This week I have been working on a short video about why having a meditation teacher is useful, as I often get asked: ‘Well if it’s just sitting with your eyes closed, can’t I do that by myself?’ I won’t go into my response to that here, as you can watch the video, but it does beg the question: Is meditation just sitting down, with your eyes closed and breathing?
The short answer is yes and no.
The long answer involves what happens in the process of meditation. When we first begin to meditate we often worry about having thoughts and/or feelings whilst we meditate. We seek to rid ourselves of the stress, pressure and uncomfortableness in our Selfs. In essence we want to be purified of the things that ail us.
The process by which we purify ourselves, involves self-reflection, a looking inward. At the start of our meditation journey we finally sit and begin to really hear ourselves, mind and body. It is at this point we become aware of the thoughts we have and the sensations in our body, and our first reaction is often to try to expel or get rid of them.
However, if we can make a little space and begin to name the purpose of those thoughts and sensations we can begin to understand something about the nature of our Self. Are we worrying about the future or the past? Do we hold our fear, pain and stress in our bodies? And if so where? We’ve all clenched our teeth before, what emotion do you attach to it, fear/anger/pain?
As we begin to listen and name, we give voice to our pain and suffering and we begin to see what causes that. It may be a job that makes us unhappy, a loss we haven’t grieved for, or a belief we hold about our Self which causes us pain. This process can be difficult and painful; which is often why meditation and mindfulness practices are set within a religious or psychotherapeutic context. We need support and guidance, to know what we are experiencing is a normal and natural part of our inner process.
For some people it ends here, but for others they begin to see the divine (however they define that), in all things, in their hope and dreams, the mundane and the profound.
Sitting and breathing, or whatever meditation technique you use that works for you, is the means by which this inner process begins to unfold. It is in turns, incredibly and deceptively simple, yet complex in its richness and reach into the depths of our inner Self.
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