Meditation is a wonderful way to clear the anxiety and fatalistic fantasies from our mind, to allow peaceful thoughts to enter and to create a soothing environment in our mind/body/spirit.
There are not many activities that are both so simple and at the same time so very difficult to accomplish! We may have the idea that meditation requires that we sit with our legs crossed in an extremely unlikely position while we quietly refuse to allow thoughts to express themselves in our mind, (HA!), or that we must enter a meditative state by doing extensive breathing exercises until we clear our minds. These are methods that are used in certain philosophies but there are many other ways to meditate. For example;
I love to do a walking meditation several times a week, it really is quite simple and very cleansing. I begin by going outside and noticing the temperature, the wind direction, the smells. I walk to the sidewalk and focus on the way my feet feel as they rhythmically carry me through space and time. The way the clouds look against the sky, is it sunny or wet or cold? What sounds am I hearing, what smells?
The leaves decomposing in the ditch, the birds singing or the lawn mower rumbling, a siren out on the main road. Next, I match my breathing to my steps and count. One, two, three, four counts to breathe in than one, two, three, four, five counts to breath out. By repeating the breathing for a minute or two, my mind clears and I can then focus on my five senses for the remainder of the walk. When I finish, I feel clean, relaxed and ready for the next project!
Then there is the meditation I call prayer. Most of us have been practicing some form of prayer since our childhoods and we have memorized many of them over the course of our lives. I found that some forms of rote prayer are an excellent vehicle for intense and productive meditation. I might set an intention, such as a desire to be more compassionate or understanding of my brothers and sisters in this life, and then I will recite a rosary or some other favorite prayer while keeping my intention in the front of my mind. Another form of prayer using rote is checking my motives. I will call to mind a goal I have set and contemplate my intentions for setting it while reciting a well-known prayer. There is no room in my mind for excuses or denials and I am able to see my true intentions for the goals I set, not to be self-critical but to clarify and instill honesty in my dealings with myself.
Sometimes, we all feel a bit lost or unsure of where we are going. I love to use jigsaw puzzles or mazes or oil paintings such as paint by number; doing an intense mental activity that requires concentration can really unleash a host of caged emotions or ideas that have been pushed to the side and seemingly forgotten. Just a few hours a week can open up so much of what we dream about but never really pursue, and bring these things back into the front of our minds so we can re-examine and perhaps re-commit to a long-lost desire. This I call the lost dreams meditation. Mandala are also vehicles that we can use to reignite our passions.
Perhaps my favorite form of meditation involves music and chanting or singing. Something about the combination of hearing and participating in a rhythmic, musical prayer even if I cannot understand the words is beyond soothing. It lifts my heart and makes me forget my sorrows, it soothes my wounds and connects me to higher realms where my imagination is not limited by physical constraints. I can close my eyes and see things that exist in the ethereal dimensions and forget for just a moment that I am in a temporal state. Even current and classic hits can have a similar effect and transform me through time to different eras of history or mine or other people’s lives.
And finally, there is the meditation of expressing emotion. So many events make up the course of ones life, and most of them involve intense emotion; marriage, death, childbirth, graduations and celebrations of every sort bring up vivid memories and always represent change. Change involves both joy and grief, there is the excitement of new things and there is the sorrow of loss for us to experience and remember. I have found that maintaining balance in my emotions requires that I spend some time every day processing my emotions. I remember to give thanks for those things I am grateful for and there are so many to choose from. My family, my friends, nature, the wind in my hair and a warm blanket to sleep under. I meditate on my losses and my grief and I express gratitude for the love that creates such longing for what is no longer here, and joy for the spiritual connection that promises reunion in the next dimension.
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