27 Dec Four basic meditation tips to attain clarity and peace of mind
“The mind is as hard to master as the wind,” claims Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita (the sacred Hindu text). He’s right. It can seem hard to find the stillness that people who do advanced meditation talk about. In my 26 years of meditation I’ve learned some great ways to make it easier however. My first piece of advice would be: don’t think of meditation as hard but enjoyable. It’s okay to think. Unless you’re an enlightened master, you are going to think.
Follow these four tips and you will find more clarity, peace and ease in life no matter how much time a day you can dedicate to your practice.
- A relaxed body is a relaxed mind
It wasn’t until I viewed meditation as a physical state, and not an attempt to stop thinking, that I really made progress. The mind is not just the brain. Our thoughts are manifested as sensations in our bodies. Stress, tension and worry all create tightness somewhere in the body like our lower back, shoulders or jaw. When you sit down to meditate, feel where these stuck places are; places that don’t move when you breathe and feel constricted. When you feel pulsations of breath come into those places, the body feels better. You’ve replaced tightness with lightness. Keep doing this. Try not to view this breathing into tight places as a chore but instead feel the joy of releasing tension in the body. When your body feels lighter, the mind becomes clearer.
- The brain hammock
Allow the brain to sink into what I call a “brain hammock.” Hammocks are enjoyable when we are in them because we relax and let go. The brain too needs to relax. It is relentlessly processing and analyzing. Modern society views a busy mind as being productive but meditation teaches us that being busy is not always a virtue. Too much thinking scatters our energy and focus. As the body feels more unstuck and we enjoy our breath, visualize a hammock from one ear to another and let the mind sink into this hammock. When it wanders, relax it more and simply enjoy the feelings of tightness leaving the body. What you will feel is not only more relaxed but also clear, as though someone came in and cleaned your house, decluttering and leaving you restored to face life with ease and flow.
- Tune into the breath
My personal definition of meditation is that it is the relaxed enjoyment of simple pleasures like breath and being open to the consciousness that comes when we do so. The key here is to not feel like you have to breathe long and deep because it says to do this in a meditation or yoga book but because it is enjoyable. Tied in with the first point of a relaxed body, enjoy the breath because it is like a jacuzzi jet for tight places in the body. It is the biggest gift we have and it’s right under our noses all day. Meditation is a great time to savour it!
- Open the heart
There are two general schools of meditation in my opinion. One is what I call the “be present” school emphasizing stillness and the calmness underlying our busy thoughts. The second is about feeling our interconnection to all life or what I call “heart wisdom.” My personal “aha” moment arrived when I realized that they are interrelated. By opening the heart, you can become more present and by becoming more present your heart will open. As you are enjoying a relaxed, tension-free body, the brain in a hammock and long, easy breath, feel like the heart is more luminous. Use the lungs to inflate this area. It will feel like the embers of a camp-fire have gone from glowing orange charcoal to a burning fire.
My two and half year old asked me the other day if fish drink water. It was a good question and it reminds me of how we look outside of ourselves all the time for approval, love and happiness. These four principles working together make us realize that like fish drinking water, we are surrounded by love all the time. We just need to get quiet and feel it!
By Eoin Finn