If meditation helps us to live our life more calmly, think about its opposite. Imagine that you’re late for an appointment and can’t find your car keys or your phone. Maybe you need to stock up on supplies in the midst of this pandemic but you are nervous, in fact, frightened, and you want to get out of there as fast as you can (and not interact with anyone if you can help it)! Will there be enough of what you want? Your mind is racing, you can’t focus, and now you can’t even remember what came in the store to buy? “What if I forget something?”
Whether in the extremity of our current COVID-19 crises or under stress “as usual,” remember this tip: “Restlessness is the precursor to failure (disappointment, mistakes, and/or negativity).”
It, therefore, holds that “Patience is the quickest road to success.” This well-known axiom encourages us to “do it right the first time!” But only by calm and quiet confidence can we ever truly succeed. And what is success? It is more than accomplishing a goal. True success is the satisfaction of one’s conscience and peace of mind. Nor is peace achieved by passivity or fear or refusal to engage in what must be done! Now, more than ever, right?
I want to share with you a “peace” of counsel given to me by my yoga teacher. It has guided my life:
The more you seek rest as the consequence of doing, rather than in the process of doing, the more restless you will become. Peace isn’t waiting for you over the next hill. Nor is it something you construct, like a building. It must be a part of the creative process itself.
This brings us, therefore, naturally to the one human activity that most effectively brings us relaxation, calmness, and confidence: MEDITATION! The mental and physical benefits of meditation can be sought for their own sake or as a steppingstone to higher consciousness or spiritual growth. But here, for my purposes, I want to focus on meditation for peace and happiness. In India from which comes to us the science of meditation, there is a famous saying (so representative of its traditional culture): “To the peaceless person, how is happiness possible?” (And I would add: how is success in any endeavor possible?)
Meditation isn’t complicated but neither is it easy. Like exercise and diet, it takes will power and intention. But like all other valuable habits, it won’t work through guilt or tension. You have to WANT to meditate in order to get to the point where it is ENJOYABLE. Enjoyment and results are achieved after learning how to meditate and persisting in developing the art of it, not just the science of it. And right now with millions sitting at home waiting out the COVID-19 pandemic, what a perfect time to practice meditation! Ok? Ready? Here we go:
Sit upright but in a relaxed but alert natural posture: chest up slightly; head level; shoulders relaxed; palms upward on the thighs. Open or close your eyes as you feel. (As you internalize it will be natural for most people to close their eyes.)
Take a few long, slow but enjoyable breaths. Let the “stomach” (actually, the diaphragm) expand out as you inhale slowly. As the inhalation progresses you will feel your rib cage expand outward to the sides. Then, finally as you complete the inhalation, the upper chest may rise just a little. Don’t force it, however. Like the strokes of the brush of an artist, your controlled breathing should feel “right” not forced.
You may pause briefly at the top of the inhalation, but it is not necessary. Exhale with a controlled release. The exhalation can be slightly longer (if you were timing it) than the inhalation. You can pause or not pause after the end of the exhalation but just continue this controlled breathing for at least three to five breaths.
Usually, three to five breaths will trigger a sense of increasing calmness, but if not, continue for a while and learn to anticipate a sense of peace and quiet satisfaction coming over you. Then cease your controlled breathing and sit quietly. Relax not just your body but your mind. Since the mind is happier if we give it a focus, let that focus be on your natural (no longer controlled) breathing. Observation of the breath is a time honored and universally effective practice. Your observation can be in the chest (lungs etc.) or in the flow of inhalation and exhalation in the natural channels of the nose.
If your mind needs a bit more to chew on, create a word formula or a personal affirmation. “I am peaceful; I am calm; I am confident”…..etc. etc. Don’t TRY to concentrate. Relax into interested attentiveness to your meditation practice. It’s the same attentiveness you might apply to watching a movie, reading a book, engaging in a sport or exercise, or cooking–anything, in short, that you WANT to do!
At the end of your time (it’s not length of time; it’s QUALITY of calm focus and resulting peacefulness), ask your intuitive self a question that might be on your mind. Ask in positive, not negative terms. In your calm state, be open to a variety of answers, even one that your mind might otherwise reject. Feel calmly and be open to “hear” what is the right action or attitude to take in that situation. If nothing appears, then pose alternative solutions to your intuitive mind.
Or, at the end just bring to your mind the image of a loved one, friend, neighbor, or co-worker who could use a little “peace of your mind” for their health or daily life. Send that “peace” to that person without any consideration of desired results. It’s a peace gesture, in other words. And right now, who doesn’t need a piece of “peace!”
You see: it’s THAT simple.
Be a peaceful warrior, not a peaceless worrier! Bring peace into a peaceless world and we will all be happier! Right?
Joy to you!