I have had a regular meditation practice for about 15 years. Currently I am in love with my daily meditation practice and I find it serves every area of my life from decision making to stress reduction to navigating conflict to cultivating my sexual energy. In the beginning however, meditation was often a struggle.
In my early days as a spiritual seeker I sought meditation to connect with something greater and to understand the mysteries of life as a human and, particularly, the more painful mysteries. I became a spiritual seeker when being a practical and fearful atheist stopped holding up at the sudden death of my first love and dear friend. So I sought answers.
For most of my time with meditation I have overcomplicated it by expecting an overwhelming expulsion into the vastness of unity with all that is and ever was. I believed when I entered this place I would finally experience the fruits of my labor of sitting in stillness–or at least trying to. This single mystical moment when all would be revealed to me became my drishti, my focal point, and provided me with a very goal-oriented and invariably disappointing meditation practice. I’ve spent countless hours in dutiful and rigid concentration waiting for my third eye to blow open and reveal the magical universe. I’ve repeated hundreds of different mantras thousands of times that were “given” to me by various gurus who proclaimed to have the pathway to view a glimpse of this enlightened kingdom of consciousness. Ultimately my meditation practice came down to two things 1) I was reaching for something beyond, or outside of, myself and 2) meditation was something that I was doing.
What I have come to understand is that meditation is the opposite of these things. The way in which I was trying to meditate was antithetical to meditation and the things I desired to experience. Meditation in essence is the state of being. It is surrendering and letting go of the state of doing. For Americans, sitting back and allowing things to unfold is a powerful practice in and of itself. Meditation comes down to the act of mindfully placing one’s attention and then being there as best you can. Attention can rest on breath, sound, mantra, within the body or on the very thoughts themselves. I have found going deeper within myself, rather than seeking to get beyond myself, incredibly rewarding. All of the great answers I was seeking though connection to universal consciousness are all dancing within me and all I need to do is open my inner ear to receive their messages.
I have read and heard far too many extravagant descriptions of what happens in meditation. Colors and light and communion with god in a vast and open plane. When I wasn’t constantly seeing these things, I felt like a failure. When indeed, I realized that these moments happen all of the time. In fact, I think everyone feels these sacred experiences at least once in a while as we engage in mundane life. Haven’t you felt a second of exquisite delight, expansiveness, holiness or heart opening when you fully see and connect with your child, your pet, a friend, or a stranger, when you commune with a lover or with nature, during a delicious meal or through athletic endurance or embodied self expression, at sunrise, sunset or in the dark quiet in the middle of night? Meditation is a vehicle to help us fine tune our awareness and begin to expand these magical moments.
Indeed, we can experience expansiveness and great insight in simple seated meditation as well. There may even be flickering lights and colors sometimes. The thing is there’s generally many other things happening during meditation like the to do list, the sounds of the cars outside, your cramping foot, remnants of that conversation that pissed you off and the list goes on. Meditation is not about escaping our thoughts, it’s about accepting life as is and embracing our tendencies. Meditation is an opportunity to be in the role of the witness to all that is happening for us and to consciously choose where to guide attention.
Meditation can happen when you’re sitting quietly, practicing yoga, walking, in a traffic jam, giving birth or making love. Try infusing any activity, or non-activity, with a conscious placement of your attention by setting an intention. For example:
I’m going to see how full and delicious I can make my next 10 breaths.
I’m going to focus my awareness on my genitals and feel every sensation possible as I touch myself. (Yoga for sex!).
I’m going to close my eyes and be with all of the emotions I am feeling.
Then, as you place your attention, become aware of what comes up to distract you from this place. You don’t have to do anything but gently guide your attention back to your intention. Lovingly watch your habits, tendencies and resistance.
As we practice meditation over time, the excess noise starts to fade more into the background and moments of serenity and clarity become more abundant. There is ample scientific evidence that meditation reduces stress and heals dis-ease in the body. Mindfulness practice is a key component to sexual wellness and developing great communication skills in relationship. Go ahead, dive inward and leave your agenda at the door.
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