Meditation is…. hard. It is challenging, off-putting, unpromising. It’s no wonder the greater population don’t do it. Even though it is a recommended as part of every kind of positive health, wealth, spiritual, or mental growth goal. The path to this practice is strewn with difficulties every step of the way.
It is physically challenging.
Our backs have to be straight, head erect, shoulders relaxed, legs crossed, knees even and as close to the ground as possible, body erect but relaxed.
I don’t think we talk about this enough because we consider the meditation position to be a simple, easy pose. I beg to differ. It is hard for anyone who isn’t used to sitting for long periods of time without back support. It is hard on the hips, hard on the knees, hard on our feet, hard to sit with legs crossed.
Honestly, I don’t know how people get into the practice of meditation without first practicing yoga. I believe that the only reason I have been able to gain a meditation practice without feeling pain in my knees is because of yoga. During my yoga teacher training I had to force myself to sit for an hour of meditation each day. The biggest setback I had was pain in my knees from sitting crossed-legged. Luckily, I’ve learned that I could make the experience better by practicing yoga and stretching. I also learned that you could sit up on a cushion or rolled up blanket to relieve possible tension on the knees and lower back. That has helped a ton. Still, it is physically challenging for most, including myself, and that could be discouraging.
It is mentally challenging.
It is hard enough trying to find the time to work out, let alone sit in silence and meditate, right? It is hard to get motivated for something that sounds superstitious or like it might not work out. It is especially hard to find the willpower to wake up in the wee hours as experts recommend. Let’s face it, the majority of people don’t have the discipline it takes to meditate, and that alone is an obstacle to face.
It becomes even harder when we expect too much and feel as if we aren’t getting anywhere. There’s doubt, there’s confusions, there’s unwanted feelings that get in the way. It is hard when you feel like you have to force it. Hard when you can’t keep your monkey brain still and silent. Hard when there’s a lot of aimless wandering, and you feel like you can’t control it. Many people think that this “awakening” feeling will come quickly or psychic powers will blossom. But these unrealistic expectations will only hinder the path and cause more doubt and confusion, causing most people to quit.
It is spiritually challenging.
Meditation is not sitting around. It is not a practice to keep us distracted from our reality. It is not hypnosis. It does not involve daydreaming. It does not involve whisking away from the universe, or the present, and into some abstract existence. It is not letting our minds wander.
Meditation is getting your mind on a track, on a direction. Meditation involves focusing our thoughts. For a purpose, for spiritual gains, for liberation, for peace, or whatever it might be. Meditation is systematic. It involves repetition, forming habits, patterns, using methods that allow your brain and body to match up and align for a goal. Meditation isn’t an end in itself, it is a process.
The method of meditation you choose determines the direction your mind takes.
I wrote this not to discourage you, but to enlighten you and tell you that you will experience difficulties every step of the way. And that’s okay! I’ve had to endure every challenge I have written above. However, when I found out that there are many different methods one could take to meditate, the process became a whole lot easier to get into. I’ve been able to build a habit of actually meditating every morning. The results have been endless. My husband can attest to that because we argue less and less. Feelings of gratefulness, joy, cheer have become profoundly present. I’m living more purposeful, proactive, more at peace with my life and choices.
Meditation is good. Hard, but good.
Meditation Method #1: Memorization
This one is my favorite and the method I use the most. It gets my brain to completely shut up and focus the quickest. Memorization stimulates meditation. When you are memorizing a verse or mantra you think about it. The mental repetition of the text required by memorization fosters reflection on it. The other great aspect about memorizing verses or mantra is that you can meditate on them during your commute, while on a walk, as you prepare a meal, when you are falling asleep, or any other time your choose. It completely relaxes you or gets you in the zone. This is especially helpful when having trouble concentrating. And you can do it in any language, with any verse, or any text.
Choose your mantras wisely. Your thoughts shape your life.
Here are some examples I have used:
“Be still and know that I am God”
“Today I shall judge nothing that occurs.”
“Today I will accept people, situations, circumstances, and events as they occur.”
“This moment is as it should be.”
“There is a hidden meaning behind all events, and this hidden meaning is serving your own evolution.”
Proverbs 3:13 “Happy is anyone who becomes wise- who comes to have understanding.”
Proverbs 4:26 “Plan carefully what you do and whatever you do will turn out right.
Proverbs 11:25 “Be generous and you will be prosperous. Help others, and you will be helped.”
“Abundance will come my way.”
Psalm 23:1 “The Lord is my shepherd.”
“The action is here.”
Different memorization methods:
You can emphasize different words in a text as you are repeating it.
BE still and know that I am God.
Be STILL and know that I am God.
Be still AND know that I am God.
Be still and KNOW that I am God.
Be still and know THAT I am God.
Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I AM God.
Be still and know that I am GOD.
You can write the text over and over. You can observe silence while writing and repeat the mantra mentally so that the text instills in your consciousness.
