The purpose of meditation is to find the true nature of self. We can do it by emptying out what is not real in us, by discovering what is our real self as much as we can, by feeling the attainment of that real self, and finally by letting go of all-real or not real. Each time we meditate, we renew ourselves. We get a little bit closer to the true nature of ourselves. Meditation is intriguingly dynamic. It is a series of infinite waves. Like surfing, once you learn and discover your ways of floating on the waves, you can ride as far and deeply as you can.
A good set-up at the beginning is important in meditation. Like traveling, meditation needs direction before starting your car. Randomly taking off can lead to disaster for a beginner. It can turn into a physical pain and mental torture, sitting in an uncomfortable posture for minutes.
Having a goal, however, can alleviate the burden and make the journey purposeful, meaningful, and even joyful. Counter-intuitively, have a goal to set your mind free.
But the nature of the mind seems to need to be shackled to be set free. If not, it may bore you to sleep or run away or quit. Here are my thoughts about entertaining your mind to keep it mindful of being mindful. You may customize my suggestions for yourself as you journey.
When I meditate, I keep myself casual. Initially. Nothing particular in mind. I relax my attention. Just like watching waves rushing in and retreating from the shore. As this watching continues for a few minutes, my attention gradually finds its way to a certain element or force or energy.
This is when I draw an imaginary circle in my mind. This, I found, depends on the status the mind in the moment. The size, color, shape of the circle often are different. I pay no special attention to forms. Just being aware of everything. Not ignoring is the key!
Then, I make an entering gate at the top of the circle and an exit at the bottom. I just sit with my legs crossed and watch the gate. Soon many thoughts try to enter from all different directions but I intentionally guide one thought at a time to enter the gate. I am in no hurry. Taking time, watching the thought enter, wandering in the circle. When I see it exit, I allow the next guest to enter and repeat the practice.
I am often tempted to look somewhere else, finding many thoughts about my mind, seeing who's entering. Thoughts feelings worries ideas foods friends work regrets weddings letters blogs rain shoestring guitar birds...I see hear smell taste...
All look special. Everything appears to need my particular attention. Overwhelming!
2. Recognizing Evenly
When thoughts enter my awareness, I number them. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 1 2 3 4 5 6 7...
I am a human so everything I see, hear, smell, touch, have some attachments to my memories and feelings and opinions. Some thoughts and feelings are so particular that they draw attention toward bias. They often throw my balance off. So I try to give everything the same importance or non-importance. Acknowledging everything equally keeps my mind at even levels and detached. Soon, none become special, all look the same. Acknowledging this is the key!
3. Being Aware of the Observing Mind
Now that things that are in my mind are not so special, I can be aware of them without bias. I can see them as they are without emotional attachment. It requires much less mental effort. My brain calms down. The muscles relax. I pay attention to breathing. At breathing in, I observe my breathing self. At breathing out, I observe the self who observes the breathing. It is this observing mind that I truly observe!
4. Taking Hold of the Experiencing Mind
I see what I see now from renewed perspectives. No attachment. No bias. No worry. No fear. So I allow myself to stay in this moment as long as I want. When I get disconnected, I return to #1. Start over again. I focus on my breath. A few long slow deep breaths take me back on track. It gets easier after a few months of practice. At this stage, I can experience what my mind is experiencing. It is a tranquil awareness of my renewed self. It makes me feel light and jubilant. Profound.
5. Let go
After taking hold of my light self, I reflect on what I go through from the new self. Its like seeing myself within myself. Many things that I did not understand in the past suddenly have some light shining on. Making sense of things help me be in peace. Then, the things I discovered gradually drop off. Like waves at the shore, new experiences enter. I let things go.
Partially I want to complete my mindful meditation with a positive ending; and partially because I want to leave what I have experienced right there and start fresh next time. After this emptying meditation, much more space is made in me. That was the way it was to begin with after all.
Homecoming! A void above the horizon that lures me in again.