So a few posts back I talked about trying various self-development practices and feeding my thoughts back to my wonderful followers. On that note, this week I offer a reflection on meditation…
I have been lucky enough to travel to many places in the world. I spent much of my late teens/early twenties experiencing new cultures, meeting new people and finding out more about myself when in new and unfamiliar surroundings. I was never fully conscious of the fact that I was searching for something. In retrospect what I was searching for was a feeling. A feeling of freedom perhaps, the release from the daily grind was hugely appealing, along with an enormous amount of freedom enjoyed when I packed up my backpack, not entirely sure where I’d end up the following day. These experiences are ones I will treasure for the rest of my life, I feel insanely grateful I was able to do this many times over.
During one of the trips a friend and I were wandering through a walled off garden in the heart of Bangkok. The garden was quiet and peaceful, a real juxtaposition to the bustling city beyond its walls. We saw a figure in orange ahead of us and being the naïve nineteen year olds that we were we felt prepared to scarper, sure we were in a place forbidden to us. But the monk beckoned us over and we sat with him, under an old tree for about fifteen wonderful minutes. I can’t remember what he said, and he was good enough to speak English to us, but I remember how I felt with him that day. He carried himself with a stillness I had rarely experienced, he was so at home just being, with nothing more than his thoughts and feelings. His mere presence allowed me to release all of the tension and worry that accompanied my first traveling experience. Given the chance I would have stayed sitting with him for days.
As I headed on through my twenties the compulsion to just ‘leave everything’ waned a little and my life took a different focus. As I think back to that day I met the monk in Bangkok, I am starting to understand why.
Just about every morning now I sit for twenty minutes to meditate. Before fully committing to this practice I was dubious, and also a little scared. It was a very unknown thing to me, I think perhaps I was a bit afraid of the capacity of my own mind. But a couple of years in and I now understand the following:
1. The practice of sitting with myself; still, quiet, focussed has been the best thing I have ever done to relieve stress, worry and anxiety.
2. When I meditate I sometimes imagine being in places not so dissimilar to the peaceful garden in Bangkok. I get the same feelings and I don’t even need to leave my living room.
3. Other times when I meditate I imagine a whole universe within my body. The colour blue resonates with me and I always find myself picturing this expansive network of planets, all coloured by a blue filter. There is a central blue planet that sits in my solar plexus and is the energy I return to whenever I feel a bit ‘off’. The pace is so slow in my universe, but it makes me feel like the possibilities are infinite.
4. Every time I meditate I am sending anther message to my subconscious saying ‘I am enough, exactly as I am. What I get externally is minimal in relation to what is available internally. When I connect to my internal strength, I can achieve anything.’ As with anything this belief grows over time as I focus on it, each day (as Deepak Chopra says) I open myself up to just a little more self-belief.
Even though I am thousands of miles away from the monk I met in the Bangkok garden, I actually feel closer to him than I did that day when I was 19. I know now that Buddhist monks practice meditation numerous times daily, I know now that his peaceful presence would have come from a dedicated commitment to harnessing his internal power.
I think that monk planted a tiny seed in my head that, now it’s being tended to, will grow into the most powerful oak tree. Although I didn’t realise it at the time, the energy he evoked in me that day was the thing I went out there in search of, but I guess I wasn’t quite ready to fully step into it. I now know that I don’t need to go anywhere to find that feeling again, I can conjure it up myself whenever I want.
Meditation is like a key, it unlocks the door to who you really are. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
**Meditation can be a free experience. I attended several free courses with an organisation called Inner Space and have signed up for Deepak Chopra and Oprah’s free 21 day meditation guidance several times. More and more organisations are recognising the benefit in committed meditation practices and offer the opportunity to staff so find out what’s available from your employer. I am lucky enough to live in Brighton on the south coast of England where meditation courses abound, but check out what’s available locally, and if there’s nothing, start your own group and invite a teacher along.