The benefits of a meditation practice are far-reaching: less stress, quicker recovery from illness, more peace, lighter view of the world and its problems, greater happiness, and much, much more. The problem with a meditation practice is that it can change your life; so beware before you begin one!
If you love the rat-race of life (always on the run, multi-tasking, the TV blaring in the background, complete lack of silence at all times) then meditation will be very difficult for you, not only because it requires you sit still for minutes at a time, but because once you sit still enough to observe what the mind does (run, run, run), you will begin to see some of the problems not just with the self, but with the world. And you will want to do things differently. You will become a changed person with regular practice, because you will see the silliness of the way most of the Western world lives: always focused on competition and getting more stuff. So if you thrive when super-stressed, do NOT try meditation.
I went to a meditation workshop last night led by Dr. Theja, a Vedic Astrologer. (This international astrologer was brought here by Sam Shouse, a local yoga instructor and Reiki practitioner, and his schedule was coordinated by Terri Sellers of Birmingham Yoga.)
(First, a few words about Dr. Theja and Vedic Astrology: He worked for years in high-profile jobs with the UN and such. He was an expert on mineral science, geology, and gemology first, working as a scientist studying the how’s and why’s of pieces from deep within our earth’s belly. After that, the universe pushed him toward astrology. I didn’t catch exactly why “astrology” but what I did get is that astrology is not at all a flippant cookie-cutter paragraph found in the newspaper for the masses. The service Dr. Theja provides is very personal and has to do with mapping out one’s past and future based on the interplanetary alignment of the cosmos at the time of your own birth, as well as other major events in the life of the one being read. You see, he lives in Australia, but is from Sri Lanka. He is an internationally renowned Vedic Astrologer who travels for those who are seeking clarity in life; for people who are mostly on spiritual paths (it doesn’t appeal to just anyone, but those walking the path are often called to explore and learn about their charts). He takes a person’s responses and plugs them into software and begins to plot a chart based on all of that. It’s a scientific approach to what many psychics can and have accurately delivered to people, and what many psychics fail to deliver. He shows you, proves to you by illustration of the alignments, why you do some of what you do, when certain major events took place and will take place, and help you to understand how to work with your gifts that are innate, for the greatest good. He does phone readings, Skype readings, and email correspondence. If this appeals to you, reach him through his sites www.theja.com.au or www.thejanews.com and his email: email@example.com.)
This workshop was one geared to someone who is beginning a practice; one who might need more reasons to commit to the time on a cushion. Because I have been practicing for some time, what it did for me is remind me of the reasons to start. I see the world, and the chaos within it. I see people all around me who are stressed out to the point of ill-health. I see obesity. I see children on medication. I am aware of the number of pharmaceuticals that are used to calm people down enough to function in life. I am reminded of how we are afraid to be alone, in silence, and ultimately how this ties into our fear of death. I am constantly amazed at how reactive people are, and I was reminded just last night, that people are, in fact, searching for ways to get back to who they are meant to be; for relief from suffering while replacing the suffering with happiness. For these things, I am grateful.
Meditation is not about sitting down and emptying the mind at first try, and getting up enlightened. It’s a practice and a process of getting to know what the person practicing is really all about. Many people give up after a few tries because they find they do not like the person sitting on the cushion. Many give up because they think they are wasting their time, because “nothing happened” but it’s a lot like the planting of a seed: you will not see the immediate results of your labors, but instead, a more gradual sprouting and appearance.
I was reminded last night that my meditation practice IS working because it comes out in my reaction to people, and my expansive love that I cannot fully explain. I realize that because I practice regularly, I have strengthened my connection with what I understand as the Divine, as God, and that benefit could not have occurred had I been afraid to get to know myself.
So how do you start?
You simply sit. For five minutes at a time. You do not worry with the word meditation. You do not try to clear your mind. You do not sit in an uncomfortable position chanting things you don’t understand. You do not do anything but sit. When you begin sitting, it will be hard because the mind does not stop: ever. The more often you sit, or the longer your sitting time, the more trained your mind will become to stay close. We cannot expect to go out and perform fantastic physical feats without proper training, right? The mind is the same way: we must train it to be still–not empty–just still. And in the stillness, we will find a connection to God (or whatever you call the Infinite). Then with time, it’s like a portal opens up, and we are shown many things: the bigger picture.
Local meditation groups and workshops are always happening in the Birmingham area, and just like any other practice you might want to get into, you will want to sample the offerings: get out and meet others who practice, meet those who are leading the classes, and see what feels right to you.
A couple of places to start are The How of Tao Meditation group (Sum Faht) led by Deb Paradise Tuesday evenings and Wednesday mornings, and Meditation for Recovery led by Dale Dunham (first class Wednesday night, May 25). Both can be found on Facebook. http://www.facebook.com/How.Of.Tao http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=123047894441331
Laurie M. Knight is the author of Journal to the Center of the Soul, and can be reached through Facebook (Laurie Miller Knight) or through her site www.WritingbyKnight.com. She is also a Reiki practitioner, and an Interfaith Minister.