By Tobin Blake
One day, a great prince living in ancient India experienced a life-changing revelation. He looked out across the land—his land, his people, his world—and realized that he was an alien there. This was not his land; these were not his people; this was not his world. Despite the prince’s wealth and worldly power, a deep emptiness stirred within him, and he wondered who he really was beyond his earthly role as a royal. Where had he come from? Who was he in truth? Was happiness really possible in this world?
The prince’s name was Siddhartha Gautama, who later became known as the Buddha, or the awakened one. Historically, Buddha is the most well-known advocate of meditation, but you do not have to be Buddhist in order to meditate. In fact, Buddha himself lived twenty-five hundred years ago, but meditative practice was not new even during his time. It had already been a part of human existence for at least a thousand years, and probably far longer. The practice is fundamentally nondenominational. At its core, it is a universal spiritual exercise that has been cherished by many millions of people from every major spiritual tradition.
There is a reason meditation has been treasured through the ages by so many people. During meditative practice, you switch your focus from the world outside you, to the world within you, from a state of activity and thought, to a state of stillness and inner silence—toward your core self, which is your highest spiritual self and essence of your soul. Your core self is the part of you that existed before your physical body was born, and which will continue to exist after your body dies. It is the essential life force at the center of your being that is independent of your body, personality, and even the passage of time itself. Your core self does not age. It requires no food or sustenance, and it is impervious to sickness and attack of any kind.
Meditation is a tool that gently liberates you from all the thought stuff in your psyche that conceals your core self. This is what makes the practice such a powerful and healing experience. As you open up to your spiritual self, remarkable things begin to happen because you are aligning with the natural creative Energy of the entire universe, which is sometimes referred to as Source Energy. It is the same Energy that creates and sustains all life across the physical cosmos, and the benefits of connecting with it are easy to see. People who meditate regularly experience huge drops in the incidence of heart disease, cancer, depression, and many other physical and psychological illnesses. There is also an indescribable natural joy that comes from regular meditation, as well as boosts in creativity and self-confidence. Yet these are mere surface effects of something much more profound: when you become still, silent, and so at peace that you are able to go beyond the constant clamor of your thoughts, just like Buddha you will gradually begin to awaken to the timeless, immortal self that is locked within you. This experience is the true gift of meditation, and it is just as assessable today as it was twenty-five hundred years ago when Buddha walked the earth.
To master meditation, the most important thing is to relax. Do not try too hard. Instead, simply focus on letting go and relaxing into peace. The more at peace you become, the deeper your meditations will be. This is what makes the practice so easy. It does not require effort; it requires the opposite of effort—stillness, silence, and rest. You don’t have to shut off your thoughts and focus perfectly. You don’t need to struggle to make something special happen. Just relax deeply, and allow the sensation of inner peace to fill your mind. In this sense, all you really need to learn is the gentle art of letting go. As you quiet down, your mind will naturally turn inward.
To begin, try the following exercise once or twice a day for five to ten minutes. As you become more comfortable, gradually increase the amount of time to twenty minutes or longer.
Step One: Relax. Find a quiet space and adopt a comfortable, seated position. Sit up straight and try to relax. Take a few deep breaths and feel all sense of tension and stress begin slipping away. This should be considered a quiet, sacred time for reconnecting to your core self and its natural abundance of Source Energy. The more peaceful you are able to become, the more healing Source Energy you will absorb.
Step Two: Peace out. After you sense the beginning stages of relaxation, start thinking the word “peace” every time you exhale. For example, breathe in, breathe out, think peace. Breathe in, breathe out, peace, and so on. Concurrently, relax your body just a little more with each out-breath, and feel as if you are sinking deeply into yourself, beyond your body and thoughts, and toward your core.
Step Three: Concentrate. Many random thoughts will pass through your mind as you attempt to meditate. Try not to get caught up in them. When you do, however, don’t kick yourself. Gently but firmly return to relaxing deeply and repeating the word peace.
About Tobin Blake:Tobin Blake is the author of Everyday Meditation: 100 Daily Meditations for Health, Stress Relief, and Everyday Joy. He has taught meditation and spiritual awakening at Unity centers, private schools, and colleges. Visit him online at www.TobinBlake.com.
Based on the book Everyday Meditation ©2012 by Tobin Blake. Printed with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA. www.newworldlibrary.com