So many of my patients want to start a meditation practice but don’t know where to begin. There is a lot of attention on meditation in the media, some of it is helpful and maybe some of it is not.
There are as many different versions of meditation as there are versions of music or movies or novels. We live in a universe where we don’t suffer from a lack of choices but rather from an over abundance of choices. Where do I start, who do I learn from? Like anything else, it’s probably best to learn from the best. If you want to learn piano, you want to find a great pianist. If you want to learn to become a physician, you would want an expert to teach you. So who are the experts in meditation?
Today I will pass on to you a simple but powerful meditation practice you can start using right away.
We all want to be happy, and the intent for passing this on is to help you make all your dreams come true. It is to help you become successful at business, art, parenting, and even dating. It's to give you the inner code that can help you shape the world around you. Nothing less than that is acceptable. We are New Yorkers after all, and if we are going to do something we want to do at the highest level with the most fruitful and lucrative results.
Remember, at the start, be easy with your approach: Meditation is a practice that gently reveals itself to you. Like any muscle, the mind will be strengthened with practice over time. Like when you go to the gym to get in shape. Your meditation practice will be your exercise routine for your mind-muscle. When you learn how to use your mind well your dreams can come true.
So to change your world you have to change your mind. Distractions are the biggest challenges for our mind: we multitask nearly all of the time. How many of you can text, be on your computer, listen to music, maybe eat and have the television on all at the same time? While advances in technology have been truly remarkable, they have left us with a need for constant distraction. We exhaust ourselves with stuff and things to do…a mind full of distractions is definitely one of the best reasons to start meditating.
Maybe starting today we could try doing everything more fully: for instance, if you are listening to music — listen to music. If you are doing your homework – do your homework. If you are reading — read. If you are having a conversation with someone — fully engage, listen closely and respond. Multitasking is actually a lie. You can’t do it, really. The mind only focuses on one mental image at a time, and so when we think we are multitasking we are actually just quickly switching from one task to the other. But this means we never really do anything other than skim the surface. We dabble into this and around that, without ever fully experiencing the deep calm that can arrive when we become single-pointed in our approach to what we are doing.
When we are single-pointed, we loosen the grip on all the stories we are holding on to that keep us from experiencing true happiness. You don’t have the mental space to think anxious producing thoughts when your mind is single-pointed on an object. That’s why we love to escape with movies and sports, alcohol and sex. It gives our minds respite from the worries and anxiety that flood our normal consciousness. But as we all know, sooner or later the sex gets duller, the movies get boring, the alcohol gets disorienting and even sickening. The escapes become ordinary, and the then we need escapes from the escapes. It’s a never-ending wheel of always hoping the next thing is the thing to make us happy. The next job, the next partner, the next bite of sushi. But it all runs out and then our lives run out, and we leave much the way we came into this world — alone.
Even meditation can get run out. We forget why we are doing it and slowly but surely the meditations get duller and duller until we simply have no interest anymore. It’s no different than anything else. Just another fad that we got into that collects dust on the shelf. That is why it’s so important to know why to meditate, and how to meditate. Otherwise we are just setting ourselves up to fail. So lets look a bit into some of the reasons why we would want to meditate…
1. Worldly Reasons
There was a study done recently on the value of visualization. There were three groups of high school students. The first group practiced shooting free throws (basketball). The second group did nothing. And the third group just visualized shooting without doing anything else. Which group do you think did the best??? While the group that practiced came in second. The group that visualized their free throws did by far the best.
Why do you think? Because the group that visualized the throws visualized them perfectly. They trained their minds to see themselves completely successful. They didn’t visualize missing shots! The second group practiced and trained but in doing so saw themselves both missing and making shots. They were training their minds to create a certain reality for themselves.
The more you see the world as full of mental images, the more you can change it. That’s how advertising works. They know the mind stores mental images like files on a computer. Every time you see a commercial, they don’t necessarily think you are going to buy the product right there and then. They are planting seeds in your mind that will ripen at some point in the future. And not just one seed, but a concert of seeds tied together, adjacent from each other so that every time this summer you think, “I’m hot” — just maybe a seed ripens and you will want a Budweiser and just maybe you can get that with a sexy partner to come with it!
That’s not new to anyone. We know that’s how the mind works. But we seldom put it good use. We don’t realize that every time we get upset with our partner we are planting a seed to see them as less attractive in the future. Or that every time we refuse to give money instead of supporting a friend in need, we are planting a mental image in our minds that will ripen to see ourselves in need of money.
Did you ever have the experience of having a memory and not being able to recall if it was from a dream or from waking life? It doesn’t really matter. The mind doesn’t care, it just records content. So when you see your friend happy and see that you were the cause for that happiness, you will soon have a seed ripen that makes you happy. It’s very simple but it really works.
2. The deep realizations you want will come from the concentration you gain in your meditations.
All the great leaders in world history (like Martin Luther King and Gandhi) gained deep wisdom in the stillness of meditation. Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” This powerful change happens first in your mind during meditation. Your mind is like pond that reflects the image of the world. How can you possibly see the image if the winds are whipping across the water, making ripples that distort reality? To see wisdom, you must still the winds (your thoughts) and focus on the image you are holding on to (the pond). Only then can you see the world clear enough to detect what is real and what is illusion. All wisdom comes from separating the real from the unreal.
I am going to pass on to you three types of meditation that work well together as one combined meditation practice.
