The Connected Feeling
The preparation and program design for meditation is revisited here. Favorite and popular methods can be mis-represented by both the current crop of teachers and students.
Meditation spoken of here is not just the casual quieting of our “monkey minds”. It is not about becoming some great ego-centered teacher or accomplished practitioner of some arcane esoteric science. Meditation starts with proper preparation that slowly and gradually leads to a laser like focused mind that moves deeper inwards to these states of absolute silence and absorption. The beginning of meditation starts in that state. Everything else is preparation.
Meditation seems to have it’s popular times and localities and experts. Suddenly people in fitness are jumping on the bandwagon of “meditating” and finding wonderful success. The East from India to Asia has the market cornered. Buddhist teachers advise Yoga (meaning asana) practitioners to learn to meditate from them and then “do” Yoga. In the USA, mindfulness meditation has taken the academic and general population’s fancy.
There is veracity in many of these above mentioned approaches and view points. But what is needed to begin preparation for meditation?
Timing for Meditation
We all need many things in life. Food/water and shelter can be a good start. Maybe having a job or life purpose could be good. How about a personal relationship that helps us understand ourselves beyond what we think at the moment. Traditionally this meant getting married and raising a family.
There are all these basic needs that connect us to the world outside and the world inside. Meeting these basic needs and stabilizing them are often a first step in the preparation for mediation.
If one’s lifestyle is too chaotic and unstable, relaxing and breath awareness is a good alternative. Hey just eating better and exercising can be worth much more than forcing yourself to sit for long periods of meditation hoping someday to become enlightened.
Always re-evaluate your program to see if you are moving towards your goals in life. But do not under value the power of proper lifestyle management. Make it practical and doable first. Then when your life allows, come into a proper practice regimen.
The Rush to Success
Is it not uncommon to want NOW what we want. We want to be slimmer by tomorrow. We expect our chronic problems to be better after just a few days of effort. We wonder why have not met our “soul mate”. We have been looking for years. When asked what a person is doing to meet people they actually have only talked to their friends and not anyone much else out of their normal circle of relationships.
The actual methods we use are woefully insufficient to reap the benefits we are envisioning. We do this with our 10 minute a day fitness routine for our 6-pack abs! The proper preparation over the appropriate time is missing in many of our programs.
Often we don’t even have a progressive program. We bite off way too much or way too little. Our expectations exceed our efforts. It is not for lack of trying for many of us. It is just such poor program design and follow through that we end up not noticing much progress.
The most impactful and important things of our life that we want to achieve take time and good programming. Mediation is no different.
Preliminary Steps for Meditation
First we have to realize that the mediation we are talking about here is that which leads to silence and absorption. It is a very high goal. So the first steps are basically getting ones life in order. Check out your lifestyle and examine our thinking. Are we over worked, over fed, under exercised and literally starving for love and affection.
Really take time to live life properly. Establish a lifestyle that supports this interior journey of discovery. If life is constantly taking our focus outward to deal with major stresses surrounding us, then address them first. The power of life lived well will take us deeper than any artificial practice of meditating or whatever it might be. This one sentence/thought needs to be considered more deeply than just a casual reading of it will give to us.
Examine not only what we are doing in life, but also what are we thinking and feeling in life. This is not to prescribe a particular world view or provide some great psycho-therapeutic insight. It is just important to examine where our thoughts take us. Do we have a ton of negative thoughts that we are controlled by?
All the wisdom traditions and many religions have their commandments and guidelines for “right/good” thinking and actions. Do not rush over the examination of what preoccupies our minds and hearts. Do consider what is our philosophy and what guides our thinking and action. In today’s world many have no philosophy of life that is lived—it is only thought of—and then only on Sunday or what ever rare occasion is which it is superficially and poorly addressed. This topic is expanded greatly by others and will not be detailed here.
Realize that life is not lived in some uni-linear progression. Even if at the moment our life seems in order, just hang on to your hat for that next moment when it totally seems to fall apart.
There of course will be times of both good and bad. Those that remark that life is always fine and wonderful—are either very advanced beings (which there are probably a handful in history) or under a huge illusion both of themselves and life.
So these preliminary steps that we take over the years to properly prepare, will have periods of adjustment and interruption. All of us will have to revisit and revise our lifestyles and re-examine where we need to be practicing in life. Initially (probably many decades for many of us) life will take us up and down. Much later as life continues to go up and down but we don’t rise or fall as far.
Slowly with a stronger and deeper practice we can stabilize our connection to our changing lifestyles. We develop an equanimous capacity or even tempered ability in a difficult situation. Again this capacity takes a lot of trial and effort over a long and arduous life. A life lived with ease is often a very sheltered and control life at the beginning. Many people fool themselves too early on their too easily arrived at accomplishments. Only when life has given much and then taken away do we truly test ourselves.
Getting these preliminaries in order is not just in acquiring a good life. It is in living that life and experiencing the losses of that life and then going on to live fully once again.
Life well lived is the preliminary preparation needed for mediation practice.