The benefits of meditation have been proven again and again. Stress reduction, increased ability to focus, weight maintenance, even help with Irritable Bowel Syndrome! What more could you ask from an activity that just needs ten minutes a day? Yet, so many of us willing meditators are stumped again and again by our own minds.
We sit down to meditate only to get right back up again. We have to rush off to the store, do our taxes, return that call, update our Facebook status, wash the dirty laundry, etc. And even if we do manage to stay seated, we just start thinking obsessively – which is the opposite of meditating!
Is there any way out of ourselves and into a meditation that actually feels joyful while we’re doing it? Try active meditation to break through the wall of the busy mind and release your spirit so you can receive all that meditation has to offer you.
Fill your mind
First, stop trying to empty your mind – fill it instead! Yes, it would be wonderful if we could all tip our heads to the side and let every stressful thought slide right out. But with the constant overstimulation that has become the norm of modern life, trying something more active could be the key. Instead of trying to stop the active mind, give it something to chew on! Find a long spiritual passage and work your way through it. One that may be familiar to you is the St. Francis Prayer. It expresses a willingness to be used for a higher purpose. It’s been adopted by many non-religious organizations because of its emphasis on giving. Here is one section, “Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted; to understand, than to be understood; to love, than to be loved.” You can already tell that saying this in your head slowly, in silence, could quiet even the loudest of minds.
Loosen up your definition of meditation. Yes, meditation can be done by sitting in the lotus position quietly in a temple. But did you know that you can achieve a meditative state by looking intensely at nature? Give your hungry mind something to consider. If sitting still is your worst nightmare, then get up and take a walk. No need to count miles or pick a destination. Meditation is like floating in an ocean of consciousness, so a meditative walk should be a stroll with no particular path. You are literally stopping to smell the flowers. Take just a few steps and look at a tree. Get lost in the branches. Hold a leaf in your hand. Consider the roots under your feet. Lose your busy mind in the miracle of the natural world. The tree is perfect just being a tree, just as you are just being you. And wherever you start your meditative practice is the perfect place for you. One day, you might be the pretzel achieving nirvana, but for today, befriending a tree might be the thing to do.
Bathe in joy for your meditation! Whatever you decide, taking a walk, laying flat on the floor, sitting cross-legged, if you are stuck in a rut, turn your mind into a joy machine. What images spark a feeling of happiness in you? It could be a memory of scoring a goal when you were a child. Or it can be a day you have not experienced yet that you are looking forward to. Perhaps you are working toward a huge project, creatively or at work. Imagine yourself at the finish line.
Whatever your happy image is, all that matters is that you bring up feelings of fulfillment. No matter what your present life circumstances, the wonders of imagination can give your heart and spirit the gift of positive visualization. So use meditation as a break from your present life circumstances and lose yourself in joyful images. Let joy be your mantra!
Finally, know that wherever you are, your practice begins. Meditation transforms you as you transform your meditation. Over a period of time, you will see that the little bit of joyful detachment you find when you meditate will stay with you for hours, even all day. That means more joy, all the time! That’s worth a million walks to look at a tree. So give yourself the gift of meditation and remember to have fun. There’s a reason the Buddha is laughing – he’s full of joy!
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