Being on hand to take photos at a recent yoga class held inside the beautiful Kansas City Union Station building allowed me to witness a magical view of many hundreds of people sitting in the quiet silence of meditation. It got me to thinking of my long journey of discovery towards learning how to meditate. Along the way, I’ve built upon things I learned in workshops, yoga classes, church, DVDs, the internet and books. After years of accumulating knowledge, my head got so cluttered on the details of what I was supposed to be doing, it became even more difficult to still my mind. I’d try this or that method for a while without any noticeable results and stop. It wasn’t until I read Erich Schiffman’s book entitled, ‘Yoga, The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness’, that all the earlier instruction became galvanized into a simple method of practice. Here are just a
few of the insights that have helped my practice immensely.
- Learning how to do something takes dedicated effort. I may want to learn how to play an instrument, but I’m not going to see results after just a week of practice. I adopted this same mindset and committed to making meditation a part of my life.
- I set aside a specific period of time every day to practice. Just like eating breakfast is part of my morning routine, I incorporated a segment of time for quiet reflection also. It wasn’t much in the beginning, maybe ten minutes.
- One area in my house was dedicated to my practice and decorated accordingly to inspire a tranquil atmosphere. A comfortable chair eventually gave way to a set of cushions on the floor.
- After entering my space and getting comfortable in a seated position, I close my eyes and take a few moments to get centered. It’s funny how I can completely forget that my aim coming into the space is to practice meditation! Sometimes I’ll realize many minutes after starting, that I’ve been planning the upcoming day, running future errands, or solving the world’s problems in my head.
- From this, I’ve learned that it’s helpful to start by asking my thinking mind for its cooperation to take a break for a while and allow the deeper me to enjoy some time with myself.
- Next, I imagine what it’d feel like if I had absolutely no worries - if everything in my life was exactly as I’d like it to be. I invoke this state of mind and it helps immensely to still my thoughts.
- Comfortably settled and relaxed I next begin to focus on my breathing. This part is pretty much a staple of all the methods I’d tried before. With closed eyes, I gaze slightly upward - a few feet out in front of the third eye. To help anchor my thoughts in breathe I may count down from fifty, inhale one number… exhale the next, down to zero. Or I might repeat a simple mantra in my head. The point here is to feel the body breathing. I reflect with some amazement and wonder that even if I wanted to stop breathing on my own, I couldn’t. Some greater power is causing me to breathe.
- With the gaps in vacant thinking growing longer, I can start to see when thoughts arise. Instead of giving these attention, I simply let them dissipate on their own through lack of focus on my part. Like a helium balloon that I release my grasp on, I’ve learned that thoughts not energized will naturally dissolve away. The more I actively try not to think though, the farther I get from stillness.
- Finally, when I’m ready, I put forth this question to my deepest being: “Is there anything you would have me know or understand in this moment?” Once posing the question, I focus all my attention on hearing the voice of clarity & reason respond back. Erich Schiffman likens it to putting out a call at the edge of a canyon and then listening for the ensuing echo.
- Sometimes I get an answer, sometimes I don’t. Either way I give thinks for that day, a never before experienced and never to be repeated moment of time.
That’s it. My comfort level at staying still has grown over the years, allowing for longer sessions. The real benefit doesn’t arise during the practice,
but instead through the results that appear throughout the day. I understand
now that the chattering voice in my head is not who I am, that there’s something much deeper and separate is aware. Knowing this allows me to detach from many of the worries I used to have before. I’m more in tune with my surroundings and open to possibilities that are presented in the moment. That awareness is very beneficial when my camera is in hand. It allows me to better adapt to situations that arise and take advantage of constantly changing variables to see and shoot better pictures.