live in an ideal world. Even with the best plans for regular practice in our meditation room, it can all go out the window with a family emergency or other intervening events. Does this mean our daily practices have to go out the window too? Not if we have a strategy. That is what we will cover in this lesson. Ways to keep our practices going, no matter what is happening.

As our routine of yoga becomes more sophisticated, involving more practices, keeping it all going in a busy schedule presents both challenges and opportunities. With so many pieces to work with in an advanced routine, we can be pretty creative in compressing our practices when time is short. Where there is a will, there is a way!

Let’s talk about the basics of establishing and keeping a habit of doing daily spiritual practices. One of the easiest ways to do it is make a rule for ourselves that we will do our routine before we eat breakfast and dinner – twice a day like that. If the time of one or both of those meals isn’t stable, then we can tag it to be done upon awakening in the morning, and as soon as we arrive home in the evening. If we are traveling, it gets a bit more complicated, but practices can be done to some degree under just about any circumstances, as long as we honor our habit.

Keeping the habit is not only about doing a full routine. It does not have to be “all or nothing.” The habit is an urge we build into ourselves to do something about this practice at the appointed time that comes twice daily. Having the habit is having the “urge to practice.” This cultivated urge is the seed of all daily practice. It is like getting hungry at meal times. It just happens, and we want to eat. If we have the urge for yoga practices cultivated like that, then we will do them. Most days we will be doing our whole routine. On other days, we may be doing less. But we will always be doing something every session. This “always doing something every session” is very important.

To illustrate what we mean by having the “habit,” let’s suppose we are hurrying down a busy street. We are on our way to a business dinner appointment that will tie us up until bedtime. We are walking quickly, weaving our way through the people we are passing on the sidewalk. The restaurant is just around the corner now. Almost there. But wait! We see a bench, an empty bus stop bench on the sidewalk in the middle of all the people hurrying this way and that way. We have that urge built into us to do practices. It is time. So what do we do? We stop and sit on that bench for a few minutes and meditate. It might be only for two minutes. But why not? Who will miss us for those two minutes? And we have kept our habit to sit. It is amazing how doing something small like that can renew us for an entire evening – centering for just a few minutes, picking up the mantra just a few times. The nervous system says, “Thank you!” And we are calmer for the rest of the evening.

But it is not just about centering for a few minutes. It is also about keeping our habit of twice daily practices. If we are in a crazy schedule for days or weeks like that, and can just sit for a few minutes before breakfast and dinner, then when we recover control of our schedule we won’t be struggling to find our practice routine again. The habit will be there, and then we can indulge it with our full routine, which we know will fill us to overflowing with inner silence and divine ecstasy.

So that is the first thing, you know – keeping the habit, even if it for two minutes on a bus stop bench. It does not matter where it is, or what is going on. We can keep the habit if we are committed. Then it will keep us committed, because it becomes a hunger that comes on its own at the appointed time. Then we will not have to struggle to restore our commitment to yoga once we are free to do twice-daily full routines of practice again.

In this busy world, we will all be faced with the challenge of having limited time for our practices. As we continue with yoga, our desire for progress will become stronger, and we will find ways to keep the necessary time available. Even so, there will be things that come up occasionally that will limit our time, so it is wise to develop an attitude of flexibility and a willingness to compromise when necessary to make sure that we are always honoring our habit to practice twice each day. If we do that, there won’t be much in this world that can keep us from reaching our destination.