Many people today are interested in meditation in a more ‘functional’ way, perhaps as a means to help us to manage stress or health issues and to help us to cope with our busy, demanding lives. Meditation therefore is something we might look to simply as a tool to help us to manage our daily demands.
In his book YOGA (6th Edition_ 1983), Swami Venkatesananda describes meditation as “..the art of realising the universal self, beyond the ego-sense” and as a state of being and awareness where “..the ‘I’ has disappeared and only consciousness remains”
Swami Venkatesananda spent many years as a recluse and ascetic disciple. His yoga practice extended to serving humanity and he believed in teaching through his word and example the ideal of an enlightened life. He believed that there is a way for us all to benefit from a meditation practice and believed in a ‘common sense’ view of our seemingly complex problems.
So how CAN we use meditation in a ‘common sense’ way, in a way that helps us to feel calmer, happier, healthier and more in control of our lives?
I have used my own morning meditation routine as an example of a light meditation practice before starting the day. The practice can take as short a time or as long as you like, even five minutes if that is all you have. I sit for fifteen minutes on average. The important thing is to make it part of your daily routine so that it becomes a habit.
First, I make sure I have a hot cup of tea in my hands and I sit comfortably in bed with my back supported by pillows. The routine is more or less as follows:
Sit with your cup up close so that you can feel the warmth under your nose and between your hands. Breathe gently, noticing the scent and warmth of the steam in your nostrils (coffee will have a strong scent of course). Notice the colour and texture of the fluid and how it contrasts against the inner surface of the cup. Notice whether there are any reflections on the surface, maybe you can see your own eyes mirrored back at you from the surface of the contents. The idea here is just to notice, to observe without judgement or question. Simply notice the sights and sensations of what is in front of you, of what you are holding in your hands. Now bring the cup up closer and take a sip. Notice the feeling of heat on your lips and tongue, and the taste and texture of the fluid as it reaches your taste buds. Close your eyes and experience the sensations and the taste of your tea as you continue to gently sip. Pause as you wish and notice other things, such as the sound of the tea being sipped and swallowed, the weight and texture of the cup that you are holding, and the feeling of the breath in the nostrils. The idea is to remain gently focused on the experience of Drinking a Cup of Tea, without the intervention of thoughts about what the day ahead might bring, or about things that happened yesterday. If you find that your mind starts to wander, make sure that you are still sitting comfortably, and gently bring your mind back to the moment. If need be, keep a piece of paper and a pencil close at hand in case something comes to mind that you just can’t ignore and might want to attend to later. Continue with your meditation for as long as is comfortable for you, breathing slowly throughout to help you stay gently focused. Get out of bed slowly so as not to ‘jar’ yourself out of meditation. Take a few moments to yawn and stretch to encourage blood flow through the face and body, and then begin to prepare your day.
You will hopefully find that daily morning practice of light meditation assists to create a feeling of calm, focus and positivity ahead of your busy day, and that it soon becomes a habit!
If you find meditation difficult in the beginning, don’t worry, and be assured that even experienced meditators have their good and bad days. You will notice that I have included all the five senses: sight, sound, taste, touch and hearing. You don’t need to follow my suggested sequence to the letter, as we are all different in how we relate to our five senses. For instance, there is no reason that you cant take a sip (taste) of your tea before looking (sight) into your cup. Over time, work towards keeping the eyes closed as much as possible with the focus on the other sensations as suggested. There is no wrong or right here in terms of sequence. The key issue is to find what keeps YOU in the moment, without your mind wandering off.
Please note that what I have suggested are guidelines based on my previous experience as a yoga practitioner and teacher (please see my About page).