This is my surprising personal experience with meditation over the last 14 months.
Breathe in, Breathe out. Sadhguru’s booming voice echoes in the back of my mind.
“Hmm last night my breathing was a bit erratic..”
Breathe in, Breathe out.
“I wonder if my breathing is always like that when I drink wine?”
“Oh, I need to buy a nice bottle of wine for Linda for her birthday.”
“Did I even RSVP for Linda’s birthday party? I better check as soon as this meditation ends.”
This was my meditation experience for several years but I was still proud of my ability to sit still for 15 minutes, racing thoughts be damned! Then I fell sick and the thoughts were darker, more ominous and I didn’t want them intruding. In fact, I wanted those 15 minutes to be free from anger, anguish and self flagellation. I desperately needed to quieten my mind. What started out as an indulgence now became a mission. Mission impossible, frankly, as all the expert guidance failed me.
I followed the recommended “Beginner’s guide to meditation”, the “Ten steps to better meditation”, the “Three secrets of meditation”, the “Four insights to serene meditation” but nothing worked. My wayward monkey mind did what it wanted to do: run around out of control, screaming everything I didn’t want to hear.
I decided I had to figure it out myself, after all we are all unique and perhaps I was truly “special” in that I needed my own set of rules and guide to meditation. After three months of trying a new trick and tactic daily I finally reached my very own nirvana, a quiet mind for a whole entire 15 minutes! Then I grew that to 20 minutes and can now easily cross 30 minutes in a blink. Here’s how I did it and maybe some of these insights through trial and torture can help you too, enjoy!
1. Start with Joy:
Experts say, “focus on a mantra or breathing as step 1 and bring wandering thoughts back to breathing.” That didn’t work for me. So I thought, let me start with something simpler, like replacing the negative thoughts with joyful thoughts. Before meditating, I would pick one joyful topic to try and focus on during the next 15 minutes. A vacation, my daughter’s baby antics or another moment of joy from my past. I would then focus on just that one memory stream while trying to stay on my breathing. That took weeks but I got there and my 15 minutes would warm my heart, leaving me smiling, which was a great start!
Tip: find something that makes you smile, from the birth of your child to the smell of coffee first thing in the morning, and let all your thoughts during meditation be about that one joyful experience.
2. Try Gratitude:
I had been reading about the power of gratitude and decided to try that as a variation. Before starting meditation I would pick a series of things I was grateful for, and during my meditation I would vividly thank the higher power for those blessings. From silly things like my grades at Wharton to serious things like gratitude for having limbs (post reading the book “Me before You”). That brought a different level of calm acceptance of my current health crisis. A sense of “I’m so blessed, this is just a blip in the grand story of my life.”
Tip: make a list of what you’re grateful for, from warm breakfast on a cold morning to having a job that pays and let all your thoughts during meditation be filled with gratitude.
3. Move to a Single Thought:
I had now mastered my devilish mind to stay focused on the stream of thoughts I wanted, whether joy or gratitude. Next step was to see if I could control it enough to focus on one single thought, instead of a string or stream. That was significantly tougher. What finally worked was finding a meaty enough thought to wrap my entire energy and emotions around. One such thought that became my best friend was “I’m healing” Breathe in …I’m healing …Breathe out …Not “I want to heal or I will heal” but “I am healing.” A definitive, solid, meaningful thought which my monkey mind could focus on too. That became my mantra for the entire 15 minutes.
Then something strange happened.
My mind just stopped still in the middle of a Breathe in…there was nothing there. Just my breathing.
Tip: find what is troubling you the most and come up with a two to three word sentence that assumes your troubles are going away. Repeat those two to four words throughout the meditation. “I’m getting thinner,” “I’m earning more,” “I’m loved” are some examples.
4. Look Inside:
My mind had literally just stopped. Right in the middle of a “Breathe in.” In that pure moment of quiet I looked inside for the first time.
I met “me”.
Now that must sound quite strange if you haven’t met “you” but I promise you when you do, it’s quite disorienting. Nothing and yet completely like seeing your new baby for the first time when it’s born, if you’re a mother. You’ve felt the baby kick around, probably sang or talked to it and felt its toes, but seeing it for the first time there’s a sense of wonder. Like, “Wow, nice to meet you finally.” I wanted to meet “me” again and again, to get to know “me”. It gave my meditation a a whole new sense of purpose. It wasn’t about breathing or thinking or stillness or healing, it was about finally knowing my essence. I had to feel that again!
Tip: Once you have focused on a few words, relax as if trying to sleep sitting up. Fewer the words easier the trance like state, almost like you are lulling your mind to sleep!
5. Be One with You:
The next meditation was different, my monkey mind was back at it, trying so hard to find “me”. It didn’t happen. Like a shy cat, “me” went back into hiding. It took another dozen meditations before I was able to connect again with that inner essence, that energy that is “me.” What it took was the realization that the only way to touch that core part of me was to not try at all. To let go, to be in a zone of “I am nothing, I have nothing to do, I have nowhere to go. I am just a breath.”
I finally understood the purpose of Breathe in, Breathe out. It’s so you can connect with just your breath, as that connection to air is the airstrip to flying inside. And once you have flown inside, there’s a whole new World waiting to be discovered. In fact, it’s addictive as you come out with incredible creativity, efficiency and a new sense of wonder and purpose.
Tip: When the mind sleeps, “you” wake up. Funnily, when “you” wake up, your mind wakes up too! At some point your mind continues to sleep through and that’s pure bliss. To get there, try to imagine before you meditate that you are literally just air with no purpose, no destination, no boundaries, no name and definitely no task lists! You are feather light with no body and no mind. You are pure existence. Then go into meditation. It will change something inside that makes it easier to find “you”.
I hope you too can experience, what I believe, is the most amazing adventure I’ve just started! If you’ve been meditating, please share your experiences and tips for meditation so we can all take this beautiful journey inwards together!
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