A checklist for meditation
- Does your body feel more relaxed?
- Has you mind settled so that your emotions feel stiller and more calm?
- Do you have a sense of having more room – of space, of feeling clearer – so that your mind is not so cramped and tight?
These are the three signs of meditation – relaxed, calm and clear.
What is meditation?
Meditation is the art of being able to deliberately relax your body and calm your mind whenever you choose. This is a simple skill which people find, to their surprise, is easy to do once you learn how to do it properly. You don’t need any special postures or take on any religious or philosophical beliefs. You learn to meditate in exactly the same way as you would learn any other skill like sport, music or any other kind of training.
With meditation you learn how to calm yourself quickly and let go of physical tension and mental stress. You also learn how to watch your thoughts and emotions instead of getting caught in them as we usually do, and from this you discover how clear you mind can be and how aware you can become of the rich life around and within you.
Of course we have many different ways of relaxing, from watching television, swimming, walking, reading and so on, to having a drink with friends. But they can be a bit hit and miss and one of the things you’ll notice is that even though your body may relax, your mind still keeps up its busy schedule of planning, hoping and worrying. Even when we sleep our minds keep going churning away over the things which concern us, so that we can wake up feeling just as tired as when we went to bed.
Meditation, on the other hand, is the art of deliberately being able to calm you mind as well as relaxing your body, so that you can do this whenever you choose. Paradoxically, you calm your mind by giving it something to focus on. It’s exactly like training a puppy to sit. It will get up and wander around, but as you keep bringing it back and rewarding it, the puppy learns to sit in one place. Even if you have sleeping problems, the technique is the same: to focus your mind on a meditation so that it has somewhere to rest instead of running through its usual ‘to do’ list.
The secret of concentration
Meditation has been part of my life for a long time now and I still find it an incredibly beautiful and blissful thing to do. When I first began, I discovered the big secret of concentration through learning to meditate -that in order for your mind to work well and efficiently, your body needs to be relaxed. Instead of fighting or punishing your body to keep it still and quiet, you can look after it first, let it relax, and then you find you can concentrate well.
Being calm and concentrated is an extremely pleasant state, and there are three qualities which always arise once the mind settles. You are relaxed, calm and clear.
Your body is relaxed
Firstly your body feels more relaxed. As the muscles let go you become aware of more and more subtle levels of letting go. You may also become aware of the habitual tightness and discomfort caused by the tension that is being carried in your body.
As you learn to rest in a state of balance, you will notice that your body has become stiller and stiller. Your senses can become more alert and your sense experience more vivid as you open further to the sense world around and within you.
Your emotions are calm
In the same way that you body comes to its natural point of balance, so your emotions become stiller and eventually reach a point of complete calm. This is like an inner stillness – a sense of peace and ease. You may feel quiet within yourself as the normal emotional conflicts – the worry, busyness, and sense of pressure – subside.
Your mind is clear
As your senses open your thinking slows down – and you may also notice this. There will be times when you may notice spaces in your meditation – the spaces between thoughts. This sense of spaciousness can be quite luxurious as you feel the relief of being free from the cramped cage of thoughts we normally live in. From this space you may find that you are able to watch what is happening in your mind with a sense of clarity and detachment.
With these skills everyone can experience the gift of meditation.