This article is a continuation from Beginning Meditation- Part One
Congratulations, you have committed to sitting still, while observing your breath and body. Let's look now at deepening your practice. Commencing any new activity requires some planning, no different with establishing your meditation practice.
Set aside a dedicated quiet area in your home/office (inside or outside) where you will not be disturbed during your meditation practice. It doesn't have to be large, large enough for you to have a small table, chair, cushion, floor mat or yoga mat. This 'space' can have a nice tablecloth, vase for flowers, an incense holder, inspiring photo, singing bowl, and relaxation music. Beautify this space as the retreat center for your practice. In time your 'shrine' area will be of great comfort to you, a place to let go, to be in solitude, to meditate, to pray, to open, to receive.
'Sit' at the same time every day, preferably before you start your day and before retiring for the night. You may need to rearrange your daily schedule for this; the effort to do so will be amply rewarded. In the mornings, its preferable to be up 'sitting' before the sun rises, if that initially is too much to ask for, then as early as possible, ideal times are between 4-6am. Please no 'sitting' in bed ( bed is sleep consciousness, you need to be fully awake and alert), there are no shortcuts if you sincerely seek the benefits. Rise and wash your face or shower, please no breakfast though: juice, water or milk are fine. Wear loose, comfortable clothing dedicated to your 'sittings,' clothes that are light in color preferably.
If this is feeling a bit regimental or pushes some buttons, or you are feeling some resistance here, well that is ok. Relax all you are doing is rearranging some time in your day, just as you would if starting a yoga practice. If there is any resistance then that will be the mind (ego actually) sensing that it is losing control, it doesn't like new schedules or disruptions that it has not orchestrated itself. If you are feeling any of these, that is one of the many reasons you are learning to meditate, to transform ego resistance/control/hesitation into conscious willingness, understanding, acceptance, and openness.
Now that you have a quiet shrine area, dedicated times to practice and are settling into the routine, its time to refocus on the breath. Earlier we looked at concentrating on the path of your breath flowing through your nose. Now as you follow the flow of the breath, lengthen your concentration to witness the breath flowing into the heart center in the middle of your chest. On your next breath witness the breath expanding from the heart center out and into all areas of your upper body. Quietly and patiently keep the mental focus on your breathing and inner expansion throughout the whole body. From your upper body, down through your arms to the tips of your fingers, down through your thighs to the tips of your toes, and up through your neck to the top of your head.
Witness this flow of life energy (prana, your breath) through all areas of your body for several minutes. Now refine that further by witnessing this flow of life energy passing through all cells of your body. You may sense some tingling and lightness in the body now. As you continue with the new breathing focus, and at the same time, imagine that you are scanning the body as the flow of life energy carries your focus slowly through all organs of the body.
I mentioned in the Beginners 1. the 'gap,' the silent pause between the top and bottom of each breath. That gap will become the point of focus for you now as you progress. Its the one time when the body is still not moving with the rhythm of breathing. In the silence of that 'gap,' it is said is where meditation begins. All of your previous weeks of sitting and breathing have been leading to this point, the gap. It's in the stillness of mind and body when distractions are at a minimum that the gentle unfolding of meditative Presence is experienced. As you continue over the weeks, months and years the length in minutes in the gap of infinity will increase.
In that gap do not try to create a vision, do not want for any experience or an outcome, do not imagine anything: Be Still' and witness what unfolds. Some say, just Be. Whatever unfolds is unique to you at that moment, and may never occur again. Meditation will give you what you need, not what you want. Free to witness in the eternal stillness you are consciously aware, not bound by the unconscious and limited reality of the conditioned mind or body. Endeavor to keep the mind still, no wandering off in sustained thought, so when you catch yourself, and you will return to the breath again and again. In time through continued concentration in your practice, the conscious mind will remain increasingly focused.
Continuing with your expansion in meditative awareness: With the next incoming breath breathe deeply into your heart center, now please imagine a golden luminescence radiating out from the very core of your Being. With each breath, this golden Light expands from within the depths of the heart center increasing its radiance, warmth, and Light until it saturates your entire physical and energetic body. This Light is said by the great yogi's, and meditation master's to be the Light of the Soul. Our Soul that unique spark of the totality, united with all matter in the oneness of the Universe.
As you continue now with each breath, with the expanding Light of the Soul as your focus, witness this luminescence radiating beyond the physical body, out into the infinite vastness and tranquility of Universal Consciousness.
You can support and enhance your meditation practice by reading inspiring transformational books, perhaps 'The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. Listening to soft meditative music also is comforting in calming and relaxing the mind and body. Walk regularly also, walking in nature is a compelling meditation in its own right, the body is the Temple and deepening meditative realizations flow from an energized mind and body. Patiently develop the capacity to Be still to witness instead of feeling that you must be busy doing something. As you can see meditation is more than sitting twice a day at your shrine. Its a 24-hour state of conscious awareness.
Diet also assists in relaxing and calming the mind. Reduce the meat component of your diet, try eating more vegetables and fruit. Drinking less alcohol and more water will also help in developing the subtle nerves of the energetic body. Alcohol will diminish the subtle meditative gains in each meditative session. You may have begun to notice that living a meditative life is one of personal transformation and increased well being. You open to the unfolding reality of the conscious mind and heart working in synergy, where the virtues of kindness, spontaneity, sincerity, self-giving, love, wisdom, and fulfillment are just a few of the realizations.
Embodying these virtues one becomes more aware and discerning, can let go of rigid beliefs, concepts, beliefs and the 'shoulds' of life. One becomes more understanding, surrendered, respectful, tolerant, patient, selfless and humble. In these transformations, one naturally becomes happier, more balanced and harmonious.
About the Author- Pratika Kshemya
Pratika has been studying meditation and spirituality with his Indian meditation master for nearly 25 years, and teaching meditation and lifestyle skills for 20. As a meditator he has held Senior Management positions, and is experienced in integrating meditative practice into spiritual, working and private lives.
Pratika is multitalented, working also as a photo-journalist, recording artist/performer of meditation music, vibrational and light therapist, and holistic mentor.
He has been an organic raw vegetarian, non-drinker, non-smoker for the past 25 years!
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