(Photo credit: Tom Woodward)
In the last blog, I gave a very quick lay of the land of meditation. In this blog, I will get you started quickly. So quickly and so easily that you will wonder why you haven’t done meditation in the past! Disclaimer: This blog essentially documents a meditation from Avadhoot Baba Shivanand (check References). I had meditated a good 10 years in various practices before I landed at this meditation and frankly I was blown away.
As I mentioned in the last blog, meditation is focussing on a thought or a train of thought and staying with it as long as possible. It is easiest to start with a train of thought and here we will use gratitude as an engine to drive that train.
Often, you will realise that you have wandered off. The practice part of meditation is to bring yourself back to the original train of thought. People (me as well) get frustrated to realise that they are off somewhere else and think that they cannot meditate. That way of thinking will kick you off the practice faster than a bullet train.
So remember, the key part of a meditation practice is practicing to bring yourself back to your original thought.
Next, it is imperative to bring in emotions and by that I mean positive emotions (gratitude here). This is the USP in the Tantra/Avadhoot Baba Shivanand style of meditation. Emotions are what makes meditations deep and effective. Bringing in emotions is quite different than say buddhist techniques which talk about equanimity which is akin to being a lighthouse in a storm. If you have followed buddhist techniques, keep them aside for now. I cannot stress highly enough about bringing in emotions - it took me about a dozen years of practice before I realised the importance of it.
A key benefit of bringing in emotions is that the meditation will bring in a deep sense of joy. In my humble opinion, joy is what makes meditation worth it.
Enough context setting, lets examine the gratitude meditation technique. The gratitude meditation uses gratitude as the focal point for our concentration - that’s it. So here goes:
- Sit up straight with your spine upright. It is okay to lie down; just know that you are likely to fall asleep. I actually lie down if I want to sleep.
- If you believe in a diety, invoke it. If you are agnostic, invoke your parents or bring in white/golden light in your heart. Generally, this signals to your mind that you are about to move from a regular state of mind to a new trance state.
- For the next 2-5 minutes, think of your biggest achievement in life. An achievement that made you happy. Go back to that point in time, bring in the emotions that you felt at that point of time. How happy were you? Were you elated? Did you achieve something you truly well didn’t imagine that you could. How did your friends and family feel? Did you make them proud?
- A good example of the above is something as simple as the day you finally learnt to ride a bike. Think about it, the task wasn’t easy. You fell; bruised your knees, hurt yourself. But once you achieved, you were elated because success meant freedom - freedom to explore, go fast and have fun. Remember?
- A bad example would be to think about the 5% salary hike and bonus that you made last year. Just spend 30 seconds right now to compare the emotion of learning to ride a bike vs your last salary hike. Very different - right?
At this point, you should be positively elated. Endorphins should be running through your system. You should be happy. It is okay to drop out of your meditation at this point. You may decide to stay at this level for the next couple of days or weeks or months.
Now, examine each area of our life and be grateful for it.
- Spouse: Bring up your spouse in your meditation. Think of all the great things that s/he does for you. Bring up all the good times together. Think of all the reasons why you love this person. Now thank him/her for being in your life. Feel the gratitude towards this person. Bring in all the love you can bear for your spouse.
- Rinse and repeat the above process for your kids, parents, friends and pets (Spock!! my dog)
- Bring in other areas of your life: ** Body: Thank your body. Thank every limb, every organ for being there for you. Take your time here. As a side note, this is a good way to reset your relation with your body in case you have issues with your body ** Mind: Thank your mind. We think of mind as something negative but remember your mind is what helps you navigate this world successfully. So thank it. That said, know that mind is a servant and not the king ;-). ** Work + Colleagues: Be thankful for everything right in your work. Thank colleagues for all that they do for you.
The above process can take you anywhere from 5-30 minutes and longer if you feel like.
Wind down phase
Notice the endorphins flowing through your system. Notice how much better you feel than where you started. Just enjoy the feeling. That’s it - you are done!
This meditation is absolutely simple and delightful. I have skipped some topics like breathing techniques (pranayama) that can get you in deeply focussed state in a minute or two. I can cover it in the future if there is interest but they are complementary to the practice.
Finally, I highly recommend using the guided meditation in the references section (I don’t get paid for it). If on the other hand, you’d like me to record the above meditation, let me know and I will record one and post it somewhere.
I hope the above meditation starts you successfully on the path to meditation.
To start with, I recommend downloading the Nachiketa meditation from Avadhoot Baba Shivanand and listening to it rather than go through the above yourself. He guides you in Hindi and English but often skips to Hindi only but you should be able to follow along for most parts.