My friend Chris Ogden, who I mentioned in yesterday’s blog post, wrote to share his perspective on meditation. He also included instructions on how to meditate. They are simple and elegant at the same time.
I think part of the challenge in getting people to try meditation is that we westerners focus on the ‘goal’ rather than the practice. The error in most thinking that I’ve encountered is that if one can’t get their mind to be still they can’t meditate. This I believe is a misunderstanding.
I believe that the most important part, instant, aspect of meditation is the moment when we realize our mind has strayed from the breath, jumped on the train of thought coming through the station of our consciousness and decided to ride rather than face the boredom of watching the breath.
So, it isn’t about trying to keep the mind silent or focused on the breath. It WILL stray. The value of meditation comes from that moment when we become aware that our mind has strayed and we gently choose to let go of the thinking and go back to watching the breath.
It is that moment, that decision, experienced over and over, thousands of times that lets us begin to become the master of our thoughts and our minds rather than its servant.
I think the student whose mind wanders ceaselessly and who makes the choice to return it to the breath, if only for a few breaths, over and over many times during the period of meditation actually gains more than the experienced yogi who can sit with a still mind indefinitely.
I now give those interested the following simple instruction. Sit with your back fairly straight in an attentive awake attitude on the floor, on a pillow or on a chair. Close your eyes. Focus on the feeling of the air as it passes in and out at the end of your nose.
You’ll notice cool on the in breath and warm on the out. Focus your inner vision, your attention on that sensation. Your mind will do this for only a brief time and then it will stray. You’ll think about your day, or balancing your check book or whatever. It is OK.
When you notice you are no longer focused on the sensation at the end of your nose but instead have been ‘lost in thought’ simply and gently let go of the thought and go back to focusing attention on the sensation of the breath. The value is in making the choice.