meditation teacher used to say, “Unless you can meditate in Grand Central Station in New York City during rush hour, you are not really meditating.” Noise is a constant in modern society. But wherever you might be, there is stillness within you. That natural state of stillness is always available to you.
Instead of accessing our inner stillness, we tend to identify with the sounds of chaos and noise. For example, if you have ever tried to fall asleep and there is a dog barking in the neighborhood, what do you think about? Most people think: I want to go out there and stop the dog from barking, or tell the owner to keep that dog quiet. If it is not a dog, perhaps you can hear a faucet dripping in the kitchen and that drip is driving you nuts.
Consider that you can exploit the noise and leverage it to your benefit. Give yourself a suggestion that every time you hear that dog bark, the barking will bring you to a deeper state of calm, an interior relaxation. Or every time that faucet drips, the water brings you to a deeper state of inner peace. This way, you identify with your internal state as opposed to what is going on around you.
How You Identify Yourself
Similarly, many of us identify who we are:
First with our body—This is who I am.
Second with our emotions—I am what I’m feeling right now.
Third with our thinking—I am what I think.
In meditation, we dis-identify with the body, we dis-identify with the emotions, we dis-identify with the thinking, and instead identify with the soul. The first process in meditation is becoming aware of what is happening around you. Then you begin to withdraw your awareness from the external to focus on the internal.
This inward focus can happen quite profoundly within the first few moments of meditating. You are creating a distinct psycho-physiological state of low physical arousal with a high level of mental alertness. This process characterizes meditation. The quickest way to change focus is through the process you used to guide yourself into meditation. Let’s break the process down into its parts.
1. Withdraw Your Awareness
First, withdraw your awareness. Bring your mind that has been running around out in the world into the space your body is occupying. This establishes your intention so the mind knows that these next few minutes are not for the world, but for connecting inwardly. Where your attention goes, your energy flows. You are sending your energy within, bringing your mind to yourself so you are aware of your physical presence in the moment.
2. Relax Your Face
Next, you bring relaxation to your face. Focusing on smoothing your forehead has a very strong overarching effect through all of your physiology. Relaxing the forehead, the jaw, and bringing a gentle smile to your face, releases neuro-chemicals that rapidly pass through the entire body. Many studies have been conducted to show the importance of relaxing your face to enter meditative states.
3. Become Aware Of Your Breath
Next, you become aware of the flow of your breath. Notice the gentle touch of breath flowing from the base of your nostrils through your eyebrows in the center of your forehead. Concentrating on the flow of your breath automatically brings your awareness into the present moment. When you feel the sensation in your nostrils, it is a present-moment awareness, so this simple act brings you instantly into the “here and now.” In the present moment, you are not accessing past feelings or future thoughts.
4. Balance The Length Of Your Breath
The next step is to balance the length of the breath. Inhale and exhale for an equal time with no pauses between them. The breath is an invisible link between your mind and body. Balancing the breath brings about balance in the mind and body. The active and the passive sides of the brain, the active and passive sides of the body all come into harmony as your breath flows in one continuous cycle of inhalation and exhalation. That is why a sense of peace begins to emerge during meditation. As you calm the breath, you calm the mind, which calms the body simultaneously.
5. Your Focus Word
The final stage of meditation is a “focus word.” This keeps the conscious mind in a state of concentration and contemplation, so that it does not wander off. Your focus word can be anything; One, Peace, Love, OM, the holy name of your spiritual master, rosary prayers—you can decide. Simply imagine a sound flowing with the breath. A common focus word that’s often used is the Sanskrit word “Soham”; “So” with the inhale, and “Ham” (pronounced “hum”) with the exhale. It means “I am that” and as you keep saying “Soham” you are saying “I am that I am that I am…”
To Summarize This Meditation Practice
- Withdraw your awareness to the space your body is occupying.
- Relax your face and shoulders.
- Notice how the flow of your breath feels in your nostrils.
- Breathe in one continuous cycle of inhale and exhale.
- Imagine the sound “So” with the inhale, “Hum” with the exhale.
You are meditating!
If you want to enhance your meditation practice, I’ve prepared a free meditation audio you can download. Just head here to grab your copy »
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