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The Art of Meditation

by Tom Crum     © Aiki Works

Becoming quiet in a busy world is something we would all love to do. When people recognize that they can achieve that by taking time to center, they want more of it. Living from center on a daily basis is certainly enhanced by the discipline of meditation.

One of the difficulties that many people have in considering meditation is that they think it is one more thing that they have to do in their lives, another entry on that great list of things to do, much like working out, eating right, being on time, doing your job well. But meditation practice is not an effort, it is a time to spend each and every day in that place inside ourselves in which there is deep security and peace. So meditation is not some stoic physical position or arduous mental exercise. It is really a letting go.

Taking time to meditate daily will actually save you time in the end because of the increased clarity you gain. But, since the normative system doesn't hit a gong at 8 a.m. or 5 p.m. for the world to settle down and return to its higher self, you have to establish the practice. This is where discipline takes place.

All cultures are steeped in an esoteric practice of one form or another to help people get in touch with that higher aspect of themselves. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, it is contemplative prayer - quietly listening to God's voice rather than throwing out a list of demands or requests as if writing to Santa Claus. In the far Eastern traditions, the vehicles of meditation often have to do with the autonomic aspects of the nervous system such as the breathing or the heartbeat. In India, mantras from Sanskrit are used as a vehicle to take us inside. In the Zen Buddhist tradition, it is sitting with awareness of thoughts without clinging to them.

In all of these disciplines, the practice is not to force yourself into a state of peace, it is simply to acknowledge the mind's thinking nature and to relax into center so that you can settle down into deeper levels of thought, to the source of thought where the vibration level is most powerful. It is achieving a place of deep connection and tranquility, where you are accessing a field of intelligence that is far greater than that derived from the ego or intellect.

The particular type of meditation practice that you follow is an individual choice. It is important to explore various types of meditation that have come down to us and choose one that you are comfortable with. Some people are more visual so a technique that uses images may suit them; for others, sound may be more useful. You need to find a vehicle that you are comfortable with so you can practice regularly. The important point is to let go and let God. The vehicle needs to be simple so you can return to it effortlessly when your mind is consumed in thoughts.

Whether you sit in a chair or on the floor, you should begin by getting into a centered state with the spine straight and comfortable, in a position that allows you to easily be with the vehicle being used: the breath, the mantra, etc. This doesn't require conscious intellect or trying. An analogy would be sitting on the banks of a river watching the boats, leaves or debris go by. These represent thoughts. You don't hang on to them, you just let them go. And as you continue this process of letting go, you will start to dive down into deeper levels of thought. Your awareness will be less drawn to surface thoughts. In this state, stress is naturally released and your system is given a chance to realign itself.

Nature's way of healing is through deep rest. Taking time to dive down to deeper levels of thoughts on a daily basis will produce great peace that will, over time, superimpose itself on your daily life. You will find that you will remember to center; a deep sense of well-being and connection will permeate all activity. The ability to witness - to have a perspective larger than the one presented by ego - emerges, allowing us to make distinctions between what is really valuable and our patterned needs and desires. The ego has been running the show for most of our entire lives, tricking us into thinking that its desires will bring fulfillment when in fact, they create stress and suffering. To know that you have an ego, and that it can be your servant rather than your master, is critical training. Daily practice of meditation and centering provides us with this awareness.

by Tom Crum   © Aiki Works