Yes, You Can Meditate

gregory meditating at darleen's 01-22-16

(Gregory Toole teaches meditation and is currently offering a four-week online meditation course. Click here  for more information.)

 


(Audio version)

I started meditating when I was in college. Initially it was something I took up because I heard it was good for stress relief and I was working my way through school. It quickly became a spiritual practice for me. I noticed I was more at peace, more centered, and my life seemed to work more smoothly.

I would meditate consistently for six months or so, and then my practice would drop off and I’d go several months without meditating. At some point it would dawn on me that my life was working much better when I was meditating and I would pick it up again for another six months as a daily practice. After this back and forth for many years, I finally adopted meditation as a central daily spiritual practice some twenty years ago. It continues to serve me well.

Many lament that they can’t meditate because when they try, the mind drifts or there are just too many thoughts flowing. Meditation doesn’t cause that; meditation merely gives us a view into what was already going on with the mind, and the opportunity to shift it.

“Not enough time” is another common reason many people have for not meditating. What I offer to those with this dilemma is to start with one minute a day. Everyone can find one minute, so it takes away all the resistance to finding time. As we discover the value of meditation it will naturally expand in our lives, making us more effective and efficient with our time because of increased clarity, focus, and access to our inner resources.

To me, the greatest benefit is that we begin to have increased awareness of our minds and therefore have the opportunity to be less identified with them, thus leading to more dominion over where we place out attention.

Ultimately, meditation practice creates the space for us to hear more clearly the divine wisdom that is constantly speaking to us, to decipher it from all of the assorted mind chatter, and to live a more grounded existence centered in our divine nature, not so swayed by all the various currents in life that can toss us about.

While there are many forms of meditation, I personally find sitting meditation to be the ultimate, especially in our busy world where most of us are constantly on the go. The process in getting to a regular practice of sitting meditation may involve first having a practice of walking meditation for those who find it challenging to sit still.

The walking meditation involves being as mindful as possible of everything within and everything around us. Rather than allowing the mind to wander aimlessly, we practice being fully present to the moment of now, our breath, our heartbeat, our feet touching the ground, and our surroundings – fully present, awake, and alert.

In sitting meditation, we also come fully present to the moment of now. There are many forms and the common denominator is usually one-pointedness of focus. We allow the mind to focus on one thing so that when it drifts we have something to bring it back to, which in turn makes us more aware of when it drifts.

A good and simple focus is the breath. As we breathe in, we notice it and we say “in” silently to ourselves, and as we exhale, we notice that and we say “out,” silently. At some point we realize we are no longer focused on the breath; the mind has drifted to a stream of thought about something going on in our lives. We notice that the mind has drifted and we gently bring it back to the breath.

And this is how meditation goes. Moments of focus, followed by non-focus, followed by more focus. With practice, the moments of focus and stillness expand.

The invitation this day is to start a one-minute-a-day meditation practice, or if you already have a meditation practice, to re-dedicate yourself to the practice and to take it deeper. You can do it!

Enjoy the journey.

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