Exploring what works in my daily meditation
- Really well constructed music in the background throughout. A different selection each day.
- A short introductory talk from Deepak, introducing some basic ideas for self development or self insight.
- Toward the end of this, a "centering thought" is introduced. Usually a short affirmation of some kind.
- We are given a Sanskrit mantra and told what it means. There is very little progressive relaxation guidance, just the instruction to close our eyes and "Go within." A bell sounds (singing bowl?) and Deepak repeats the mantra a few times, instructing us to repeat it silently whenever we find our mind getting busy. We are assured that the bell will be rung again in a little while, and are then left with the music to just meditate.
- The bell rings, we are instructed to bring our awareness back, and to gently open our eyes when we are ready. Deepak speaks very briefly, mainly concentrating on repeating the centering thought several times, and encouraging us to remember it throughout our day.
I'm finding this an excellent format, not only to have good meditation sessions, but to throw in a bit of self-improvement. I usually find that when the 21 day period is finished, I have an "afterglow" in my meditation for a few days, at least. During the latest series I listened to the meditations twice a day, and the afterglow seems to be lasting longer.
Everything here seems to work together to create an easy path, but not a shallow one. I want to talk a little bit about why I think this approach works so well for me, and also about how I can reconstruct some of the best aspects without always putting on headphones every day, etc.
Music: As a professional (and opinionated) musician, I sometimes find meditation music problematic. I tend to listen to it, and start analysing it, rather than getting into meditation. Or, I simply don't like it. If it's too structured, I start noticing that. If you don't have these problems, then investing in some suitable music might be a good idea. For me, I know that once I have heard a piece a few times, even if it's rather formless, I will start to know it, and that will probably just distract me. So my conclusion is that if music works for you, great, but you will be fine without it. For myself, I might try some ocean sounds or the sounds of a dawn chorus of birds in a broadleaf forest - or just silence!
The Introduction: This is an area I really like. Once you've listened to a few of Deepak's meditations, this little routine begins to set the mood, probably in the same way that lighting a candle, or incense, or some other little pre-meditation ritual does. That's a good reminder to do something to set the scene, if it helps. However, I think that there is great use in the little "homily" for other reasons. It's such a habit for me to put on a meditation audio and immediately close my eyes. However, early on in my experience with these meditations, I had a stroke of intuition that somehow, listening to this part while looking around my usual environment helped me to fix the ideas in that space, so that these are not just ideas I think about when I'm meditating, but ideas I will carry out into my life. Also, as the routine of relaxing in preparation to meditate gets ingrained, one is listening to these messages in a relaxed and receptive state.
Meditation: I find the mantras useful, although the only one I remember without prompting is So Hum (I am). Even more, though, I like being given the relatively long space provided to just meditate without being fed imagery or instructions. I enjoy fully guided work, too, but I don't find that a steady diet of it gives me all I need. The bell to begin and end also provides a cue that becomes familiar, comforting and evocative of the desired state.
Finishing up: Deepak is very good at bringing us back gently and not too fast. The repetition of the centering thought at this point is interesting. I'm sure that the mind is particularly receptive to suggestions while in a highly relaxed state. As long as one is aware of this, there is potential to use it for good. I can see the importance of thinking about something good and positive once I have ended my meditation session.
What I am currently trying to do on my own, the past few days, is simply to have a little talk with myself as I'm getting ready to meditate. I do my best to be gentle and non-judgemental. Right now I'd like to be more active physically, so I just remind myself of all the benefits of that, and talk about how good it would feel, etc. My centering thought has been "I prefer to be active." I think that I am seeing some benefit from this. I'm not sure how long I will find it beneficial to continue with the same idea, but I'll keep going with it for a bit, and I'm already seeing some concrete changes in how I spend my time. When I feel like I want a change, I'll find something else to focus on for awhile.
I'd love to hear about your meditation practice. What works for you? Do you try new things, or keep it consistent?
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