The Essence of Meditation
“We must create sacred time for ourselves to access the deepest, highest, wisest parts of ourselves.” – Kelly Rae Roberts
I’ve practiced meditation for about ten years.
Roughly five years ago, I came to a point where as I would sink deeper into different levels of consciousness, I would experience a stopping point.
I would get to a certain point of awareness and I would hear a loud:
Jolting me wide awake.
It felt like I was being ejected out of my meditative state by my subconscious.
Which was quite unsettling.
I’d like you to imagine that meditation is an elevator.
At the beginning of each session I was at the starting point: the 1st floor.
As I would breathe and sink deeper into stillness, the elevator would move upward, passing the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th floors.
But, as soon as I was about to reach the 5th floor, the cable holding the elevator would snap and I would fall abruptly back down to the 1st floor.
This happened to me every time, for months.
I could not understand why my subconscious was limiting my progress in this way.
And I could not find the source of the resistance.
I talked with everyone that I knew, that also had a regular meditation practice and no one had ever experienced or even heard of this happening before.
Now, I love meditation, and I was determined not to let this event disrupt my progress.
But, I also realized that I wasn’t going to move forward doing things in the same way I had been doing them.
So, I stripped my practice and I rebuilt it from the ground up.
Here are the steps I used in order to build a sustainable meditation practice.
Create a Space: Find a comfortable and quiet space in your home or office where you will not be disrupted.
Have a Set Time: Have a specific time of day that you set aside solely for meditation. Set a timer or alarm clock so that you will be reminded at your set time. I prefer early mornings when there are less distractions. Speaking of…
Remove Distractions: Your space needs to be quiet. Remove or turn off any electronic devices. (An exception would be made if you were using a guided meditation app. If that’s the case, turn off the ringer, text & email notifications on your device.) Keep pets in another area so they won’t disturb you and ask anyone that may be sharing your space to keep their noise level down while you practice.
Choose Your Position: Find a comfortable position to practice in. It is common to sit cross legged on the floor, but this position is not comfortable for everyone. You may find you need to sit on a blanket or pillow. Maybe you prefer to lay down on the floor. (Just don’t get so comfortable that you fall asleep!)
Check Your Posture: If you choose to sit, make sure that your spine is straight, tuck your lower ribs in toward your belly button and drop your shoulders down, away from your ears. Keep your head over your heart and your heart over your hips. If you are laying down, lay on your back. Snuggle your shoulder blades closer together, so that your shoulders are flush with the floor. Lay with your legs and arms slightly away from the midline and your face pointed upward toward the ceiling.
Close Your Eyes: Remember that the purpose of meditation is to find stillness. By closing your eyes, you’re removing a distraction (the sense of sight).
Take Three Grounding Breaths: I always begin by taking three deep breaths. This is the signal that I’m sending to my mind that says, “Ok, we’re getting ready to be still now.”
Become Aware of Your Breathing: Focus on your breathing. Feel the sensation of each breath in your body. Feel the expansion and contraction of your lungs and rib cage. Feel the movement of your diaphragm in your belly. If you find it difficult to focus only on the breath, you can utilize the yogic mantra, “So Hum” during meditation. To do this, on the inhale think, “So” and on the exhale think “Hum”. If mantras aren’t your thing, you can also simply use “In” and “Out”.
Notice: If you find thoughts entering your mind (as they will surely do), acknowledge the thought and gently let it go, returning to your breathing. Do the same with any physical or emotional feeling you encounter. If your body begins to ache from sitting in the same position, notice the sensation and gently return to your breathing.
Come Back Softly: When you are done with your meditation, bring your awareness back to your body. Softly wiggle your fingers and toes, gently blink open your eyes when you feel ready.
Be Kind To Yourself: Meditation is a practice. Don’t become upset with yourself if you have a day where you cannot quiet your mind. Know that every time you practice, you will experience something different. There is no right or wrong, there is only where you are in that moment.
Meditation is a deeply personal practice.
You’re diving into your subconscious and learning how to have stillness there.
Which can be difficult and enlightening simultaneously.
A common misconception is that the purpose of meditation is to sit for long periods of time without thinking.
Our brains are like machines that are constantly running, so to be completely void of thought is nearly impossible.
The true purpose of meditation is to bring your awareness into the present moment and to observe that moment in a non-judgmental way.
To be able sit in that moment with little to no resistance.
As I moved slowly back into my practice.
I was very conscious of how quickly I was moving into a meditative state.
Going back to our analogy, I would allow myself to enter the elevator and go up to the 2nd floor.
I would stay on that floor for the duration of my meditation and then I would bring myself back down to the 1st floor.
I did this for several weeks and then would move to the 3rd floor, then the 4th.
By the time I finally attempted to move to the 5th floor, I partially expected to have that cable cord snap and to go hurtling back into full consciousness.
But, that didn’t happen.
As I reached the meditative state equal to the 5th floor, I was presented with a glimpse directly into my subconscious.
I saw a silhouetted figure standing in a doorway, backlit by brilliant white light.
It stood to the side and made a gesture indicating that if I wanted to step through the doorway, I could do so now.
I felt an inkling of fear within my heart and I did not walk through the doorway at that time. I brought myself back to full consciousness instead.
I spent a long time meditating on that experience.
And as I did so, I came to the understanding that the source of my resistance was, and had always been, fear.
I had a subconscious fear of moving too quickly into the unknown.
And I had inadvertently put this hard stop into place to prevent myself from doing just that.
If someone would have told me that fear was the cause of the disruption to my meditation months ago, I would have laughed and thought that they didn’t know what they were talking about.
It took me having that experience for months and then stripping my practice to its foundation before I was able to find the truth for myself.
I had to acknowledge this fear and actively work to move past it.
During my meditations, I allowed myself to fully feel and accept this emotion.
Once I did, the fear dissipated and the beneficial effects of having a regular meditation practice flooded back into my life.
The benefits of meditation will be different for everyone, but here are some common physical and psychological effects that this practice can have:
Reduction in Age-Related Brain Atrophy
Reduction of Anxiety
Reduction of Insomnia
Reduction of Stress
Reduction of Psychosomatic Illnesses
Improved Cardiovascular Health
Improved Motor Skills
Increased Self-Control and Willpower
Boost in the Immune System
Lowered Blood Pressure
Reduction of Pain Sensitivity
Reduction of Colds
Reduction of Inflammation
Increased Empathy and Compassion
With meditation we have the ability to move closer to our true selves.
We see ourselves much more clearly and our understanding of who we are at our core, deepens.
As we bring stillness into our lives in this way, we give ourselves permission to experience hidden emotion and discomforts in a safe and clear state of mind.
Even if we don’t know understand at first what they are or why they are there.
We are giving ourselves the space to sit with them.
To understand and release them.
In doing so, we are centering our body, mind and spirit and accelerating our growth.