Extending Your Meditation Practice
If you’re already meditating, then you’ve found the sweet rewards that come from it. However, we can all sink into ruts, and perhaps you’re in search of some ways to freshen up your meditations. There are so many schools and traditions of meditation that are well-documented in books and online, that I see no reason to duplicate those efforts. Instead, I’d like to offer my own variations on the classic themes and share ways I’ve found to keep myself interested.
I can already hear some of you saying: meditation is its own reward…you don’t need fancy techniques…just be still every day and listen to what your Higher Self has to say. I can’t argue with that. It’s just that there are some of us who need a little more sizzle, more variety, more inspiration. In our overly wired world the demands on our so-called free time are immense. To choose to unhook, to turn off cell phones and go silent for any period of time every day may seem bizarre to some. Yet that is precisely the antidote to this always-on-culture. Besides, I believe new ways of turning within create the potential for new insights that you might not attain in any other way.
So here are a few of my ideas—take ‘em or leave ‘em—but do feel free to comment on the blog, and share you own fresh ways to meditate. I’ll keep adding new ones, and you’ll find all the meditations by clicking here.
Row Boat Roamings
This one came to me just a few weeks ago while out in my tiny boat on a calm evening. I rowed myself with one hand into a spinning circle, leaned back and stared at the whirling sky. Gulls flew overhead and added to the kaleidoscope. The spinning tranced me out immediately, and I realized I could let go of my oars (they were safely held in oarlocks) and just drift with the tide, while continuing to stare up at the sky. Don’t try this in a busy shipping lane, but in my sleepy bay it was a joy. The mostly blank blue sky was the perfect canvas for my mind, and I was able to send each new thought off on its own cloud. The experience was enormously relaxing and provided me with the unique experience of melding with both water and sky simultaneously. I think a similar effect might be achieved by lying on a merry-go-round when the playground is empty. (Go to a park during school hours, before the toddler set arrives.)
Seven stones for Seven Chakras
Collect seven small stones that you find special in some way. Lie down on your back a comfortable surface—naked works best for this one—and place one stone on each of your first six chakras. (Chakras are thought of as energy centers in the spine marking major branchings of the nervous system, beginning at the base of the spine and moving up to the top of the head.) Begin at your root chakra, meditating on that stone and asking for any messages related to that chakra. If your focus wanders, simply bring it back to the stone and imagine energy waves emanating from it. When it feels right, continue on, moving up the body. After you finish with the sixth chakra—located on your forehead between your eyes—you’ll have to remove the first six stones and sit up in order to balance a stone in the seventh position on the top of your head. You might also want to meditate on the associations you feel with each different chakra. This sort of work can be a rich area to pursue over and over.
There are many classic meditation exercises based on counting things, most commonly your breaths. To take that idea a bit farther, you’ll need eight tiny pebbles of a similar size. Smooth ones are good. I use black stones from my favorite beach that have been burnished to a smooth sheen by the sea. Now find some sort of small container for them that will fit in your lap. I prefer to use a cardboard lid from a Valentine box because the pebbles make less noise when moving around on a cardboard surface than they would in a ceramic dish, for example. I also like the feeling of moving my fingers around the curved edges of the box. A tightly woven basket would also work well. The idea is to close you eyes, and after each inbreath, or as each new thought enters your mind, move one pebble to the other side of the box. You don’t actually count or assign any numbers to events, you just acknowledge your process by moving one pebble at a time. This is great for fidgety types who have trouble sitting still for very long. Try not to move much else, just your fingers back and forth across the container. The same effect might be attained by sliding beads back and forth on an abacus, if you have one of those lying around—and who doesn’t?
Take a good-sized feather and hold it in your hand while you settle in. (This is easier to imagine with a wing or tail feather as opposed to some tiny little wisp of a thing.) Take a minute or so to really examine it as you start your centering deep breaths. Look at the intricate structure and imagine how this feather in your hand once helped lift a living being into the sky. If you know what kind of feather you have, visualize the bird itself flying. It may help to first look at some images of the bird, or even video of the bird in flight. The concept this time is to mentally meld with the bird, to call it to you as your ally. The goal is to try and experience flight from the bird’s perspective. You can extrapolate some idea from the experience of looking out the window of a plane. Holding the feather in your hand, try and sense how the wind feels in your face and what your world looks like from the sky. What’s it feel like to be weightless, to lift up from the ground? Perhaps you can even see your life back on earth—notice how things look from above. It may help to imagine yourself hitching a ride on the back of an eagle or heron or other large bird. Can you feel the warmth of their body? Can you feel their muscles working rhythmically to stay aloft? Catch an updraft and enjoy the thrill of soaring without any effort at all. Glide. Trust. Feel the power of your wings taking you into the blue sky.
- What earthly tethers did you loosen or break?
- What looks different from above?
- Do your challenges seem smaller?
- How about your achievements?
- Can you gain a new perspective on your life?
I encourage you to actively invent your own ways of meditating—remember my fourth rule: Ignore the rules! As I said in the beginning of this section, I truly feel meditating should be fun and joy-filled. Please don’t construe it as work or as some task to be checked off a daily To Do List. In meditation you can experience your best Self in its most essential form—and no one else ever gets to judge that version of you or harm it or taint it in any way. It’s something you preserve in your own consciousness and memories.
I don’t think meditation experiences translate all that well to written form (which is one of my challenges on this blog, to overcome that hurdle). However, if you enjoy journaling, by all means, try and capture some of your best meditations in writing, then reread them in a month or so and see if you can still relive the spirit of the experience. And please do consider sharing them with others here by commenting on this blog.
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