In quietness are all things answered, and is every problem quietly resolved. - A Course in Miracles
I have heard it said that prayer is asking for help and meditation is receiving the answer. If that’s the case, we are much better askers than listeners. Everybody has prayed, but few listen. That, however, is beginning to change. Meditation—the process of stilling the mind—has busted out of the closet it’s been hiding in for the last thirty years.
As far as I can tell, its rise in popularity is due to three things.
1. Information. Scientific studies “proving” the benefits of meditation with respect to our physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing are making their way into mainstream media. Transcendental Meditation, for instance, is the most widely practiced and scientifically studied form of meditation with over 600 studies to date.
2. Desperation. I’ve always thought desperation was highly underrated. It has been a driving force for drastic change in my life on more than one occasion. When we’re desperate, we are willing to try just about anything to surmount our problems—whether it be stress, illness, or general life malaise.
3. Increased awareness. There is a rise in the collective unconscious moving toward all things spiritual. In other words, meditation is trendy. We can only hope it’s a trend that sticks. After all, it was in vogue in the 60’s and 70’s but definitely kooky through the 80’s and 90’s.
We see and hear about meditation everywhere now, not just in spiritual circles. Television commercials are even jumping on the bandwagon. I recently saw a commercial for yogurt that featured a woman sitting in the lotus position immersed in meditation. You mean if I spend money on eating dairy I’ll start meditating and become enlightened? Oh, don’t get me started….
Some medical doctors now prescribe meditation for their patients, and Fortune 500 companies offer meditation respite programs for their employees, even professional sports teams are participating in various techniques. These corporations and athletes may not be looking for peace as much as to cure ailments, produce happier employees, make larger profits or secure wins, but whatever the case, they have learned what the wisest among us have known for centuries—meditation makes us better.
When I was initiated into the Transcendental Meditation program, meditation was not commonplace. I learned the technique, but I wasn’t quite sure why I was doing it. I was only seven. I did know two things. 1. It somehow felt meaningful and 2. My family were the only meditators on the block—maybe even the whole city. Meditation embarrassed me. I told my friends it was just about “relaxing.”
Meditation is about relaxing, but it is much more than that. In quietness, we reconnect with our Source. Call that God, truth, love, universal consciousness, or your higher self--it doesn’t matter.
But in those moments something magical happens. We transform.
Quieting the mind redirects our worldly focus within. Through this process, we reach deep levels of heightened awareness. The attainment of this awareness is very important because it reminds us of what is true. Truth is not found in the world. Truth is within. The world gives us a false identity; we look within when we want to know what is real.
In those moments, we break free from the onerous chains of false ideas imposed upon us by ourselves, others, and society. The more we are reminded of that truth, the more freely we demonstrate it in the world. We become different; as a result, our life becomes different.
David Lynch is a good example. You know, the enigmatic filmmaker of Twin Peaks fame and movies like Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive. He’s different, for sure. And his creativity is beyond. Mr. Lynch has been practicing Transcendental Meditation for over thirty years. We get an insightful glimpse into his world through his short and immensely enjoyable book Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness and Creativity.
As he says, meditation is the key to life, peace, and creativity.
I don’t believe we can achieve anything truly innovative, interesting, creative, lasting, worthwhile, or meaningful without first going within. In stillness, our mind expands. We tap in to a well of infinite possibilities, and we listen. Everything is realigned, giving us a proper perspective. When we come back to this world, we can’t help but make better choices because we are in our right mind. And by the way, meditation as I speak of it here is only one way to accomplish that.
Although we access what I like to think of as our natural state in meditation, it doesn’t come easily. First, you have to want it, and not many do. Second, you must place the quest for truth above all else, and only a few are willing. Third, it takes practice, which nobody has time for.
Stilling your mind feels counter-intuitive. We are taught to go out and make it happen. Take the bull by its horns. Be the fastest, the quickest. Get up and get going. The world doesn’t teach us to stop and meditate. This world is a world of ego, and the ego’s edict is Seek and do not find. It’s the opposite of truth’s motto: Go within and find.
If you are looking to quiet your mind, here are a few tips I've learned over the years. By the way, these tips are based on a mantra (word) style meditation, which I find to be the easiest.
- Pick a time when you will not be disturbed and turn off the phone.
- Find a comfortable place to sit. Always sit up. Otherwise, you will fall asleep.
- Take a few deep breaths and with each exhale sink deeper down into relaxation.
- After a minute or so, introduce a mantra or word such as “peace” “love” or the universal mantra“om.” (“Amen” is actually a mantra as well.)
- Repeat the mantra in a friendly, relaxed way. Other thoughts will interfere, that’s fine. That's just what your ego and your conscious mind does. Don’t fight them, don’t favor them, don’t try to ignore them, don’t hope they go away, don’t get frustrated, don’t judge yourself, be with the thought, and then when you're ready, gently bring your mind back to repeating your chosen mantra-word.
- When you get antsy and want to open your eyes, hang on and meditate for another minute or two. I find that’s when I go the deepest.
- When you’re ready to stop, gently bring yourself back into the room.
Your smallest attempts will change you. Every effort is meaningful. Try at first to meditate for just five minutes a day. A Course in Miracles tells us that five minutes of a stilled mind will save you thousands of years. Begin there. Then extend that practice to as much as twenty minutes.
I think it’s better to be consistent for a shorter amount of time—five minutes every day—rather than longer durations less frequently, like twenty minutes twice a week.
And then forget about it until the next meditation. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder, along with Guru Dev, of Transcendental Meditation, says meditating is like taking a bath. When you take a shower in the morning you don’t keep thinking about the shower throughout the day. You have done it, you’re clean, now you are free to move forward and focus on other things.
Stilling your mind can be frustrating at first. The ego will constantly interfere, proclaiming your efforts a waste of time. The ego thrives on chaos because it disappears in peace. Meditation means death to the ego. And the ego will do anything to stay alive. When you make any attempt to loosen its stranglehold, it will offer all kinds of distractions. Taking out the trash becomes all-important. Do not be discouraged. Starting anything new is difficult at first. Quieting the mind is no different. It’s like building a muscle that has atrophied.
With time, you will see and feel the results. With consistency, meditation moves from being a chore to a gift you give yourself.
The problem is not one of concentration; it is the belief that no one, including yourself is worth consistent effort.
--A Course in Miracles.