1. Stillness Meditation:
Stillness helps create a disciplined mind. You ask your mind to sit and your mind sits. Over time we disciple ourselves not to be distracted by everything around us. We move away from the exhaustion of distractions and multitasking that prevent us from being present in this moment. Stillness meditation helps de-clutter the distractions from our mind, allowing us a better chance to connect with the present. Stillness is a very important breath meditation. I know people who do just 15 minutes of Stillness Meditation a day and they are highly successful in their lives because they have focus.
2. Wisdom Meditation:
We could stop there but that would be like pouring the foundation for a house and not building the house. So if stillness helps create discipline, wisdom helps create understanding. With wisdom you can look at how the world works. You see where the problem comes from and how to go straight to its source and cut it off at the root.
3. Compassion Meditation: You have to give it to someone else first!
With true discipline and understanding, contemplating compassion can radically transform your world. Working with mental images of happiness and generosity for others creates these causes for you in your world. The age-old idea of cause and effect! What goes around comes around!
So we bring all of the three principal meditations together to create one meditation practice for you. You will need stillness to change your mind, wisdom to see that your world can change and compassion to make it happen.
They are in this order because stillness gives us a foundation to work from. In stillness we can see wisdom more clearly. And you need wisdom so your compassion is effective. (You can want to donate money to someone but if you send it to the wrong place it's very ineffective!)
Part 1 — Stillness Meditation
Get yourself into a comfortable and alert sitting posture that allows you to forget about your physical self for the next 15 minutes or so (a chair is fine so long as you don’t lean back and you are sitting upright with no support. This will help keep you focused). Keep your attention on the tip of your nose. Take a few deep breaths to release any tension in your body. You are only a neutral observer so try not to control your breath. Just let it be free and easy. If you lose concentration just keep bringing your breath back to the tip of the nose.
See your thoughts. Try and see them as separate events that are not connected. Imagine your mind as a clear blue sky and your thoughts as white clouds passing across the sky without interfering. Hold this image for a few moments. Now try and drop a little further into more of a dream-state. Listen for the subtle sounds and feelings that arise, i.e: like the beat of your heart. Just let yourself feel the beats of your heart…and focus on the tip of your nose.
Part 2 — Wisdom Meditation
Gently bring to mind a particular problem you are having or have been having in your life. Bring to mind something that you would like to change or that is really bothering you. Choose only one thing at this time so you can focus completely on it.
Now ask yourself again, “Will this problem always appear to me as it appears to me today or can it change over time?" Your mind wants to jump ahead, but let’s stick with it and investigate it a little further…sit for a few minutes and just think about your particular problem. “Will this problem always be with me?” Ask yourself did you always have this problem? Did you have it as a child? When you sleep?…Feel for yourself the answer.
Lets look at the problem itself. For instance, does the intensity of this problem change? Sometimes it seems big and insurmountable and other times it seems like its no big deal. So what we are really looking at is whether the problem is changing or unchanging? If you saw that it is changing then see that it can change and therefore stop. See that it can end.
Do you see that you haven’t always, and won’t always have this problem?
Part 3 — Compassion Meditation
Now bring to mind someone else who has almost the same problem. See how it torments them. See how much they would like to be free of this torment but they don’t know how. See that they have not yet realized the wisdom and method that you have learned…and decide to help them. See that their suffering is like a black cloud in their body and that their suffering is the same as yours.
On your next inhale; start to pull this suffering out of their body and towards you. Bring this black cloud right in front of your face. Label this black cloud pain…
Now see a beautiful diamond at your heart center (representing your wisdom). This diamond sits on a beautiful wild rose (which represents your compassion). Feel the weight of the diamond in your chest.
Breathe in the scent of the rose. Make it real for you. Know because of your diamond/rose heart center that you are able to take away all pain completely.
With that knowledge breathe in the black smoke gently into your body. Breathe it down to the diamond.
See that the instant the black smoke touches the diamond and it is destroyed completely. Now understand that you are free from the suffering and so is the person you meditated for ;-).
Now look at this person and see what they really want, happiness. Imagine what would make them happy, and then send it to them in the form of a bright white light. See them transformed into a being of perfect bliss and wisdom. See yourself getting the same thing. Now you both have this happiness. Try and stay in this state of happiness and believe you have really changed it.
Believing it has really changed is the most important step. In your mind you saw it happen…you saw it change.
Dedicate your efforts to seeing it come alive in your reality (off the cushion).
Slowly come back to the room and when you are ready, open your eyes. When you open your eyes hold this place of peace and good will. The more you see the world is full of mental images, the more you will understand you can change it.
Your meditation is now complete…
Another few things to keep in mind when you begin your meditation journey are to find meditators or teachers that you admire. If you were going to train to be a pianist you would want to find a great piano player to teach you. If you wanted to train to be a boxer you would find a great trainer. It is the same with meditation. Don’t try and do it all alone. Find someone who will help you through your process.
Just remember that when you give someone what she needs, you change your world too. If someone needs money and you give it, you are forcing your mind to see yourself as someone who has money to give. If you have enough money to give away, then you must be someone who has money! This type of thought plants the seeds in your head to see yourself as a wealthy and generous person in the future.
You have to meditate every day. The mind is stubborn so it will need a regular meditation practice to break down the habits of old mind. And what do you do off the cushion? Don’t undo all your work. See that the suffering around you appears this way to you right now but that it can and will change in the future. You have to set the seeds for positive rather than negative results.
If you have any questions, or even suggestions, just email me. Or you may call me at (646) 584-3870. I dedicate this passing of wisdom to my perfect teachers.