Or you can repeat the text inside your head while using a meditation mala. (I use this style the most.)
I have used all three methods and I have to say that I’ve noticed incalculable spiritual benefits derived from all.
Meditation Method #2: Think of an illustration
An illustration is a visual image of a text/mantra that explains, clarifies, or confirms the object of meditation. It can be one of the mantras above, a verse, a personal anecdote, a quote, an analogy, a song – anything that brings light or uplifts a text. For example – you can illustrate in your mind what “judging nothing” would look like. Illustrate what “abundance” would look like. Illustrate what acceptance would look like in your life. Illustrate yourself being completely okay with this moment. Ask yourself, what does this particular text/mantra illustrate?
Using images can generate ideas, emotions, and experiences that might trigger the abundance, acceptance, or action we are looking for. Remember, “what you are seeking, is also seeking you.”
The point of this is to let you know that you don’t have to completely clear out all your thoughts. At least not in the beginning. If you give your mind a direction to follow, it will follow. It keeps you in charge of what’s going on. This isn’t about letting the mind wander into whatever image pops up. With this method you have a focal point, and with that focus you will become concentrated. This helps to release pressure and expectations and at the end of the practice you will always feel better than when you sat down.
It is important not to force the mind to be still and I find that this method helps a beginner get into the groove of meditation. With the focus and practice your mind will slow down in a natural state and meditation will start to become easier and easier. If you are intellectual, you should visualize the focal point in the space between the eyebrows. If you are more emotional, you should visualize the focal point in the heart plexus. Keeping the illustration or visual at these points will help the mind become calm and steady.
Meditation Method #3: Pray
It’s staggering how noisy our minds can be without us even noticing. Luckily, prayers help command the mind to be quiet for a length of time. It helps us minimize the mind-wandering that happens when there is no particular method to help us focus on the task at hand. Praying our way through a meditation submits the mind to the spirit. Our spirit is the Great Guide into God’s truth and praying intensifies that spiritual perception. The greatest thing about prayers is that we can use them for all sorts of reasons. It works to calm our mind, our soul, it heals, it brings peace. Prayers work when we are sleepy, tired, in need, distracted, looking for answers. Of course, it could work during a meditation practice as well. It is encouraged.
If you aren’t the prayer type, think about it from a practical point of view. We are the ones creating the messes in our heads. It does not come from outside. By praying you are aiding your spirit to help tidy the house inside. Praying through meditation helps us believe in that guardian spirit that’s dying to help us.
You are allowed to ask yourself questions, to ponder away, to respond. Is there something to start, to stop, to confess, to pray about, to believe, to say to someone? Meditate on it. Pray on it. Spend time listening to the quietness of your spirit. Go back and forth between praying and sitting in silence. It works as a way to train your mind, body, and soul to stay a little longer meditating.
Someone gave me a tiny, little book of prayer called, “Prayer with Purpose for Women”. I have used it on many occasions as a spiritual guide towards meditation.
An example prayer I would use goes something like this, “May I be filled with Your healing love, joy, and goodness. I praise You, Father, for providing green pastures, places to relax and unwind in the Spirit. Please still my heart from distractions and be the restorer of my soul.”
Meditation Method #4: Sound Meditation
Sound meditation can involve humming, ‘om’-ing, singing, composing a song or poem, or word repetition. It doesn’t have to be laborious or lengthy, or even more than one note. It can be chant-like or longer. It is like singing forth contemplation. You can sound out ‘om’ aloud and then shift it mentally and that alone is a practical meditation practice.
I don’t think people take the time to realize that there’s an inherent power contained in sound. Sounds have the power to set up specific vibrations. The theory of sound meditation holds that by repeating a sound with accuracy and intense devotion it will awake cosmic vibrations, calm our nerves, and bring our thoughts to a halt. It will remove the dirt of the mind like anger, greed, and lust. The power of sound is tremendous. It can generate ideas, emotions, and experiences. Think about how much power thoughts and words have in our everyday lives. Imagine for yourself what power resides in repeating the name of the Lord over and over. Sound meditation done with devotion and faith will allow us to experience or have more access to our true nature.
Will the discipline of meditation be worth your commitment and time?
From what I’ve been able to experience, it is completely worth it. Developing a habitual meditation practice has made me more aware, less reactive, more capable of pausing, seeing, intending, and choosing actions that put me in charge of my life. If you don’t want to take my word for it – read this quote on meditation:
“It is a help to knowledge, thereby your knowledge is raised. Thereby your memory is strengthened. Thereby your hearts are warmed. Thereby you will be freed from sinful thoughts. Thereby your hearts will be tuned to every duty. Thereby you will grow in grace. Thereby you will fill up all the chinks and crevices of your lives, and know how to spend your spare time, and improve that for God. Thereby you will draw good out of evil. And thereby you will converse with God, have communion with God, and enjoy God. And I pray, is not here profit enough to sweeten the voyage of your thoughts in meditation.”