… unless it’s pretty empty to begin with, which is possible but not likely. Written by one whose only Claims to Esoteric Knowledge are that she once worked for a while in an occult/spiritual bookstore - and that she has been meditating on and off for 34 years. I post it here, because it’s been passed on a few times to other friends, and I thought maybe it might be helpful here, where a link will find it easily.
This is pretty much word-for-word something I wrote for my friend Eric, whose busy mind would not empty. It’s pretty long, but read it all, and if you *can* sit for all of it, you can prolly sit to meditate, too.
This will be So Long You’ll Wish You’d Never Asked, but this is the only way I know how to do it.
Okay, how I learned to meditate was through Transcendental Meditation (TM) in the mid-70’s, but it doesn’t much matter the school of thought or technique, as long as the basics work for you. I’ll tell you what I was taught, but you can - as I have - adapt it to whatever works for you.
The TM people were VERY CERTAIN that following their methods TO THE LETTER was pretty much THE ONLY WAY, but I didn’t buy it then, and I don’t buy it now. That said, the heart of what I learned was very useful.
First off: something general. You really can’t empty your mind. That’s kinda like trying NOT to think about, say, a red balloon. You will, of course, be able to think of nothing but a red balloon. So that’s right out to begin with. You’re just going to release some crap thoughts - like gas - from your brain, and it will consequently feel lighter, less encumbered, and therefore happier and more effective.
So, most good meditation techniques - and there are tons of ‘em - present a much more *oblique* approach to releasing from your mind - on a regular basis - a lot of the yakkety-yak blah-blah noise that fills our heads most of the time - or what TM (and others) call “roof brain chatter”. You become calmer, and over time, are able to access the more creative & integrated levels of “thought” or energy or what-have-you that run through your being all the time, but are often covered up by the roof brain chatter of: “Oh I suck so bad” and “I wonder why she said that to me?” and “If I can’t get that thingamabob to thingy, I’ll die/scream/throw a fit/be behind on my rent/deadline/whatever.”
At the very least, it will help you feel less crazy & overwhelmed & scared or blocked. At the most, you will achieve Godhood. ; ]
I’ll go through kinda how it works for me - and this is how I was taught it was pretty much s’posed to work. So that’s good.
You sit down in a comfortable but not sleep-inducing kind of spot where you won’t be interrupted ‘til you’re done.
You can have a word to “focus” on - some use “Om”, some use something else; TM gave me my own Special Word that I was NEVER SUPPOSED to tell anyone else ever. ; ] I of course, have (oh, I’m a rebel) - the word sounds roughly like “Hime” or “H’aim”. Some practices just tell you to focus on your breathing, and don’t have you use a word. That works, too. I’ve done both, with word & without & I prefer with word. It should just be a syllable that doesn’t cause you to think of something physical or concrete. “Desk” or “coffeecake” would not be good. “Om” is nice, but “heeee” or “eeeee” or “ohhhhh” or “laaaa” - something soft and not intrusive.
You have a watch or clock next to you that you’ll be able to check to see that you’ve meditated the amount of time you’d like to.
Anyway, you’re sitting there, and you start to repeat your word slowly in your mind in connection/rhythm with your breathing - either saying it on the “in” breath, or the “out” - I use the “out”. You don’t “say” it really hard or concretely - you pronounce it in your head, but not so much sound it out fully. (If that makes sense. It bears the same relationship to pronouncing it fully inside that looking sideways at something does to staring at it directly.) Just: lightly as you breathe. Or: just breathe.
You’ll be focusing on that for a while, breathing and stuff, and thinking about how this is no great shakes, and what’s the big deal about anyway, and your mind will start to drift. You’ll start thinking about dinner, or that task you have to do, or about how this is a waste of time, and you’ll want stop, skip meditating, and get up and go do something.
Don’t. This is ALWAYS the temptation. But: don’t. Stay doing it.
Okay, so you notice that you wanted to stop doing it, or that you started thinking about dinner, or your latest chapter, or some programming problem, and that your mind has drifted away from your word or your breathing, and drifted away from being in the moment with your word/breathing. You catch yourself, you don’t judge yourself for drifting away, you just focus on your breathing/word again. You breathe calmly. You say your word. You are in a rhythm now. Man, you really have the hang of this thing now. You are TOTALLY in the moment.
You start to think about how that is maybe not the point - how awesomely you meditate - and you start to think about your ego. That might bring up some thoughts about your work, and how you’re expressing yourself, and what “is* the theme of that thing anyway, and what did that editor mean when they said that it was unfinished or whatever, and maybe the cover could have been purple instead of green, and: Uh, oh. You catch yourself.
You drifted again. You forgot to say your word, you stopped noticing your breathing, and you started thinking about a problem, or started feeling some emotion, or got into something troubling: and then you caught yourself.
That’s okay. (More than okay. In fact, that’s kinda the point.)
So: this is when you get to let it go. You may have to solve it later, when you’re NOT meditating, but in here, when you ARE, you get to let it go. Whatever you were thinking about, it doesn’t matter. Thinking about that problem is not your job now. Your ONLY job in this meditation session is: saying your word, and noticing your breathing. Staying in the moment with those. You return to that, without judging yourself for drifting. Yes, you got distracted, but you caught yourself, so you return your attention to your word and your breathing. Because that’s your job now - your only job right now. Breathing, paying attention to your breathing, and saying your word.
You do those two major things: focusing on your word/breathing… … … … … … … … … … and then forgetting to do that and thinking about something */*/*/*/* !!! - for the entire meditation session. The interplay of those two activities - staying in the moment with the word/breathing, and then getting lost in thought & feeling and then catching yourself - *IS* the activity of meditating.
At the end of the session, you will probably feel a little calmer, and if you do it over time, calmer still. That calm allows you to reach inside yourself to better quality stuff.
Without even trying.
Anyhoo, every session is different. The days you feel the most fucked up, may be the best, most calming & freeing meditations. Then again, you may feel AWESOME, but get really cranky after meditating ‘cos it brought something up. You may feel nothing at all.
Every session is different. Every session has no goal. Every session is what it is.
Once you’ve done it for a while, in some sort of regular fashion - regular enough that it starts to feel somewhat ingrained in you, or becomes a technique you can call on at will - you can do it for short periods as needed, or in a non-meditative kindof place (I do it in the dentist chair, for instance).
But to start, you need to do it with *some* sort of regularity, so that it gets absorbed into your system, if that makes sense. You need to be in a calm, solitary place, and you need to have uninterrupted time. That’s usually best, but you can also do it under many, many different kinds of circumstances. I’ve done it in peril, I’ve done it in pain, I’ve done it in the ER, and I’ve done it while having sex. ; ]
When I started TM, I was: given my word, told that *I* needed to meditate 20 mins a session, two times a day, sitting down, by myself. One time would be shortly after I got up & before breakfast, one would be at the end of my work (or school) day & before dinner. (It *is* prolly best not to have a full stomach, as you tend to fall asleep, and it slows your digestion, which is not great.)
However, at different times in my life I’ve: done it once a day, done it twice a day, done it a few times a week, done it once a week, forgotten about it for months, done it for 10 minutes a session, done it for 30 minutes a session, done it irregularly, done it precisely the same times every day, fallen asleep every time I’ve done it for a year, done it every time I wanted a drink or drugs. Whatever.
I credit meditation with helping me be: less crazy, more creative, more loving, less judgmental, and for keeping myself in touch with a vague kind of spirituality that is outside of religion or gods or isms or movements of any kind. The spirituality of me.
Okay? Any questions? Did it make sense?