Not Spiritual? Why You Can Still Meditate
This post was written by davidji, a life guide, author, personal empowerment coach, and meditation instructor. davidji is also the author of "Secrets of Meditation." The views expressed herein are his and his alone. For more from davidji, visit davidji.com.
Most of what we know about meditation, we learned years ago from pop culture: by watching David Carradine in his role as “Grasshopper” on the 70’s TV show Kung Fu, or reading Somerset Maugham’s tale of experiencing oneness in The Razor’s Edge, or watching Jim Carrey levitating in the jungle with the monkey in that second Ace Ventura movie. Perhaps you saw Oprah, Eckhart Tolle, Louise Hay, Deepak Chopra, Dr. Oz, or Wayne Dyer espousing the benefits of meditation on television, or you read about it in one of their books. Or maybe you experienced some calm as you relaxed on your mat at the end of a yoga class. But for some reason you thought meditation was kooky or just not for you.
The Power of No Thought
For thousands of years, people have used various techniques to bring the mind from its current level of activity to a quieter state of being.
You have already experienced the phenomena of present-moment witnessing awareness many times throughout your life, but perhaps you didn’t even realize it. That moment on a roller coaster when you were screaming at the top of your lungs — you were neither in the past nor the future. Maybe you were playing sports and every move you made was the perfect one. These are the times in our life when we are fully present. They are rare because most times we are in memories of the past or fantasies of the future. According to UCLA’s Laboratory of Neuro Imaging, most of us are revving at 60,000 to 80,000 thoughts per day — either projecting into the future or reaching back into the past every 1.2 seconds. Yet it is in the rare present moment when you are truly at your best — your most creative, intuitive, emotionally intelligent, and crystal clear expression of yourself.
When you have a consistent daily meditation practice, instead of only having sporadic tastes of present-moment awareness, you begin to experience it more and more in your everyday life. As you meditate regularly, a physiological shift occurs that grows deeper, stronger, and more profound with repetition — like building any muscle in your body. The stillness of present-moment awareness begins to flow throughout each thought, each conversation, each keystroke, and each breath.
And when you experience no activity within you or outside of yourself, you actually open yourself to realms of expanded consciousness and such benefits as higher levels of creativity, intuition, personal growth, better hand-eye coordination, an elevated immune system, lower blood pressure, more restful sleep, and greater peace of mind.
So let’s try it right now. Pay attention to your thoughts. You may be making lists, thinking about a conversation, ruminating on your schedule, projecting into the future, thinking about this article, or conjuring up a memory. Try observing your thoughts for a few moments:
- For a count of four, take a long slow breath in. Feel it move in through your nostrils, into your throat, into your chest, and down into your belly.
- Now hold it there to the count of four.
- Now, to the count of four, gently release the breath and follow it back up into your chest back into your throat now out through your nostrils.
- And now… to the count of four, hold it.
Now breathe normally. That was 16 seconds of four-part breathing. And in in those few moments you were fully present, not thinking about the past or the future, right here, right now. If you played along and truly witnessed your breath for this quarter of a minute, you didn’t drift into thought. You didn’t fantasize about the future. You didn’t dredge up old baggage. You were in the now — the sacred present moment. You just meditated and maybe you didn’t even realize it!
Imagine if you could have this experience throughout your day, every day. And instead of feeling stress or anxiety, you had the sense of relaxation you might have right now. Yes things will still happen outside of you, as they always do. But you can be the stillness inside that storm. The calm amidst the chaos. You can live in the now between the past and the future where you can respond rather than react; where you can have clarity instead of overwhelm; where you think, speak, and act from an unconditioned space of stillness and purity rather than one where you’re clouded by all the activity swirling outside of you.
If you can start your day with a few minutes of stillness, then you will begin to craft each subsequent moment from that seed. In fact, if you can take a few minutes and meditate before you engage in the big presentation, the important meeting, the difficult conversation, then they will all carry the peace, clarity, poise, creativity, and intuition that lies at your very core. And it all starts with that first breath.
Creating the Ritual
Try spending a few minutes each day following your breath in the four-part method we just experienced. Do this every day for 21 days for however long is comfortable, whether it be two minutes, five minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes or, ideally, half an hour. The longer the better. If you like what you see in yourself, then keep it going. You may not levitate, or see God, or have an Einstein-level epiphany, but bit by bit, moment by moment, day by day, you will feel a little more relaxed when the storm is brewing outside of you. In time, you will become the calm amidst the chaos — the eye of the storm! And then you will notice that you are less reactive, less frustrated, that life is unfolding with greater grace and ease… you’ll start making better decisions, seeing with greater clarity, and finding more fulfillment in each day.
So don’t be a crisis meditator! We all have a few minutes every day to connect to the stillness and silence that rests within. And when we can slow ourselves down, our mind quiets. And in this space of quietude, you will hear the true whispers of your heart. And if you can experience present moment awareness everyday, your life will continue to blossom and bloom.
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