The following essay comes from “Finding Freedom In An Age of Confusion” by Derrick Broze and John Vibes.
As we outline in Reflections on Anarchy and Spirituality, meditation is a beneficial practice as old as human life. As long as human beings have been conscious, we have come to nature for quiet contemplation and reflection. So what exactly is meditation?
The dictionary definition of meditation is, “an act or practice that brings you to a place of contemplation, a state of relaxation.”
The consistent application of bringing one’s attention to the present moment is key to any form of meditation. This means that nearly any experience can be meditative. A bike ride, a walk under the stars, writing poetry, or any practice that offers individual quiet time within your own heart and mind can be considered a form of meditation.
Over time, various teachers organized their specific meditation practices into cohesive styles and philosophies, each with its own instructions and insights. Around the 5th and 6th centuries BCE, Confucian and Taoist meditations appear in China, and Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist meditations developed in India.
These various schools of meditation taught different methods for remaining in the present moment, some involving the counting of breaths, contemplative thought, or repeating sacred words and sounds known as Mantras.
There are also different types of meditation positions. Some schools practice sitting cross-legged (“lotus” or “half lotus”), walking, or lying down meditation. You also may have noticed that certain traditions will feature symbolic hand gestures and positions during their meditation. These are known as mudras and are found in Hindu and Buddhist practices. People also meditate for different reasons. Most people would say that meditation can be a religious or spiritual experience, while others find it to be a helpful relaxation and anger management tool.
For example, if you are dealing with stress and looking for answers, you may choose to focus on finding the source of your stress, or attempt to clear your mind of all distractions. Different situations require different solutions.
For those interested in learning different types of meditations, we recommend Transcendental Meditation, Zen Buddhism, Mindfulness Meditation, and Contemplative Prayer. We would like to offer a couple methods that we have found to be helpful for general meditation.
First, think of a time that you can meditate on a daily, or weekly basis. The more consistent you are with meditation, the more mindful you will become in your everyday life. Once you have worked out your schedule, decide if you would like to focus on sitting meditation or lying down. Finally, for those who say they cannot meditate, we say, be patient!
You cannot expect to go from bombarding yourself with stimuli and distractions to a perfectly still mind overnight. Keep at it and you can push past the static. Try the following four exercises to get you started.
Clearing The Mind
If your goal is to clear your mind, begin by sitting cross-legged with a straight, firm back. Position your shoulders above your hips and place your hands open on top of your knees. You can keep your eyes open and stare softly about four or five feet in front of you, or close your eyes.
Take slow, deep breaths. Focus on your breaths. As you breathe deep in through your nose count “one”. Exhale and repeat to yourself “one”. Continue this process as long as you can. You will find yourself lost in thought within a couple of numbers. This is perfectly normal and not a reason to be discouraged. Your mind wants to think, to fill the quiet, dull spaces with chatter. When you realize that you stopped counting after 3 and began thinking about your next blog post, take a deep breath and start over.
Think of these thoughts like passing clouds, acknowledge them, give thanks for them, and then return your attention to counting. In a 5-minute session you might not make it past 5, but that’s not the goal. You are not attempting to suffocate or ignore your thoughts, but simply focusing on being present. The goal is to simply “be” in that moment, without stress or concern. However, if a situation or person continues to appear in your meditations it may be a sign that you need to focus and work to find clarity.
For this meditation, you can set up exactly the same as you are when clearing your mind. The difference here, is that instead of clearing the mind, you will relax and focus on a specific situation or person that needs your attention. This could be a relationship that you are uncertain of, or a friend that you want to celebrate.
Whether for clarity or to affirm the positive, you want to sit and take a deep breath as you focus. If you are looking for answers, take the time to imagine the ideal outcome and consider the situation from the perspective of everyone involved.
If you are giving thanks for a new opportunity or friendship, focus your mind on expressing gratitude and appreciation. Taking time for reflection during uncertain times helps one develop a predisposition for mindfulness over impulsiveness.
Connecting to the Earth
This exercise can be done lying down or sitting. Either way, you want to begin with slow, deep breaths. Imagine that you are connected to the Earth physically and energetically.
All the power of the planet is flowing up from the ground in the form of a white light. Imagine this white light coming up from the Earth into the base of your body. The light runs up through your feet, into your waist, connecting to your heart, and out through the crown of your head.
As the light flows through each piece of your body, imagine you are being cleansed. You feel this white light removing the stresses from each piece of you. As the light flows out the top of your head, it goes up into the sky and back down into the Earth to start all over again. Continue imagining and feeling this light for at least 15 minutes.
Thanking your body
This meditation is meant to be done lying down with your arms at your side. Beginning with your toes, you are going to slowly move and become aware of each piece of your body. Imagine that your awareness is within your toes, and gives thanks to them.
Think of all the work your toes and feet do to make sure you can live your life. Take your time slowly going from your toes, to your feet, to your ankles, your shins, etc. and give thanks to each individual piece of your body. Recognize the power of each piece of you.