Om magazine October 2011

Demystifying Meditation

Like many aspects of spirituality, meditation is something that has become overly-complicated. Spiritual teacher Michael James explains his way of approaching this ancient practice.

Meditation and the Law of Attraction

Meditation is seen as a foundational practice by most authentic spiritual paths, including yoga. When building a new house, you want foundations you can trust. Whatever your particular way of life, meditation will ensure you have a solid grounding by connecting you to wisdom that’s stable and reliable.

The practice of meditation means quieting our minds. We do this by distracting ourselves: focusing on our breathing, a mantra or a consistent sound like gentle music or the sound of a fan. In this, we allow ourselves to tune ourselves to hear our ‘real voice’- often described as our intuition, our higher self- or even the voice of God.

Meditation means stepping back; it is the opposite of the ‘making it happen’ that we hear so much about in motivational lectures. When a problem arises, there’s a tendency to ‘dig in’ and push ahead, trying to think our way out of the problem. Meditation allows us to zoom out and be shown the bigger picture. It elevates us to a higher perspective where solutions can come into view. Meditation is like putting the car in neutral or waiting for the seas to calm before setting sail. It is the ideal way to get each day off to a good start.

In this ‘letting go’ there is true power although this, to the outside world, may seem like a lack of power. The ego personality- that ‘lower vibrational’ chatter that tends not to wish ourselves and others well- sees meditation as weak, boring or a waste of time. Like most people, I used to see meditation this way. I think this is one reason why I avoided it for so long. It seemed a waste of time to just ‘sit there’.

The benefits of meditation

By living life, we cannot help but be exposed to problems. Meditation is a way to cleanse ourselves of these problems, and move through them, allowing solutions to come into focus. The physical practice of yoga was always intended as the way to prepare the body for meditation: and so the meditation at the end was the main event rather than merely a chance to ‘get a break’ from strenuous exercise. And science is now starting to ‘catch up’ and recognise the huge physiological benefits and decreasing of stress levels it provides.

Light bulb inventor Thomas Edison claimed he got his inspiration in the silence. And many leading business figures and orators throughout the ages have claimed their best ideas came from ‘listening’ in the silence.

You’ll feel rejuvenated and refreshed, with some meditation teachers suggesting that a short meditation is worth hours of sleep. I see it like a ‘rebooting’ of the computer.

After a busy day at work, meditation brings you back, calming an overactive mind and body whilst also allowing you to reap the benefits of your day full of activities, questions and thoughts. In the stillness, you’ll discover answers to problems. For me, meditation is where I access my greatest ideas and life decisions. And, when I follow this guidance, it always works out in ways I myself could not have ‘thought’ my way to. Einstein said: “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” You can’t think your way out of a problem. And so, the way out is firstly, distraction. And meditation is a great way to distract into the fullness of who you are.

Although it has cumulative benefits, meaning it improves our life experience over time, it is also about enjoying the moment rather than struggling through it for a future benefit. We don’t really choose our thoughts, we choose our focus, which ‘taps us in’ to a certain radio frequency which is playing thoughts in this ‘mood range’. For example, if we relax into feeling good, we will begin to naturally think good-feeling thoughts, seeing the best in others, getting new ideas. We won’t have to try to do this- we will just do it. Meditation ‘turns the dial’ and tunes us to a higher frequency.

Resistance

There is a brilliant and accurate scene in the film ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ where the character played by Julia Roberts attempts to meditate. She’s wrestling with her thoughts, noticing other people who seem to be perfectly meditating and finally, after one minute, gives up. The thing with meditation is that we don’t always want to do it; our logical ‘ego’ mind tells us things like ‘we don’t need it’, ‘it’s a waste of time’, ‘it’s boring’, or ‘what good will just sitting there do anyway?’ But meditation is the best tool I know to take us into a new wavelength. The two biggest problems I hear from people are: they can’t quieten their mind, or they simply won’t do it. Just as being self-employed requires self-discipline to schedule the day and commit to it, so it is with meditation. It needs to be prioritised. Without doubt, the people I have seen have most transformation with meditation are those who commit to a daily practice.

Like starting any unfamiliar skill, such as driving a car, meditation requires practice. I thought meditation seemed almost impossible, at first. I would see others closing their eyes, stilling their minds and wondered why my mind was all over the place. And then, one day, after setting aside 15 minutes every morning for several months, I ‘got it’ and experienced what all the books and spiritual teachings were talking about. There’s no ‘set time’- some people may really enjoy meditation from the first attempt- we are all different and have different thought habits going on.

How to meditate

Go into a room where you can be undisturbed. Put away any distractions. Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Take in a deep breath and fully exhale. Focus on something constant like your breath, a candle flame, or gentle sounds. Bring your attention to the rhythm of your breathing (or the music). At first, your mind may be restless but stay with it. You may want to stop, but continue. You may want to set a timer for 10 minutes initially, working up to 15 minutes, half an hour or longer if guided.

If you’re still struggling, the Law of Attraction Centre has an online meditation (Meditation 101), where you can meditate with a group in the comfort of your own home. This event is attended by people from all over the world and is a great way to begin a regular practice, especially if you find it hard to do it alone.

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