Living on planet earth in the twenty-first century is hard on the soul as well as on the body. The stresses that bombard you from all directions, in addition to making you more vulnerable to disease, can leave you feeling unsettled and fragmented—out of touch with what you really want, what you really believe, and ultimately who you really are.
The more faithfully you listen to the voice within you, the better you will hear what is sounding outside – Dag Hammarskjold
In order to stay happy and healthy, your soul needs nourishment, just as your body does. Many meditation forms are popular today because they are so nourishing. They aid in relaxation, concentration, and an attunement to deeper, more spiritual aspects of your self. Meditation is a process of locating your center of being, your temple of inner wisdom, your truest self, and learning to live, consistently, from that place. It is a way to re-collect your scattered parts. The word “meditation” comes from the Sanskrit word medha, which literally means “doing the wisdom.”
Begin to Meditate
- Set aside at least ten minutes a day, and eventually longer, in a quiet and private place. (Most meditation forms range in length of practice time from twenty minutes to an hour.)
- Be prepared to encounter numerous mental distractions. Let them rise and fall or float away like leaves in a moving stream. But don’t get washed away with them. Develop an attitude of passive acceptance.
- Select a centering device. This can be a sound or word or phrase – a mantra – that is repeated. (For example: “One” or “Peace” or a phrase like “There is only love.”) Or use a candle or devotional picture to keep your attention focused. You can sing an inspirational song, recite a favorite poem, or use a repetitious bodily movement like swaying or rocking to create a similar centering focus. Concentrating on the breath as it rises and falls or simply counting breaths are other common forms of centering.
- With extraneous thoughts now in the background, the body and mind are free to rest deeply. For some people, this naturally evolves into a time of wordless gratitude. Others find they more clearly hear or perceive their intuition or inner voice.
- Keep bringing your attention back to your center. As your mind wanders, and it always will, imagine that you are taking it gently by the hand and leading it back – the way you might lead an exuberant child back to the sidewalk on the way to school. Let gentleness be the guiding principle.
- Use resources as you need them. There are many books available that will teach you simple meditation practices. In many cities there are groups devoted to teaching and practicing meditation techniques. Energy is greatly intensified when meditation is done with a group. You will be amazed at how many people privately practice some form of personal spiritual practice like meditation. Start asking and listen to what people have to say.
The practice of meditation involves an appreciation of basic, unconditional goodness and a stance of gentleness and fearlessness in dealing with ourselves and our world. In other words, we can maintain our dignity in both illness and health – Dr. Mitchell Levy
Finding a center, a home, a place of balance within makes almost anything easier to face. The universe, from this perspective, seems friendly, and your place in it feels blessed. Since your life energy emanates from your center, being there regularly means being in greater harmony with yourself, your brothers and sisters, and the cosmos.
To love is to approach each other center to center – Pierre Tielhard de Chardin.
People commonly speak of being “off center,” meaning imbalanced in some way. Finding a center within your body, a place you can attend to when you are stressed or upset and need to draw your fragmented parts back together, can be helpful. Where would you locate your center? Unsure? Try one or more of these suggestions:
- If you imagine that your soul exists in your body, where would it be? Touch that place now.
- Imagine that your body is a building with a hidden chamber located somewhere within it. In that chamber you meet your inner wisdom or guide. This is a place in which no lies can exist. Where is that place?
- Imagine that you want to balance your physical body. Where is the fulcrum, the point of contact at which you will balance?
- Take a few slow and very deep breaths. From what place does the breath originate? What place does the deepest breath reach?
- Say “I am me” several times as you point to yourself. Where do you point? Which place feels truest?
You may have found several different places that felt like your center, your internal home. Decide which one is your favorite for now and experiment with it for at least a week before you try out another one. Use that place within as a point of focus that you can return to even in the midst of chaotic activity.
Meditation will become a way of life, not just something you do for a set time every day. This form of self-remembering is a powerful means of heightening your awareness of your life, reducing stress, altering the way in which you see the world, and consequently enhancing your overall health and wellness.
Reprinted with permission, from Simply Well by John W. Travis, MD, & Regina Sara Ryan. Copyright 2001. Celestial Arts, Berkeley, CA.