This Saturday at a meditation gathering I was reminded of a beautiful image I first heard when I started practicing with the meditation tapes recommended in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book “Full Catastrophe Living”. Imagine a body of water. At the surface can be waves and ripples and churning water. In the case of the ocean there is continuous motion of wind and waves, tides coming in and going out. Yet, beneath the surface deep within the water is a place of complete stillness. No matter how wicked the surface may appear, even during a storm, deep within the water there is stillness and calm.
Now, imagine your mind is a body of water. Is your mind like the surface going every which way full of churning and waves and disturbance? Most likely if you’re living in the real world with demands, obligations, and multi-tasking, your mind is churning away. At least I know mine is often skimming the surface of a million to-dos, thoughts, judgments, and other chattering. Yet, it is in that place of stillness that real clarity, peace, and happiness lives. We chase this elusive beast, yet it is always with us just beneath the surface where the stillness lies. We can tap into it if only we take a moment to do so.
This simple distinction as illustrated by the water is the reason why some sort of meditative practice can be so beneficial and worthwhile. There’s nothing “woo-woo” about meditating. There are thousands of ways to meditate and whatever is the right fit for you is the “right” way. It’s not just for new age gurus either. Take any truly successful athlete and I would bet they have a form of meditation and visualization they do to ensure their peak performance. Ask a really successful person who is living life by her own design and I’d bet she has some form of meditative practice in her daily habits even if she doesn’t call it that. The simple truth is that quieting the chatter of our minds and getting still is the single most powerful way to get more comfortable in your own skin and have more of what you want to do, be, or have in your life.
Why is that? Well, if you think of the water analogy, there isn’t a lot of life in the churning waves. In fact most of what you’ll find there are life forms that are getting tossed around, possibly ending up beached in the sand, left to die. Yet, if you go beneath the surface, that is where the myriad of plant and animal life lives and thrives. The same can be said for your creativity, well-being, and deepest wishes. They can’t survive in the storm, they need the space that stillness and quiet provides to push through the surface and bloom. Why not tend to them on a daily basis like you would a young child or freshly seeded garden.
Let Go of The Churn and Discover the Stillness
As I said, there are thousands of ways and philosophies when it comes to meditation. At their core is a stillness of the mind and body. If you’re not a huge self-starter, consider beginning with a guided meditation like the “Guided Mindfulness Meditation” from Jon Kabat-Zinn. It is very accessible even to the biggest skeptics (trust me, I was a BIG skeptic at the time I first stumbled upon his work).
If you just want to get started on your own I suggest the following:
- Find a quiet space where you won’t be interrupted
- Set aside ideally 10-20 minutes minimum, but if you only have 5 minutes it is far more important to get in the habit than it is to worry about some artificial idea of time
- Sit in a way that is comfortable and aligned for your body. Pick a position (floor, chair, meditation cushion, etc.) that works for your body and allows you to stay relaxed yet fully alert. You can close your eyes or keep them open in soft focus.
- Focus on your breath. Let it go in and out (don’t force it) and simply notice it
- Every time you notice a thought (and they will come by, sometimes in droves), simply notice it, say “thank you” to it and return your focus to your breath
- When you are complete, gently stretch and slowly return to your day’s activities. This is the perfect time to journal or read something uplifting or spiritual if you have the time.
Pick a time every day that you can cultivate this practice. Even a few minutes every day where you can go beneath the surface to that place of stillness will yield generous dividends in your life.