I want a quiet, calm mind and a peaceful heart. I hate being anxious. Stress makes me anxious. Too much stress means too much anxiety. I had to find a way to manage it. That’s what triggered my question, “How do you meditate?”
Sound familiar? Ask yourself these questions:
Why do you want to learn to meditate?
What will "successful" meditation look like for you?
I needed a way to maintain inner peace and calm regardless of my circumstances. That's why I needed to “succeed” at meditation.
My own definition for "success meditation” was this:
If I can maintain a peaceful heart in stressful circumstances, then my meditation is a success.
Learning to Meditate
Your technique doesn’t matter if it works. That's the only standard you should use: "does it work?" And if it's not working for you, then try something else.
I spent years trying different ways to meditate, without success. Finally, I stumbled onto a technique that worked for me. I found it in a little book by Wayne Dyer called Getting in the Gap.
The main idea is that "peace" lies in the "gaps" between our thoughts. I tried it. I practiced it. And I finally had “success.”
(Here's a video of Dyer talking about the main idea in the book. I recommend you listen. It will give you a good preview of the technique.)
One day, as I was practicing this technique, I had an exquisite moment. Buddhist masters talk about entering a state of bliss - the state of "no mind." I slipped into that state for the first time ever.
And it freaked me out. (Yeah - pretty much the exact opposite of what I wanted.)
I realized later, after more practice, why I freaked out that first time. My mind was silent for the first time ever. And that silence was unnerving.
I discovered two different "me" voices in my head. One "me" was always thinking. The other "me" just watched all that thinking.
The “watching” me is the calm me. The “thinking” me is never at peace. “Thinking me” prefers the noise of thinking. The last thing it wants is silence. Which means it can never have peace. Since thinking is my mind's only reason for existence, “peace” means the end of existence. Hence the anxiety.
I wondered, “If I stop thinking, would I stop existing?”
As it turns out, the answer is "no!"
History of Meditation
Even when my mind is silent, I still exist.
Does that phrase remind you of anything?
The Hebrew prophet Moses first met the God YHWH in a burning bush. Moses asked YHWH for his name. YHWH introduced himself this way::
"I am that I am."
YHWH meant that His existence was contingent on nothing else.
As it turns out, we humans are like YHWH. Our existence isn’t contingent on thinking. We exist, even in the absence of thinking.
I wrestle with the noise and restlessness of my own mind a lot. Sometimes it seems the only purpose of my mind is to imagine all the ways life could fail to satisfy me.
Still, the last thing I expected to find in the absence of thinking was bliss.
But I did. And I still do.
When I am not thinking – when I am merely being – I experience great contentment.
I found more meditation help through these teachers.
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
The Power of Now helped me recognize the two versions of me.
There is the first “me” that exists apart from anything I think or do. That "me" dwells in a place of bliss.
And there is another “me” that is always thinking, planning, worrying and scheming. This second "me" is frenetic. He specializes in noise, fear, worry, anxiety and restlessness.
The Power of Now helped me recognize that the 2nd “me” lives only in the past and the future. In contrast, the first “me” exists only in this present moment. If I wanted peace, I had to learn to spend more time in the Now, and less in my imagined past or future.
As it turns out, learning how to get into The Gap was the trick I needed to experience the Now.
The Diamond Cutter by Michael Roach
From The Diamond Cutter, I learned a daily routine that enhances my meditation. Each morning, before sitting down to meditate, I clean up my space. (It’s a comfortable chair in my home office.) My goal is to make it a bit neater and cleaner than it was the prior day. I clean with my full attention, and I clean for no purpose besides cleaning.
Then I sit down and practice my meditation.
The meditation practice Roach describes is different than the one I learned from Dyer. I found it useful, though I find myself doing The Gap meditation more than Roach’s technique.
The Work by Byron Katie
Need a little extra help with stressful relationships? If so, then check out The Work by Byron Katie. It's not a meditation technique, it is a complement to any meditation technique. Alone, it has amazing power. But combine it with meditation, and I think you’ll experience great peace.
The Wim Hof Method
Wim Hof doesn’t teach meditation per se. But his breathing techniques dovetail nicely with the meditative breathing taught in The Diamond Cutter.
Like Byron Katie’s The Work, the Wim Hof method helped me get better at being mentally present in the moment. And it apparently has lots of health benefits as well. Check it out.
I tried many other techniques that didn’t work for me before I found these. If these don’t work for you, don’t give up. Keep trying. You’ll find something that works for you. I guarantee it.