As I travel from city to city offering Awakening Coaching Intensives, I hear statements from so many people like, “I’m not very good at meditation,” or, “My meditation does not go very deep,” or, “I just sit and there is an endless buzzing of thoughts.”
In my opinion, and experience, sitting quietly and watching your breath, or repeating a mantra, or anything similar, may be a very helpful thing for certain people under certain circumstances. But I usually also try to encourage people to expand their idea of spiritual practice.
If you are the kind of person who, for some reason or other, has the idea that you “should” sit silently for a specified period of time once or twice a day, and it is not going as well for you as you would like, here are a few suggestions:
1. If your body feels jangly or buzzing, it may mean that there is some blocked or stagnant energy. If this is the case, shaking your body for about five minutes will be a much more effective way of coming back to presence than sitting silently. Chi Kung movements, or dance, are like energetic rotor rooters for energy.
2. If your mind is buzzing with thoughts, particularly creative thoughts about something you are working on, you may be better off doing a brain dump into a voice recorder, or on a piece of paper, and getting all your thoughts down and out, and then come back to sitting.
3. If your mind is running on too many things to do, you may be better off setting aside 20 minutes to an hour to cross a bunch of things off your to-do list, with a promise to yourself that you will sit silently and meditate after the things are done. Meditation after accomplishing something will usually be more settled because, when you get things done, our brains release dopamine and is more conducive to a deep, meditative state.
4. If you are sitting in meditation full of charged up emotion, you may be better off putting on some music for a few minutes and expressing that emotion through your body. If you are sad, you can put on sad music and allow yourself to cry (faking it for a minute or two will usually bring on the real thing). If you are frustrated, you can express that as well.
5. If your body feels filled up and charged with energy, it is a bit like a dog in the morning that really needs to go for a run. You may be better off running, bicycling, or any other kind of aerobic exercise, and then sitting silently afterwards.
6. If you find your body is electrically charged with sexual energy, there are many kinds of fantastic practices you can do to transmute sexual energy through the body. These are best described in The Multi Orgasmic Man for men, and Healing Love through the Tao for women. Stimulating sexual energy when it is already simmering, and channeling it through the body, may be a much more effective form of spiritual practice than just sitting watching your breath.
7. If you are sitting in meditation, going over and over in your head an unresolved conflict with someone, you may come more quickly to stillness by dealing with that situation than trying to meditate when it is bugging you. You can resolve conflict with another person within yourself by talking to them in your imagination and then listening, or by literally calling the person up and having a talk.
8. Finally, if you are trying to sit in meditation and you feel despair, hopelessness, depressed, want to crawl under a rock, and want to give up, it may be the best time for prayer. When you feel you have exhausted the possibilities of figuring things out on your own, use your time of practice to hand things over to an intelligence larger than your own mind: “Not my will, but thy will be done.”
Author: Arjuna Ardagh
Image: Flickr/Darrel A.
Editor: Travis May